The Taliban are continuing to create and enforce “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan.
With new restrictions seemingly announced every week, Naheed Farid, a former member of Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga (House of Representatives) and long-time advocate of women’s rights, recently told Mina’s List about how the Taliban is making Afghan women “invisible.”
Since claiming victory over Kabul last August, the Taliban has enacted numerous draconian measures restricting the rights and freedoms of women and girls. Ms. Farid described the hopelessness she felt when the Taliban came to power and immediately began a reversal 20 years of advancement for women’s rights. Despite a savvy PR push from the extremist group purporting new and modernized views, they were in fact “the same brutal group with the same brutal mentality,” she said.
The Taliban’s attitude became evident within days of taking Kabul. Restrictions they have introduced – directly or indirectly – include bans on women working, travelling independently, and, for girls over the age of 12, going to school. They have confined women to their homes and undermined women’s rights to a free and dignified existence.
Speaking with Mina’s List, Ms. Farid was unequivocal about the impact these new restrictions are having on the economic, social, and sexual freedoms of women in Afghanistan, saying:
“We call it gender apartheid. We call it that because these (restrictions) are all happening to women, simply because they are women. They are being systematically enforced through the use of physical violence and a legal framework introduced by the Taliban to control how we work, act outside the home, and travel.”
The Taliban has also resumed extrajudicial killings, public punishments for crimes, and violent enforcement of their laws. The Afghanistan-U.S. Democratic Peace and Prosperity Council (DPPC), of which Ms. Farid is an Advisory Board Member, has worked to track, verify, and publicize Taliban atrocities, including those committed against women.
Despite the Taliban’s ongoing decimation of women’s rights, Ms. Farid remains hopeful that, with the help of the US and international allies, a free and democratic Afghanistan – “the Afghanistan that exists in our hearts and minds” – can be rebuilt:
“Our allies are very important… 20 years ago the US responded to the cause of women’s rights in Afghanistan. They helped set up systems for guaranteeing education, spreading freedom, and securing women’s rights. Today, we need to safeguard those achievements. [The US] needs to support the people of Afghanistan and help Afghans live in dignity and prosperity all together, and together, we can make that happen.”
The efforts of Afghan women and campaign groups on the ground will also be vital in building resistance against the Taliban. Recent weeks and months have seen women in cities across the country in non-violent protest, risking their lives to resist and create hope for the future. Ms. Farid believes that, with support, victory for Afghan women is possible saying:
“In all levels – media, social media, in the streets – we will fight them, until they give us our freedom back.”
Mina’s List will continue to support Afghan women MPs as they advocate for Afghanistan and Afghan women.