As the #BlackLivesMatter movement continues to gain momentum across the world, leading to protests in major global cities, other groups which are systematically discriminated against are seizing the hashtag to advocate for their own lives and human rights. One such group is Afghans, in particular Afghan migrants and refugees, which have been victims of discrimination and xenophobia in both the Middle East and Asian countries as well as in Western nations. There are many Afghan refugees living in deplorable conditions in countries such as Turkey, Greece, Iran, Pakistan, and many generations of Afghans who have only known war in their country.
Afghan refugees burned alive
The #AfghanLivesMatter hasthtag started trending on social media after news reports that Afghan refugees had been burned alive by Iranian police forces in Yazd province. According to Reuters:
“Afghans have taken to social media to denounce Iranian police after a video of a car carrying refugees being set ablaze in Iran went viral, arousing new anger weeks after Afghan officials accused Iranian border guards of drowning migrants. (…) Police fired on the vehicle, suspected of carrying drugs and undocumented migrants after it crashed through a checkpoint, Ahmad Tarahomi, deputy Yazd governor, told state media.
After its tyres were hit, the vehicle continued to drive away on its wheel rims, igniting sparks which started the fire, Tarahomi said.”
The video was especially daunting because it featured a boy pleading with the officers, saying “give me some water, I am burning”. It was widely shared on social media and human rights groups used it as a demonstration of Afghan’s treatment by the Iranian State.
Iran’s mistreatment of Afghan asylum seekers
This is not the first time that Iran has been accused of violating the rights of Afghan asylum-seekers. According to Radio Farda, in May 2020, “Afghan officials said Iranian border guards killed 45 Afghan migrant workers by forcing them at gunpoint into a river on the border”.
Historically, Iran has been hailed as a protector of Afghan refugees. It hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world – widely estimated to be at 2.5 million – which has been growing ever since the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s.
But Afghans have routinely been denied basic human rights and Iranian citizenship. In recent years, Iran has also been aggressively pushing back against newcomers – even as the Taliban resurgence intensifies. According to journalist Fatemeh Aman:
“Afghans routinely cross the border into Iran and are frequently caught and deported back into Afghanistan. They endure inhumane treatment from smugglers and often lose their savings in the process. In 2019, alone, a total of 451,073 Afghans returned from Iran—a big chunk of them forced through deportation. They are usually dropped off at “Zero Point,” a neutral spot between the two countries. Deportees are subject to abuse from Iranian authorities, especially, when tensions are high between the two countries. Many of these Afghans are fleeing political and economic hardship and it is not uncommon for them to make multiple attempts to get into Iran. Others cross into Iran for seasonal work and return home after earning some money.”
Afghans in Iran are not entitled the same rights as Iranian citizens, even those who were born in Iran and have never left the country. Iranian authorities are well-aware of the desperation of Afghan residents in Iran, which is why they came up with a sadistically alluring proposal: recruiting Afghans to fight in Syria in exchange for money and Iranian citizenship.
The international organization Human Rights Watch has been monitoring the situation for years. Already in 2013, they published a report entitled “Unwelcome guests: Iran’s violation of Afghan refugee and migrant rights”, documenting several instances of violence by Iranian law enforcement against Afghans in order to pressure them to return to Afghanistan.
Denouncing the hypocrisy of Iranian officials
This might come as a surprise, but the Iranian government has expressed its full support for #BlackLivesMatter, and is presenting itself as a harsh critic against police violence in the United States.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi released a statement in defense of the protesters:
“To the American people, the world has heard your outcry over the State oppression; the world is standing with you. (…) The American regime is pursuing violence and bullying at home and abroad. We are greatly regretful to see, along with people across the world, the [violent] incidences of US police that have recently unfolded. We deeply regret to see [that] the American people who peacefully seek respect … are suppressed indiscriminately and met [with the] utmost violence. (…) To the American officials and police, stop violence against your people and let them breathe.””
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also tweeted in support of #BlackLivesMatter, as well as Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Considering Iran’s track record on respecting the rights of minorities, such as Afghans, these declarations of support were immediately criticized by human rights groups and activists. When the video featuring Afghan refugees burned alive became public, it sparked the hashtag #AfghanLivesMatter in response. But it was not the online hashtag that human rights advocates came up with to expose Iran’s questionable record in protecting its own citizens.
Activisms extensively offered evidence of Iran’s human rights violations on Twitter in response to the tweets by Iranian officials, calling for justice. From the abuse of women to the torture of political activists and persecution of minorities, such as gays and lesbians, Iranians and Afghans on Twitter were in uproar.
One such example is the response of human rights advocate Nazanin Boniadi, who tweeted to Zarif:
“While we’re on the subject of ending bigotry, how about the Iranian Foreign Minister addresses:
And all the people persecuted by your government.”
If the Iranian officials thought standing up for #BlackLivesMatter was an effective dig against the United States, they were sorely mistaken. Instead, it became a heated online debate about State-sponsored violence in Iran and systematic human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian State.
19.4 Million Afghan Women Struggling to Survive Under Taliban
Women banned from schools and colleges. Women flogged in markets with dozens of spectators. Girls, as young as 15, mandated to wear complete body covering: These are the horrifying reality Afghan women are forced to live in every day.
Rules of Sharia on Every Moment
Women’s freedom of movement and access to their bodies continue to be restricted in Taliban-run Afghanistan. The draconian group imposed huge barriers on women’s even basic needs: health, education, migration, and expression, depriving thousands of many of their right to earn a livelihood.
Women in Afghanistan have already suffered the most significant losses due to the war and militarization. However, with the control of the Taliban over the nation, the future and dreams of Afghan women are collapsing drastically.
Afghan Women: The Future Looks Dark
The Taliban treat women and girls brutally, and they are forbidden from attending secondary and higher education. Migration and independent travel for women is prohibited. They are not even permitted to migrate or travel without a male chaperone. Girls as young as 13 are forced into marriage.
The Taliban administration has abolished the Ministry of Women Affairs in Afghanistan due to its extreme depravity. There are now no female cabinet members in the Afghan government, thereby ending political participation of 50% of the population.
Following the takeover of Afghanistan, the schools and colleges were forcibly compelled to enact new regulations. It includes gender-apartheid entrances and classrooms. Only female professors or older men can instruct female students. Additionally, the authorities closed the Madressa that solely taught female students.
The future of Afghan women appears bleak with such harsh restrictions and draconian rules. The local women have various aspirations. Young girls want to finish their education and pursue careers in large corporations. But at the moment, it looks gloomy and almost impossible for Afghan women.
Lost Careers & Starving Families
Women-founded business is facing the worst time under Taliban.
Women investors have left their positions or hired males to do their business Women entrepreneurs claim they have invested thousands of Afghanis in the previous government but are currently compelled to close their firms.
The current environment prevents women from freely engaging in small-scale business or employment. Even when women are the only source of income for their families, Afghan women no longer dare to start their businesses.
If these conditions persist, many Afghan families will go hungry.
In Afghanistan, the handicraft industry thrived before the Taliban’s leadership, giving thousands of women jobs. Clothing, goods, and handicraft products were exported to Australia and New Zealand.
However, after the Taliban seized control, the industry went bankrupt due to a policy that discriminated against women and flying restrictions that reduced trade and affected the business adversely.
Afghan Women’s Lives at risk
The women’s crisis in Afghanistan keeps escalating — the restrictions, limitations, and dictatorship have gone too far ahead.
Due to a shortage of healthcare services, Afghan women face significant difficulties. They are restricted from visiting doctors without a male companion, and in some cities, women are not allowed to visit male doctors while the number of female physicians in the nation is closing to nil.
Additionally, women and girls are denied access to healthcare, and reports even imply that they are subjected to assault with no means of fleeing.
The restriction of female students from secondary and higher education violates their right to education and limits female students from reaching their full potential.
Banning female students from getting an education increases child marriages, early pregnancy, abuse, and violence.
Almost every house headed or led by women has lacked sufficient food due to the rise in fuel, food prices, and no source of income. The situation has worsened due to the drought and the war in Ukraine. It is difficult to see women becoming beggars along with their children.
The current situation of Afghan women is deteriorating in the virtual prisoner environment. Taliban restrictions have made women’s financial hardships worse. The lives of Afghan women are seriously at stake, and many women feel it would be better if they had died in the war.
The Silver Line But a Long Way Ahead
UNICEF and NGOs are defending Afghan women and trying to help them as much as possible. The United Nations has repeatedly emphasized that it is committed to carrying out its mission in Afghanistan and promoting the rights of women and girls in the region.
UNFPA is enhancing its existence and helping women through Afghanistan socialism and is collaborating with national partners. UNICEF assumes responsibility for paying the teachers’ monthly salaries and providing them with the necessities for survival. UNFPA is also contributing its share to expand the provision of sexual and reproductive health services, again, for women in rural areas.
But it’s not enough, especially with Taliban banning female NGO employees from coming to work.
To rescue innocent women and children from this catastrophe, more social organizations must advance in light of their responsibility and the current state of Afghan women.
The Taliban should be put under pressure by international organizations and governments to fully implement gender equality and defend the human rights of all Afghan women and girls.
Organizations must quickly realize that women should be given the reins for recovery, peace, stability, and basic rights. Unless that is, the lives of Afghan women continue to deteriorate, and their dreams continue to collapse EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Suspending women’s college education by Taliban spells ignorance of Islam
It is with great sadness that I write about the latest shocking news from Afghanistan where the Taliban regime has decided to suspend college education for women.
A number of utterly unconvincing excuses were given to explain the sorry decree. These excuses ranged from the need to observe Hejab and modesty rules to financial hardships.
However, these justifications seemed too feeble and rickety to be taken seriously by friend and foe alike.
Predictably, traditional enemies of Islam in several Western countries wasted no time in lambasting Taliban in the strongest language and hurling all sorts of insinuations and innuendos at Islam itself as if the Taliban regime were the ultimate paragon of God’s final testament to mankind.
I will not allow myself to be swayed or unduly influenced by the vindictive waves of Islamophobia coming from Washington, London and Paris. But the US, for example, is absolutely unfit to give humanity lectures on human rights. Indeed, the American empire needs hundreds of years to atone for its crimes against humanity, carried out, with malice aforethought, against the thoroughly savaged, thoroughly tormented and thoroughly impoverished people of Afghanistan. The American Yankees, whose ancestors, such as Andrew Jackson, exterminated millions of native Americans and then had the audacity to call the gargantuan genocide “Manifest Destiny,” and designate a special day to celebrate the “victory” calling it a “Thanks-giving Day“
Nor am I eager to further demonize Taliban, in which case, I would be effectively joining the ranks of Afghanistan’s many enemies.
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However, consistent with the lofty Islamic ideal of “al-Amr Bilma’ruf Wan-nahye Anel Munkar” (Propagation of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice), I feel compelled to address our Afghani brothers: “Brothers, you have made a grave mistake, education for women is not only perfectly compatible with all schoobls of Islamic thought and Jurisprudence, it is actually an outstanding commandment in the Sharia of Muhammed (S) who said in the authentic Hadith ” Seeking knowledge (through education) is a duty incumbent upon every Muslim (man and woman). Again I am not invoking this Hadith to appease anyone. I am only trying to tell the truth for its own sake.
Suspending college education for women is incompatible with Islam
This writer has consulted all major Muslim schools of thought, especially the Four Sunni schools of Jurisprudence (Hanbali, Hanafi, Maliki and Shafie) but couldn’t find a single text or credible opinion supporting the Taliban’s decision.
The opposite is true. There are compelling and overwhelming evidences showing that Islam accords ample attention to education for men and women alike.
The Prophet of Islam (S) said in the authentic Hadith “seek knowledge from cradle to grave.” This Hadith alone should be sufficient to prompt the Taliban leadership to reconsider this unfortunate decision, which has made Muslims a laughingstock around the world.
Azhar: Suspension college education for women violates the Rules of Islam
The Grand Imam of Azhar, Ahmed Tayeb reacted angrily to the Taliban’s decision to suspend college education for women, saying” the decision is manifestly erroneous and is a product of Ignorance.”
He cited a Major classical reference of Fiqh, namely Ketab “Tahtheeb-ul-Tahteeb” (roughly translated as “Refining the Refined”), which mentioned more than 30 Muslim women from the Sahaba era (Companions of the Prophet), Tabi’in (the immediate generation after Sahaba) and the following generations, who were Sharia scholars, theologians, historians, literary writhers, and poets.
Tayeb cited two other books titled ” Prominent Women”, the first by Zaynab Ameli, and the second by Omar Reda Kahala, which explained Muslim women’s contributions in various fields of knowledge. Tayeb added that the Taliban’s strange feat didn’t represent Islam in any way and actually violated the rules of the Quran itself.
Concluding his remarks, Tayeb appealed to Taliban to “immediately cancel the unfortunate decision and reopen colleges and universities for Afghan women.”
Islam is moderation and moderation is Islam
There are some Islamic groups who mistakenly think extremism and excessive radicalism make a Muslim a better Muslim. This is not true at all. Extremism is as harmful as indulgence and laxity.
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According to the authentic Hadith, three men came to the Prophet to ask about religious obligations. One said: I fast every day, and never eat (in day time). The second man said: I devote myself to worshipping God and remain celibate. The third said: As for me, I pray all night long and don’t sleep. After the Prophet heard them, he said: As for me, I fast and eat, pray and sleep, and marry. He that shuns my Sunna (Way) is not my follower.
A moderate Umma
The claim of moderation is not a public relations stunt intended to enhance Islam’s image as some westerners might be prompted to think. It is actually enshrined in the Quran and was encapsulated by the Prophet in his life.
In Surat al Baqara, verse143 (first part), we read:
وكذلك جعلناكم أمة وسطا لتكونوا شهداء على الناس ويكون الرسول عليكم شهيدا
“And thus we have made you a moderate community that you will be witnesses over humanity and the Messenger will be a witness over you.”
I believe the ball is now in the Taliban’s court, and I hope and pray that they will heed the sincere advice of Muslim Ulema to reconsider this un-Islamic feat. After all, this is not a controversial matter, and doing the right thing would dignify, not disgrace or embarrass, the Muslim movement. Doing the right thing is always right.
A final world
The decision by the Taliban regime to suspend college education for women in Afghanistan is apparently a symptom of a deeply stressful situation facing the country.
Afghanistan is being severely punished by the US, Britain and a number of other Western countries. The US is withholding hundreds of millions of dollars of Afghani funds in American banks as a bargaining chip to force the Taliban regime to revolve in the American orbit and meet certain American demands. The money is urgently needed to overcome the harsh financial crisis facing Kabul.
Hence, the latest decision to suspend college education for women should be viewed as a desperate SOS call by the radical Islamic group.
In light, Muslim states are strongly advised to offer Afghanistan every possible form of assistance to enable the country to stand up on its feet once again. Qatar has been generously helping the Taliban government ever since the movement came to power anew following the defeat and collapse of the American puppet regime earlier this year.
Death of Mahsa Amini: How Governments are Denying Women’s Right to Choice?
Millions of Muslim women proudly wear Hijaab as a symbol of their religion. What makes them different from those protesting against obligatory hijab in Iran is the women’s right to choose.
But when you widen your horizon, you’ll realize that the dilemma of women’s right to choose is apparent across borders. Be it Iran, India, France, or the US, women are constantly fighting for control of their bodies.
The History of Pro- & Anti-Hijab Protests in Iran
Looking at Iran today, it can be hard to picture that only four decades ago, Iranian women were protesting for the right to wear hijabs. The pro-hijab movement sparked when Iran’s Reza Shah Pahlavi government outlawed any type of veil or head scarfs in an attempt to westernize the country.
At times, the government even forced a complete ban on hijabs, with police scrapping off women’s hijabs in public. During this period of Iranian history, the hijab becomes the symbol of freedom, revolution, and democracy.
The pro-hijab uprising brought down Shah’s government and put Ruhollah Khomeini in office. The Khomeini government, however, was far from ideal. By 1983, the new administration mandated the hijab for Iranian women.
Women were now forced to wear headscarves to an extent where they were punished with prison and even lashes for not abiding by the dress code. The worst phase started after 2005 when Dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad introduced the Morality Police; a police department made up of both men and women to keep an eye on women’s clothing in public.
All this brings us to 13 September 2022, when Mahsa Amini, a 22-years old Iranian Kurdish woman, was arrested for violating the hijab code. In police custody, she was subjected to brutal violence that ended up taking her life three days later, on 16 September.
And it was her horrific death that sparked Iran’s historic anti-hijab protest we are witnessing today.
Women’s Right: The Death of Mahsa Amini & the Dirty Politics
The death of Mahsa Amini has sparked unprecedented protests in Iran. Despite a visible crackdown by the Iranian security forces, which includes mass arrests and internet interruption; women are taking the movement to the streets at a scale never seen before.
However, let’s put protests aside for this article. Because what’s happening in Iran right now is much more than just women fighting for their right to choose.
There has been no shortage of individuals, groups, and foreign entities weaponizing these protests to push their political and geopolitical goals.
Many gulf countries, for example, are using these protests to push back the nuclear deal. Backing on the demonstrations, the Western governments, including the US and EU, are considering further sanctions on Iran — even though the economic sanctions have already caused more than enough problems for Iranian women and their families.
And above all are Islamophobes who are using the protest to criticize hijabs, Muslims, and Islam in general. But how is any of this going to help the protesting women in Iran?
Everybody is currently striving to further their agendas, while Iranian women are risking their lives on the street.
Iran and the US: Not So Different Countries for Women’s Rights
Although the US and the Iranian government have polar ideologies, the US is in no state to police Iran morally regarding women’s rights.
It is the US, where a 10-year-old victim of rape from Ohio is not allowed to go through an abortion because of the new state law. Women in the US are protesting against the blanket ban on abortion, with no hope for reforms.
On the other hand, the anti-hijab protest in Iran has reignited the hijab debate in India. Why is it so difficult for the Karnatak government to respect the choice of Muslim women students to wear a hijab to college? It’s absurd that these students have to fight their own government for their choice to be respected.
But be it Iran, Pakistan, India, or the USA, the debate remains the same: do women have the right to choose? Or is the word choice totally non-existential for women?
The Courageous Women of Iran
Women protesting in Iran are not again the hijab but against the imposition of the hijab. But when religion takes over governments, it creates an illusion of unlimited power. This is the case of Iranian authorities who are practicing absolute power by virtue of morality police.
But is it acceptable to restrain women against their will like literal goons?
The protest that started with the death of Mahsa has now become an international movement for women’s right to choose. And, make no mistake, women are not alone here. Most Iranian male population stands with courageous Iranian women on the frontline against injustice in the name of religion.
Let Women Exercise their Right to Choice
Yes, when it comes to hijab rights in Iran, India, or the US, choosing the right side is not always straightforward. It’s complicated with numerous factors, including individuality, choice, and religion, at play.
We should stand with Iranian women protesting for their freedom, fundamental rights, and liberation. I will continue to speak against governments banning women from wearing hijabs and against regimes that force them to wear them.
Hijab or no hijab: how about we let women everywhere have the right to choose?
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