Taliban misogyny

Published January 9, 2022

WHAT many Afghan women had feared would happen to them under the ultraconservative Taliban rule in their country is coming to pass. Every few days there is a new restriction, each one going a step further in erasing women from public life, robbing them of their agency and reducing them to a collective category of nameless, voiceless beings. In the latest move, the religious police have put up posters — carrying images of the all-enveloping burqa — across Kabul ordering women to cover up. A ministry spokesman claimed that non-compliance with the directive would not result in punishment, but it is clear that an environment of fear and oppression is being created to force women to conform. Since the Taliban stormed back into power in August 2021, they have imposed a ban of sorts on girls’ secondary education (though some schools in a few provinces have reportedly reopened following negotiations with local authorities) until, they say, “a new education policy” is unveiled. Most working women, in a war-ravaged country of widows, have been told to stay home. In late December, the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice announced that women would not be allowed to travel long distances by road unless accompanied by a close male relative.

Two decades separate the first Taliban regime, ousted in December 2001 by US-led forces, and its second iteration. While the intervening years may have seen them hone their skills at diplomacy — including doublespeak about women — the Taliban’s misogyny and their fanatical zeal to excise women from everyday life remain intact. At times, this urge can assume macabre forms. A few days ago, a video clip that went viral on social media showed men sawing off the heads of plastic mannequins, reportedly in response to orders issued to shopkeepers by Taliban authorities in western Afghanistan. One can scarcely imagine the despair of millions of women in Afghanistan who are being pushed back into a nightmare that they perhaps never thought would revisit them.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2022

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