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Afghanistan: Taliban Orders Head-to-Toe Coverings for Women in Public Further Defying Human Rights

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Afghan women in Burqa.

What Do Women’s Rights Look Like Under Taliban rule?

Taliban Order Women to Wear a Mandatory Islamic Face Veil and Only Leave Home if Strictly Necessary

On May 7th 2022, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) stated deep concern in response to a recent Taliban announcement. The Taliban held that women should only leave their homes in cases of necessity. In addition, Afghan women must wear head-to-toe burqas while only showing their eyes. The traditional burqa allows women to see only through a small grille while the niqab covers the face but not the eyes. The majority of Afghan women wear some form of hijab. However, many women living in major cities only cover their hair. This is a huge lifestyle change for millions of Afghan women. Hence, UNAMA has held that this decree is not a recommendation but a formal directive. These latest developments evoke similar restrictions from the Taliban’s previous rule between 1996 and 2001. Women’s rights in Afghanistan changed fundamentally in August 2021 when the Taliban took power.

Caption: Tweet by UNAMA News related to a recent announcement by the Taliban.

Taliban Enforce a Cruel Twist

The Taliban enforce a cruel twist as punishment for women who refuse to comply with these rules. Any breaches will result in male relatives being liable for fines and imprisonment. In their statement, UNAMA held that “this decision contradicts numerous assurances regarding respect for and protection of all Afghans’ human rights, including those of women and girls, that had been provided to the international community by Taliban representatives during discussions and negotiations over the past decade”.

“The Taliban want to erase girls and women from all public life in Afghanistan – to keep girls out of school and women out of work, to deny them the ability to travel without a male family member, and to force them to cover their faces and bodies completely”

Malala Yousafzai – Pakistani female activist and the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Taliban Insist Women Must be Accompanied by a Male Relative When in Public

Taliban authorities actively prevent women from upholding their most basic rights. Therefore, women can’t use public transport unless accompanied by a male relative (mahram). Women can’t leave their houses without a male relative. Furthermore, women can only leave home under circumstances of necessity, ultimately depriving them of their personal liberty. Taliban officials have made claims to the contrary regarding their attitude towards women. The authorities deny these restrictions on women as they seek and rely on international recognition.

Talibam Does Not Allow Girls Above 6th Grade to Attend School

On March 24th 2022, girls were expected to return to school after the Afghan holiday. However, the Taliban once again postponed the school return for girls attending above the sixth grade. Therefore, teenage girls in Afghanistan have now been denied their right to an education for 236 days.

A young woman protesting against the Taliban for education rights for Afghanistan women.
Caption: A young woman protests against the Taliban for education rights for Afghanistan women. Image obtained from South China Morning Post.

Initially, when the Taliban took over power in Afghanistan, one of the first policy changes introduced prohibited girls from attending secondary education. By 2021, the number of 10-year-old girls attending school had increased to an estimated 60%. However, by the time these girls reached 15, only 30% were still receiving an education. Additionally, Women could only attend university if classes were segregated by gender. Moreover, many girls and women fear gender-based violence, which often prevents them from receiving an education.

Afghans Face an “Avalanche of Hunger and Destitution”

An estimated 98% of Afghans do not have enough to eat. 70% of families are forced to borrow food, pushing them deeper into an “avalanche of hunger and destitution”. The United Nations has held that the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has left over 20 million people in need of assistance. This represents 50% of the total Afghan population. Moreover, this figure is still lower than in Yemen, where 23.4 million people, almost three-quarters of the population, need humanitarian assistance and protection.

Since the Taliban took power, the economy has collapsed, and the banking system has frozen. Human Rights Watch held that 75% of the previous government’s budget came from foreign donors. However, most of their aid was stopped once the Taliban seized power. Moreover, the prices of food, fuel and basic amenities have risen sharply, pushing the economy to the brink of collapse.

Afghan Girls are Increasingly at Risk of Child Marriage

Afghanistan’s minimum age of marriage for girls is 15 years old, which is well below the internationally recommended standard of 18 years old. In recent years, an estimated one in three girls were forced into marriage before 18 years in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban took over in 2021, these statistics have increased dramatically. The risk of child marriage is high due to Afghanistan’s severe humanitarian crisis. Many families marry their children to increase the survival rate of other family members. The financial gain from these marriages helps to pay for food and shelter.

High Infant and Maternal Mortality Rates

There is a severe shortage of health care workers and foreign funding. Women’s daily movement is often restricted. Consequently, Afghanistan is experiencing some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates worldwide. An estimated 1,600 Afghan mothers died for every 100,000 live births in 2001. In 2018, the maternal death figure was reduced to 640 deaths. However, in September 2021, 80% of the country’s health care facilities were dysfunctional. This has pushed the maternal death rate back to what it was 15 years ago.

“After the change of goverment in August 2021, there was a significant drop [cumulative around 25%] in the availability and utilization of maternal health services”

Joy Rivaca Caminade, communication specialist with the World Health Organization in Afghanistan

What is Next Under Taliban Rule?

Human rights activists have coined the latest restrictions on women as a “gender apartheid”. Consequently, these developments will likely set back the Taliban’s bid for international recognition and support as the country grapples with an economic crisis and widespread hunger.

Human Rights Watch has held that the Taliban should fully respect the human rights of all women and girls, ensuring gender equality. The United Nations and other international bodies, foreign governments and the UN special rapporteur on Afghanistan should pressure the Taliban to ensure they respect, protect and fulfil their international human rights obligations.

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Death of Mahsa Amini: How Governments are Denying Women’s Right to Choice?

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women's right

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?

What makes Iranian women so extraordinary is their strength and determination despite living in a theocracy that attempts to prosecute them. Even when their own government is trying to repress them, they are standing tall and fighting against injustice.

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.

But, on this divided internet, can we at least agree that punishing women for not wearing hijab is wrong and medieval?

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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Afghanistan

Child Marriage in Afghanistan: Poverty Bearing More Child Brides

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Child Marriage in Afghanistan

It is difficult to be a young woman in Afghanistan. Parents stuck in poverty are forced to sell their underage daughters into marriages, and the horrible nightmare repeats itself. Over and over again, in a different family, a different young girl, a different village, but the same gloomy fate.

But, what is behind the increasing child marriage in Afghanistan? Here’s an in-depth report:

A Year into Taliban’s Afghanistan

Last week marked a year of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. And the sudden government shift and violence have given rise to a massive refugee wave in the country.

Since the takeover, this southeast Asian country’s poverty has gotten worse. From food and financial recourse to healthcare and education, the Taliban have made Afghanistan, a living nightmare.

And, amongst the worst hit are children, especially young girls.

Arranging marriages (monetary deals) in the rural regions of Afghanistan has now become a common practice. While the groom pays the girl’s parents to close the agreement, the young girls traded in the deal often stay with the parent till they are 15 years old.

However, even before the Taliban, child marriages were ordinary in Afghanistan. For example, between 2018 and 2019; UNICEF reported 10 cases of the sale of children and 183 child marriages in Baghdis and Herat.

But, the stark increase in poverty after the Taliban’s takeover has forced thousands of desperate families into this ridiculous practice for survival.

Child Marriage in Afghanistan

In the rural regions of Afghanistan, populated by people displaced by drought and war, families are desperate for food and money. So much so that they are forced to marry off (sell) their daughters.

Today, girls as young as five are traded for marriage. This CNN report records a heart-wrenching case of a 9-year-old girl sold as a bride to a 55-year-old man.

Aziz, a ten-year-old girl, is amongst thousands of other child brides of Afghanistan whose fates have been sealed at such a tender age.

These young brides forced into marriage are robbed of their childhood. In addition, they frequently confront barriers to education and a future they are not mentally, physically, or emotionally prepared for. Thus terribly affecting their health.

For example, maternal mortality is a serious repercussion of child marriage in Afghanistan, which is estimated to be 28% nationally. In Asia, Afghanistan has the highest rates of maternal and newborn mortality. Around 700 to 1,600 moms pass away for every 100,000 deliveries.

And the worse the deprivation, the more children will be sold off as enslaved people or child brides and more often.

The Taliban regime has imposed a prohibition on selling women and girls and forcing women into marriage some months after seizing power. Afghan families, however, claim that there have been unconfirmed reports of women and children being forced into marriages with males, including Taliban leaders.

But, the forced trades are not just limited to young girls.

Children for Sale: Child Trafficking On a Rise

In an interview with ABC news; when Nosheen described how her family decided to sell her unborn child, she remarked;

“Sad doesn’t even come close to how I feel.”

Nosheen

With five other children to support, her husband Aziz, whose identity has also been altered, said they were forced to accept the $US565 offer for their unborn child.

Anguished children of Afghanistan (Photo: Salamwatandar, People’s Dispatch)

When the families cannot secure food, they are left with no choice but to sell their young children. In cases like Nosheen, infants are sold to couples searching for a baby. However, most young girls are traded as wives too much older men.

Most trafficked children come from internally displaced populations: families either forced to flee by the Taliban or voluntarily displaced due to a lack of livelihood.

Child Marriage in Afghanistan: The Role of the Crippling Economy

As a country strained with decades of natural disaster, poverty, and insecurity, Afghanistan’s economy has suffered a steep downfall for years. And a year into the Taliban’s rule has further worsened the economic condition of Afghanistan.

Economic sanctions and banking crisis depict the sharp end of the country’s economic collapse.

Over 95% of households across the country are experiencing food insecurity. Afghan children are starving. A report by UNICEF estimates that over 13,700 newborn babies have already died in 2022, as per data from the Ministry of Public Health.

The reasons are clear, the forced removal of women from the workforce and school is taking a toll on the country’s economy. An analysis by UNICEF highlights that depriving girls of education has cost the Afghan economy at least $500million in the last 12 months.

Humanitarian Aid: Drastically Under-funded

Life is tough in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Poverty is rampant, and families who, despite all atrocities, have managed to be together are forced to send their underage children out for work. Many parents unable to make the excruciating choice of selling their children are selling their organs to make ends meet.

Afghans need humanitarian needs now more than ever. But, despite seeking the largest ever humanitarian monetary aid of $4.4 billion; the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is drastically underfunded.

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Afghanistan

Ayman al-Zawahiri Killed In a Drone Strike By The US

The US killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, in an Afghani drone operation over the weekend, confirms President Bidden.

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United States President Joe Biden has revealed that the US killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, in an Afghani drone operation over the weekend. The operation killed him on Sunday during a CIA counterterrorism operation in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. He was one of the most wanted terrorists in America and collaborated with Osama Bin Laden in the planning of the 9/11 attacks. The United States confirmed that it was a CIA drone that attacked and killed Zawahiri. The US claims that his death is the biggest blow to al-Qaeda since it killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.  

Zawahiri was rumored to be hiding in the tribal region of Pakistan or within Afghanistan prior to his killing. A senior administration official told reporters that Zawahiri had been hiding for years. He confirmed that the operation to find and kill him was the result of “careful patient and persistent” work by the counter-terrorism and intelligence community.

Read here, Is America embracing dictatorship in the Arab world?

Justice Has Been Delivered- Claims US President Joe Bidden

Bidden who was isolated by a recurrence of covid-19 was aware of the attack on Zawahiri. He spoke outdoors on Monday from the Blue room Balcony at the White House. He said that he had given the final approval for the “precision strike” after months of planning. This strike comes a year after Biden gave the order to remove US forces from Afghanistan. It was immediately afterward that the Taliban captured power there.

Talking about the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, Bidden made the following statement. ” I made the decision that after 20 years of war. The United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm. And I made a promise to the American people, that we continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that.”

“Our intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year — he moved to downtown Kabul to reunite with members of his immediate family,” he continued.

Biden further stated that “For decades, he was the mastermind of attacks against Americans.”

“Now, justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more. People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer,” Bidden said.

Also, read America Decides To Change Course: #byebyetrump

Ayman al-Zawahiri After The Killing Of Osama Bin Laden

Zawahiri, who turned 71 this year, had continued to be a prominent international face of the organization. This happened during the11 years after the US killed Osama bin Laden. He had served as bin Laden’s personal physician, political partner, and right-hand guy at one point. Al-Zawahiri had occupied the official page of the FBI under the “Most Wanted” title. The FBI page informs from the color of his eyes to his various aliases. Under his name the page mentions “Murder of U.S. Nationals Outside the United States; Conspiracy to Murder U.S. Nationals Outside the United States; Attack on a Federal Facility Resulting in Death”. It also mentioned that the United States Department of State offered a reward of up to $25 million for ‘information leading directly to the apprehension or conviction of Ayman Al-Zawahiri’. On Monday the FBI updated its Most Wanted Terrorist poster with Zawahiri’s status as “Deceased.”

Read here, Israel and U.S. fanning flames of Fitna between Iran and Arabs

Who was Ayman Al-Zawahiri?

Zawahiri was born in Egypt in 1951 and raised in Maadi, several miles from the capital Cairo. As a student, Syed Qutb’s work greatly influenced him. Qutb was an Egyptian writer who was one of the foremost figures in modern Sunni Islamic revivalism. Zawahiri became a highly educated professional and trained in one of the country’s leading universities. He went on to become a doctor and an eye surgeon to the successor of Osama bin Laden.

When he was fifteen years old, he organized his first movement in an effort to overthrow the then Egyptian government. He made headlines for himself for the first time in a courtroom cage. It was following the 1981 assassination of the then Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat. The court apprehended Al-Zawahiri for his involvement in the assassination as a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Al-Zawahiri rose to prominence as a veteran of the Egyptian Islamist jihad. The government detained him along with a large number of other Islamists.

Merger with Al-Qaeda

Al-Zawahri fled Egypt shortly after Sadat’s murder and he made his way to Peshawar, where he joined Osama bin Laden. The Gulf war and the entry of the American troops into Saudi Arabia impacted Zawahiri’s ideology. It was due to these reasons he believed that Sadat had betrayed the Islamist cause. Soon Osama bin Laden completely shared his thoughts and made a similar opinion about the House of Saud. However, at one point al-Zawahiri advocated for striking the ‘distant enemy’ (the United States) first. He believed it would be better to topple the ‘close enemy’ (the Arab governments) later.

After bin Laden’s death, Ayman al-Zawahiri formally became the new leader of Al-Qaeda Central. Instead of a natural leader, his role in Al-Qaeda had always been that of a strategist and master planner. However, Zawahiri held the organization together. Under his leadership, Al Qaeda and its affiliates grew from an estimated 400 members on 9/11 to possibly 40.000 now.

Also, read How Russia Built A Channel to Taliban

How The World Reacted to The Killing Of Ayman Al-Zawahiri

Saudi Arabia

A statement from the foreign ministry of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday hailed the US declaration of Zawahiri’s killing. “Thousands of innocent people of different nationalities and religions, including Saudi citizens, were killed,” it stated. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomed the announcement by US President Joe Biden of the targeting and killing of the terrorist leader of Al-Qaeda Ayman Al-Zawahiri,” it said.

Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter after the news of al-Zawahiri’s killing came out.

“The death of Ayman al-Zawahiri is a step toward a safer world. Canada will keep working with our global partners to counter terrorist threats, promote peace and security, and keep people here at home and around the world safe.” he tweeted.

Australia

Australian PM Anthony Albanese spoke in Parliament and sent his prayers to the family of the victims that died.

“For two decades, this man fled the consequences of his crimes. Our thoughts today are with the loved ones of all of his victims.

“So many lives have been lost and so much blood has been spilled since, including all those Australians who served, sacrificed, and gave their lives in Afghanistan,” said Albanese.

Taliban

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Monday confirmed an airstrike conducted by a drone in Kabul. He said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan views that as a clear violation of international principles.

Read here, Looming Food Crisis in Afghanistan: 1.1 Million Children on the Verge of Starvation

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