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Update from Afghanistan, July 11th 2023: We are alive, but not living
The Taliban in Afghanistan have systematically restricted the human rights of women and girls and suffocated all aspects of their lives, UN experts said, adding such treatment could amount to "gender apartheid."
In a joint report to the UN Human Rights Council, Richard Bennett, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, and Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Chair of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, said the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan was the worst globally.
“Women and girls in Afghanistan are experiencing severe discrimination that may amount to gender persecution – a crime against humanity – and be characterised as gender apartheid, as the de facto authorities appear to be governing by systemic discrimination with the intention to subject women and girls to total domination,” Bennett said.
“While the backlash against women’s and girls’ rights has unfolded in different countries and regions in recent years, nowhere else in the world has there been an attack as widespread, systematic and all-encompassing on the rights of women and girls as in Afghanistan,” Estrada-Tanck said.
Edicts issued by the Taliban since they took control of the country in August 2021 have imposed widespread restrictions on the rights of women and girls, including their freedom of movement, attire and behaviour, access to education, work, health and justice, the experts said. Restrictions have also dramatically affected the participation of women and girls in political, public, economic and socio-cultural life, and led to a significant increase in spousal and intrafamily violence against women and girls.
“We are alive, but not living”
The report, which highlights the resilience and strength of Afghan women in the face of extremely repressive conditions, includes brief descriptions of daily life by women, who told the experts how “day by day, the walls close in.” Following a ban on education for girls, female university students described their situation as: “I am a prisoner of my gender,” and “We have no future.”
Experts also heard testimonies from women seeking a divorce, but who were admonished by a judge with remarks such as: “Your hand is not broken, your leg is not broken, why do you want a divorce?”. Women who reported domestic violence to the police were told they “should not complain”, or that they probably “deserved being beaten,” according to the report.
The experts travelled to Afghanistan from 27 April to 4 May and visited Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. They met with Afghan women and men in a variety of sectors, including civil society, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, teachers, journalists, UN agencies, the diplomatic community, international NGOs and de facto officials.
In the report, the experts say they were deeply concerned that gender persecution is occurring in Afghanistan under the rule of the de facto authorities. Gender persecution constitutes a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute, the report notes.
The report also highlights that a ban on female education makes Afghanistan “the only country in the world” where girls and young women are forbidden from attending secondary school and higher education institutions.
“The blatant violations to the fundamental right to have access to quality education will have lifelong consequences regarding not only employment opportunities but also access to basic services such as health care,” it states.
The report also points out how women in Afghanistan today are prohibited from working outside the home in most sectors, from leaving their home without a male relative, or Maharam, from accessing public baths, parks, and gyms, and moving freely around the country.
This suffocating environment is having an impact on the mental health of women and girls, with widespread reports of depression and suicide especially among adolescent girls prevented from pursuing education, the report notes.
No legal protection
Restrictions on women and girls were also limiting their access to routine and emergency health care, with dire consequences for their health and sexual and reproductive rights, while adding more pressure on a health system already strained by poverty and years of war.
“As girls and women can be provided care only by female doctors unless the restrictions are reversed rapidly, there is a real risk of multiple preventable deaths, which could amount to femicide,” the report states.
The UN experts said they were deeply concerned by an absence of legal protections for women and girls, the systematic enforcement of discrimination and the normalization of gender-based violence, including gender-related killings, forced and child marriage, sale of children and body organs, child labour, trafficking and unsafe migration.
The lack of a clear and predictable legal system in Afghanistan contributes to the perpetuation of violence against women and an absence of accountability for perpetrators, the report notes. Women have no access to women legal professionals. Some women lawyers continue to provide legal services from their homes but are prohibited from entering courtrooms in most locations.
“Far from ‘protecting’ women and girls as they claim, they perpetuate the most extreme forms of gender-based discrimination and generalized censorship through restrictive edicts targeting women and girls, the abolition of legal protections and accountability mechanisms for gender-based violence, and the ongoing denial of rights,” the report says.
The report calls on the de facto authorities to respect and restore women’s and girls’ human rights and urged the international community to remain engaged in the situation in Afghanistan and take concrete steps to support accountability for serious human rights violations.
Update from Afghanistan, July 10th 2023: How the Taliban are violating women's rights in Afghanistan
Thousands of beauty salons will be forced to shut down in Afghanistan this month following a decree by the Taliban. For many women, these salons were their last remaining opportunity to earn money legally. Not only were they the sole source of income for many families, but they also provided safe spaces for women to meet, exchange thoughts and feel welcome.
Hardly any other country restricts women's rights as much as Afghanistan. Here, women report living in prison-like conditions that widely forbid them from taking part in public life.
"Over the past 22 months, every aspect of women's and girls' lives has been restricted. They are discriminated against in every way," the United Nations (UN) Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif said in a statement on June 19.
A recent report by the UN Human Rights Council stated further that the "grave, systematic and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls is at the heart of Taliban ideology and rule," adding that the Taliban "may be responsible for gender apartheid."
Women no longer able to study
Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021, women have been banned from higher learning. Initially, women and men were strictly separated at universities. For some time, female students could only be taught by other women or older men. In late 2022, a decree by the Afghan Education Ministry put an end to this and expelled women from universities completely.
It's unclear how many women are now no longer able to study. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has estimated that some 90,000 women could be affected — that's how many were enrolled in 2018.
At the time, the Taliban justified their prohibition by claiming that many female students hadn't worn appropriate Islamic attire, such as a hijab, and that there had been a mixing of genders.
In December 2022, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said it was hard to imagine how Afghanistan would develop and tackle the challenges it faced without the active participation of women and the education they bring to the table, pointing out the "devastating impact on the country's future."
According to various media reports, women are now continuing their education in online seminars. However, due to the country's poor internet network and the lack of jobs and career prospects, this is hardly an alternative.
Women excluded from the job market
Not only have women been banned from education, they have also been excluded from the job market. According to the International Labor Organization, the number of women employed last year was down by 25% compared to mid-2021.
The Taliban have forbidden women from working with the United Nations or with nongovernmental organizations. This has led to several international NGOs such as Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE to shut down their operations in Afghanistan, because they could not implement their projects without female staff. Thousands of female government employees were let go or even paid to stay at home.
Earlier this year, Yamini Mishra, regional director for Amnesty International's South Asia office, said barring women from working for NGOs in Afghanistan was exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. "It is as if the Taliban are intentionally driving the country into famine," she said.
"Their discriminatory policies are bringing shocking levels of food insecurity and making the delivery of international assistance almost impossible,
" she added. Women in need of assistance can only receive aid from other women, as they are forbidden from being in contact with men who are strangers to them.
Health care for women also severely restricted
Afghanistan is one of the world's most dangerous countries for women, mothers and babies. Each year, about 70 out of 1,000 women die while pregnant or giving birth. Many mothers do not have enough to eat, which raises the risk of complications during pregnancy. After giving birth, they struggle to feed their children.
The humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders has said the Taliban's decision to exclude women from higher education and their employment at aid organizations has drastically worsened access to medical treatment. This is particularly due to the travel restriction the Taliban have imposed on women.
In rural areas, the nearest hospital is often more than the 75 kilometers (47 miles) away, and women aren't allowed to travel without being accompanied by a "mahram" — a father, husband or brother acting as chaperone. To make matters worse, many people in Afghanistan can barely afford the fare for such a long journey, let alone for two people.
What's more, the Taliban has ruled that women can only be treated by female doctors. So far, women have been allowed to continue working in hospitals — but there are too few female doctors, especially in rural areas. And they, too, are bound by the same movement restrictions as their patients. Those who cannot find a mahram to accompany them to work are forced to stay at home. This is why practically all of Afghanistan suffers from a lack of female doctors and midwives.
Strict dress code, no sports
Clothing restrictions have become equally restrictive. In the summer of 2022, Afghan TV presenter Sonia Niazi fought against the regulation to cover her face, but was forced to comply when on air.
In Afghanistan, women are required to wear a burqa, a garment which covers the entire body. If a woman does not comply with this regulation, her male relatives risk jail time.
Female athletic teams are no longer allowed to compete. Due to this rule, Afghanistan's national women's teams live in exile in Australia. The Taliban's edict forbids women in Afghanistan from visiting parks, fitness studios, public pools, gymnasiums and sports clubs, making sports practically impossible for women
Update from Afghanistan, July 5th 2023: From Torture to Sexual Assault and Murder: What’s Happening in the Taliban’s Women’s Prisons?
A recently released female prisoner from the Taliban’s prison in Samangan province shares her account of sexual assault by a commander and members of the group.
Female prisoners in Taliban-controlled prisons in the provinces of Jowzjan, Faryab, and Samangan are enduring a deplorable situation. They face humiliation, insults, physical torture, and sexual assault. According to the Report, since the collapse of the Republic regime, the Taliban have detained and imprisoned 90 women in the three northern provinces. Out of these, 36 women are in Faryab province, 34 women are in Samangan province, and another 20 women are in Jowzjan province. These women have been subjected to inappropriate treatment by the Taliban in prisons over the past year.
According to the findings of Reports, in the women’s prisons of these three provinces, 10 women are engaged in physical checkups, cleaning, and guarding during the day. However, there are no female guards present during the night. As a result, Taliban militants, who have been documented by Hasht-e Subh Daily, take on the security responsibility of these prisons at night and are involved in sexually assaulting female prisoners.
According to the findings of Reports, out of the 90 female prisoners in Jowzjan, Faryab, and Samangan provinces, 16 of them have become pregnant due to repeated sexual assault and have undergone abortions in local clinics. Health sources in Faryab and Samangan provinces have confirmed that the Taliban ordered the termination of these women’s pregnancies during the third and fifth months. Testimonies from prisoners who experienced mistreatment by the Taliban reveal that female prisoners in the northern provinces were coerced under Taliban pressure to fulfill the sexual desires of certain local Taliban officials against their will. One released prisoner affirms that at least four female prisoners in Samangan province fell seriously ill as a result of repeated sexual assaults by Taliban members and were ultimately executed by the Taliban.
According to information obtained from sources within Taliban women’s prisons in the northern provinces, the majority of these women are imprisoned for various reasons such as moral corruption, theft, fraud, and elopement. Reliable sources confirm that out of the 90 female prisoners in Faryab, Jowzjan, and Samangan provinces, 33 of them have not received any visits from their families since their incarceration. These sources indicate that their families might be unaware of their current situation.
Healthcare workers in the gynecology departments of Faryab, Samangan, and Jowzjan hospitals have informed Hasht-e Subh Daily that in the past year, 48 women who experienced severe bleeding due to physical torture and sexual assault were brought to these hospitals for treatment by Taliban members. According to these sources, the doctors were never permitted by the Taliban members to conduct thorough examinations in these instances.
Hasht-e Subh Daily has maintained the confidentiality of the sources’ identities, and to protect the interviewees from potential security threats, their names are not disclosed in this report.
The Situation of Female Prisoners in Faryab Province
The Hasht-e Subh Daily’s findings reveals that there are currently 36 women imprisoned in Faryab province. The Taliban has detained these women on different charges, and they are serving their sentences in prison. While some of these women were transferred to prison on September 10, 2021, many of them have had their criminal cases left unprocessed over the past year. Notably, none of these women’s cases have been referred to any court for investigation.
According to an anonymous security source from the Faryab Provincial Security Command, most of these women have been detained on suspicion of moral corruption, theft, fraud, and the accusation of girls fleeing from home. The source explains that the absence of criminal cases has led to the indefinite detention of these women. Out of the 36 women prisoners in this prison, 21 of them have not had their cases processed. Some of these women have been detained and transferred to this prison six months, eight months, and even a year ago. These 21 women are those whose relatives have not visited them since their initial arrest. Under the previous government’s prison procedures, the defendants’ cases were sent to the judiciary within three months. Despite nearly two years of Taliban rule in the country, they have not implemented any specific laws or procedures for pursuing the cases of suspects.
A source within the management of Faryab province’s prison confirms that special guards from the Provincial Security Command, the Intelligence Chief, the Commander of the Army Unit, and several other Taliban officials take some of these female prisoners out of the prison at night. After experiencing sexual abuse, they are returned to the prison. However, the source does not specify the location where these women are taken at night.
A monitor from a human rights organization, operating anonymously due to security threats, supervises cases of violence against women and human rights violations in Faryab province. The source has confirmed to the Hasht-e Subh Daily that in the past eight months, Taliban officials have committed eight individual sexual assault cases and six group sexual assault cases against female prisoners in this province. According to the source, an international organization has documented these cases. The source explains that both high-ranking and lower-level Taliban forces enter the women’s prison blocks at night and sexually abuse the female prisoners.
However, a female doctor from the gynecology department of the public hospital in Maymana city, who wishes to remain anonymous, informed the Hasht-e Subh Daily that the Taliban have covertly transferred multiple women to the hospital during the night. These women have experienced bleeding as a result of sexual assault, and the doctor observed visible signs of torture and sexual abuse on them. The doctor explained that these patients were placed in isolated rooms within the hospital for treatment, separated from other patients. According to the source, four to five armed Taliban militants would guard these patients, restricting interaction with nurses and doctors.
The doctor stated that the Taliban transferred thirteen female prisoners to the gynecology department of the hospital after sexually assaulting them, and these women underwent abortions. Most of these women had their pregnancies terminated within the first three months and were then taken back to prison.
The situation of women prisoners in Samangan Province
Sources within the Samangan General Prison Administration has informed the Hasht-e Subh Daily that in the last year, Taliban forces have detained 34 women on suspicion of criminal acts and transferred them to this prison. Among them, 12 prisoners have not received visits or had their cases pursued by their relatives. These 12 women have been in a vulnerable situation in prison for the past seven months without any progress in their cases.
According to the organizational chart of the Samangan Security Command, there are 10 female police officers assigned to oversee the women’s prison in the province. However, sources reveal that only three of them are actively involved in physical checkups and administrative tasks, and their role in prison administration is limited. It is worth noting that these female staff members do not have night duties due to the absence of a legal guardian, resulting in male Taliban forces taking charge of the prison during nighttime.
Sources from Samangan Provincial Hospital report that Taliban militants have brought seven women prisoners who experienced severe physical torture and sexual abuse to the hospital for treatment in the past six months. Furthermore, according to a female doctor, three pregnant women have been transferred to the hospital by the Taliban during this period to undergo abortions.
What does a Released Prisoner say?
A recently released female prisoner from the Taliban’s prison in Samangan province shares her account of sexual assault by a commander and members of the group. Farishta (pseudonym) was arrested by Taliban forces at a security checkpoint in the village of Rubatak, situated between Samangan and Baghlan provinces, on August 24, 2021, while traveling from Aybak City to Kabul. She was charged with moral corruption, although she intended to escape the country by flying from Kabul’s airports.
Despite her attempts to leave the country, 20-year-old Farishta was captured by Taliban militants. She endured a two-week detention under the Taliban’s security command in Aybak City. Farishta recounts experiencing sexual assault three to seven times at night by Taliban militants during that time. Afterward, she was transferred to the province’s central prison.
This young girl has been in the Samangan Central Prison for seven months and shares disturbing accounts of sexual abuse and exploitation of female prisoners by the Taliban. Farishta discloses that after the Taliban assaulted her in the security command’s detention center in the city of Aybak, she had no choice but to comply with their demands out of coercion. She says that newly arrived female prisoners were severely beaten and tortured to fulfill the sexual desires of the Taliban militants. Subsequently, they were left with no choice but to accept their demands. Farishta states that these female prisoners were left with no option but to submit.
Continuing her harrowing account, Farishta reveals that during her seven-month imprisonment, Taliban militants shot and killed at least four female prisoners from Baghlan, Balkh, and Jowzjan provinces. These women had been detained by Taliban authorities in Samangan province on charges of moral corruption, and their families were unaware of their fate. Farishta explains that these women were secretly taken to the residences of senior Taliban commanders at night to fulfill their sexual needs. However, their health deteriorated rapidly, and after 15 days as instructed by the prison manager, they were ultimately killed by gunshots. Farishta recalls hearing about their deaths labeled as “Discovery of Unidentified Bodies” within the prison.
Eventually, a Taliban commander intervened and facilitated Farishta’s release from prison through a deal. As a condition of her release, she had to surrender a personal land deed valued at over 300,000 Afghanis to a prominent Taliban figure. After enduring seven months of imprisonment, Farishta has been set free and currently resides in a different province, separated from her family.
Several visitors to Samangan’s central prison share similar stories. Lailma (pseudonym), a 31-year-old woman and one of the visitors to the women’s prison in Samangan province, shares with Hasht-e Subh Daily that her sister is incarcerated in this prison for aiding a neighbor’s daughter in escaping from home. Lailma’s 26-year-old sister was arrested approximately seven months ago, and Lailma visits her once a month.
Lailma further mentions that her sister’s case has not been taken to court in the past seven months. The Taliban has instructed Lailma and her family to locate the neighbor’s daughter, whom they are not familiar with, as she is believed to have escaped with their daughter. Lailma’s sister has attested that the Taliban forcibly move several young girls and women out of the prison during the night, only to return them before sunrise.
The situation of female prisoners in Jowzjan Province
The central prison in Jowzjan province currently holds 20 women prisoners. The details of their identities and alleged crimes remain undisclosed. Similar to the situation in Faryab and Samangan provinces, these women encounter challenges as their cases are not being presented in court. Only a small number of them have been able to secure their release through agreements or significant payments.
Although our efforts to gather additional information from reliable sources have been unsuccessful, a source at the central hospital in Jowzjan province confirms that they have treated at least 15 women from the women’s prison in Jowzjan who had suffered physical torture in the past year. The source further reveals that six of these women were transferred to the hospital’s gynecological department following incidents of sexual assault.
The source also reveals that the Taliban brought these women to the hospital and ensured their protection for four to seven days. However, the source explains that the Taliban prohibited the proper documentation and registration of these patients in the hospital’s daily registration database.
The discussion of sexual assault against female prisoners is not new. Reports of physical mistreatment of women prisoners have emerged in various cases over the past twenty years.
Female prisoners in the provinces of Faryab, Samangan, and Jowzjan face a precarious situation due to the Taliban’s disregard for the law. As a result, many of these prisoners’ cases are not being processed, and the resolution of other cases is not being forwarded to the courts. In a public gathering in August of last year, the Taliban announced the cancellation of all previous laws in the country, including the constitution and penal code. However, they consider only certain parts of the constitution from the era of Mohammad Zaher Shah, the former king of Afghanistan, which does not conflict with Islamic principles, to be enforceable. This law was enacted in the year 1301 of the Solar Hijri Calendar (1922/1923).
Currently, human rights organizations are not permitted by the Taliban in the northern part of the country to monitor women’s prisons. Prior to the collapse of the republic regime, there were at least six safe houses for women in these three provinces. However, all of these houses have now been shut down. The whereabouts of women released from Taliban prisons are uncertain, as they lack safety even within their own families.
However, local Taliban officials in the provinces of Faryab, Samangan, and Jowzjan have not provided any comments regarding the allegations of sexual assault and physical torture of female prisoners. Nonetheless, they have consistently emphasized their commitment to Sharia and Islamic laws in their approach to handling criminals.
Furthermore, as reported by the news website “Washingtonexaminer,” the Taliban has been using sexual assault and forced marriage as tactics to intimidate Afghan women following their takeover of Afghanistan. The report features the harrowing story of two teenage girls who recently escaped Taliban captivity. Leslie Merriman, a coordinator of a mobile clinic supported by an American organization, recounted the traumatic experiences of these two young Afghan girls who were repeatedly sexually assaulted by Taliban militants every night. Merriman revealed that the two girls, who went by the pseudonyms Fereshta and Anisa to protect their identities, were abducted and beaten by Taliban militants before being subjected to sexual violence.
The report states that Taliban militants abducted Fereshta in the province of Parwan twenty days ago. One of the militants had plans to marry her, but when she refused, she was held captive in a house where she endured nightly sexual assaults by multiple Taliban members. However, she was able to escape with the assistance of a woman who provided her with food and water in that house.
In February of last year, Taliban militants abducted Aneesa in the province of Kapisa. She experienced multiple instances of sexual assault during the approximately 20 nights she was in captivity with the Taliban militants.
Finally, these two girls are receiving medical treatment at a free mobile clinic and currently staying in one of the safe houses. The mobile clinic is financially supported by the organization “Flanders Fields.” According to an American news outlet’s website, which cites the coordinator of the mobile clinic, Fereshta and Anisa are reported to be in the early stages of pregnancy after they escape from the Taliban. The Hasht-e Subh Daily has been unable to independently verify these recent events in the provinces of Parwan and Kapisa.
All this news is coming out, while, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a detailed report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan on September 6 this year. In the report, Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan, expresses concerns about the Taliban’s self-imposed torture and detention, as well as cases of harassment, intimidation, vigilante justice, and the conversion of Taliban commanders’ houses into personal prisons. The report confirms the existence of private prisons in the houses of Taliban commanders and verifies instances of torture and unlawful killings. The UN Special Rapporteur states that since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the annulment of the country’s constitution, “there is no law in this country, and each Taliban member issues orders based on their interpretation of Islamic law.”
Update from Afghanistan, July 2023: Return to Darker Days VS Fights to Keep Hope Alive
Return to Darker Days VS Fights to Keep Hope Alive
Considering the situation, this is the only thing we can do now. Moving online is one way for women in Afghanistan to avoid increasingly dangerous confrontations with the Taliban.
I am Yal Bano, one of a group of women activists living in Afghanistan under the direct threat of the Taliban. The Taliban actively search for all who work or talk against them. And it’s easy for the Taliban to kill those groups who work or talk against them. Because of me, my siblings and parents are also under direct threat. We are not safe. But I can’t stop. The Taliban are lying, and they just want to fight for power. I am in hiding, fighting for my life and the lives of other women.
A return to darker days
The Taliban’s return to power has been dark days for Afghan women and girls.
For the first 3 months of Taliban control in Afghanistan, I was totally disappointed and shocked, as I found myself faced with an unbelievable situation. I saw all my 17 years of study and all my dreams of a bright future for me and others destroyed just in a month.
For the 3 months, I mentioned, every day was a fight. Why was I faced with this situation? I hoped for a bright life, but everything ended. Every day, I cried. I had depression and felt hatred towards the male sex, even my brothers. This was because, I told myself, the Taliban are from the male sex. And they are the reason for this horrible page of life for Afghan women. So because of the Taliban, I hated all other men. I was filled with negative thoughts, like a person who has no hope or reason to live anymore. And I did not have any interest in studying or reading my books. Sometimes, I asked myself, why should I study? If there is no hope for me, and I am here just like a prisoner inside my home?
Visiting the doctor
I was very weak and sick, because I did not eat much through depression. In 3 months I lost 10kg of weight, and my parents were very worried. They thought I might have cancer as I lost my weight very fast. My parents were very scared and they took me to a doctor. When the doctor checked, they said there was no cancer, but if this continues you may be faced with a very bad situation.
My parents told the doctor about their daughter. They explained how she was the most intelligent among all the boys or girls of our relatives, with an A++ degree from the first grade and through all 12 grades of school. And after school, with a high mark in the university exam she entered university and was the only girl in her class at university. And finally she finished university with a great grade.
And she was full of positive energy, an example to other girls, and she thought about all. She dreamed of seeing every girl of Afghanistan smile, empowered through education, but nowadays she is totally lost and disappointed. She can’t even think about herself.
When the doctor heard my story from my parents, compared with my current situation, they cried and did not say anything for some minutes. The doctor then answered my parents, saying that your daughter is struggling through shock and depression. And we will help to treat her. For 3 months, every day I was under treatment.
And after, when I got better with positive words and methods of motivation, the doctor told me, as an educated member of society you are responsible for helping others around you, and you should give them positive energy, morale and hope for living.
Finally, after 3 months, I got better. And I found hope, that I should be alive, strong and motivated like before, because of my parents, siblings and my country’s women and girls.
And I decided to change myself and fight for my own and others’ rights, no matter where I am, whether in or out of home.
Yes, it’s a fact, I am totally disappointed and broken inside. But outside, I try to be the strongest, just because my country’s women and girls really need a person to encourage them to live and give them hope.
Every day since then, I tried and am trying to bring change home to myself and others as a path to help me and Afghan girls and women.
Rewriting my days
Since that day, I have rewritten my timetable a little differently than in the past.
And some of that is:
- As I can’t go school or university and I am always home, I changed the home to a study place. So I try to study more books per my timetable, work on my skills and work on my abilities. And I know education is power and the only way for me to gain my freedom again.
- As I can’t go the gym or park or listen to songs, as per my timetable every day I exercise, meditate and listen to peaceful and calm music.
- I apply my plan to help girls if they can’t go school or university and also to help families in need, as after the Taliban returned many families lost their jobs, and they need more than in the past.
Then, via the internet I started to search to find ways to help women and to raise my voice for Afghan women. Fortunately, the results of searching were great. And via the internet I met with more heroic and brave women around the world. And they told and showed me: you are not alone in this fight. We are all with you. One of these is WDI : it’s like a path between Afghan women and the world’s women and through this we as Afghan women can raise our voices to the world’s women for action.
It’s been a few days now since the launch of WDI Afghanistan and we’ve been overwhelmed by messages of support and love received from around the world. And fortunately, all the brave women support and encourage us. And I transferred the encouragement and love of all women from around the world to my friends and our group members.
The day of the WDI Afghanistan launch was mother's day in Afghanistan. I spent it with my parents and I made cake for my mother. Via WhatsApp, I called and said ‘happy mother’s day’ to other women, and our group member donated funds to help them as a mother’s day gift.
Thank you to WDI for providing such a path and standing with Afghan women to raise their voices in their own right.
Continuing our work
Every day since the Taliban took control, in such a hopeless situation in which schools are closed to female students, we still continue our work and have done since August 2021.
Volunteer groups of young and educated members of our society, under the name ‘Beautiful Afghanistan’, help female students from inside our homes. From school grades 7–12 we teach them different subjects via online training programs as secret online schooling. Also, as women can’t go to work outside home, there is a very bad impact upon their families’ economic situations. We still try to help and provide food and meet urgent needs for those families who live in a very hard economic situation. And still we have 1,000 families in our records that urgently need food and humanitarian assistance.
What we do for girls and women is friendly humanitarian work. We don’t want to become famous and we don’t want to make profits. We just want to help each other and together make a positive change. Our work is totally private, hidden and friendly inside our homes. We are connecting via the internet so it’s a very safe way for us all to continue our program. In general, I spend every day working on my abilities, helping myself and also other girls to learn, transferring positive energy to them, helping families which urgently need humanitarian assistance.
What we want – a call to action
Ultimately, we all know very well the problems Afghan women face, so there is no need for more explanation. There is a great need for action.
- From inside Afghanistan, my plea is that you don’t forget us.
- Please stand with Afghan women. Afghan women need action.
- Please don’t recognize the Taliban.
- Please let Afghan women learn.
Considering the situation, this is the only thing we can do now. Moving online is one way for women in Afghanistan to avoid increasingly dangerous confrontations with the Taliban. It’s also a way to organize, encourage each other, and to resist the regime’s draconian edicts.
Update from Afghanistan, June 2023: In Afghanistan, divorce is always the woman's fault
Women had struggled long and hard for the right to divorce, but since the Taliban returned to power last year, the situation worsened.
In Afghanistan divorce is always the woman's fault.
In Afghan society marriages are supposed to last for life. The divorce rate is low. But when a marriage does fail, it is always the woman’s fault. Statements such as “She should have compromised” or “She should have listened to her husband” are common. And it is never the other way around. While a divorced man can easily find another wife and move on, a divorced woman’s chances of finding another husband are paper-slim. Divorce is seen as a disgrace, and a divorce is often seen as a bad influence because she failed to protect her marriage — even if she ended it because of extreme abuse.
It is not just the odds of remarriage that favor the men: Custody of the children is usually given to the father. In the rare cases that custody is given to the mother, she lives in constant fear that her children will be taken away from her any time — and if she decides to remarry, she will have to give her children back to her ex-husband’s family, and Afghan men will not raise another man’s progeny. One Afghan woman, Frozan , stayed with her drug-addict husband despite the fact that she was forced to work outside the home to support her family, and he would beat her if she didn’t give him her earnings for drugs. Asked why she didn’t get divorced, she said there was little reason to, as it seemed like she lived with a corpse for most of the time. Moreover, she said, “What if my husband takes my children away from me? I can’t live without my children.”
Even if a divorcée is lucky enough to keep her children, the challenges of raising children alone faced by single women anywhere are heightened in Afghanistan. The children of divorcées are often bullied in schools, and the daughters of divorced mothers cannot easily find a husband because many families think that if her mother couldn’t protect her marriage, her daughter probably can’t, either.
Even if she has no children, it is nonetheless difficult for a divorced woman to get remarried, simply because most Afghan men dislike marrying a woman who has been married before, no matter how young, beautiful, or how good a person she is. Afghan mothers don’t like their sons marrying divorcées, either. Usually the only new husband a young divorcée can find is an older, divorced, or widowed man, and these matches are often encouraged by the girl’s family because it is one of her few options. This bad cultural practice is another reason why many Afghan women quietly accept abuse.
Divorced women in Afghanistan confront numerous other challenges beyond finding a life partner — financial difficulties, insecurity, and social stigma. It is unsafe for Afghan women to live, without a male relative. Because majority of women in Afghanistan are not educated and cannot work outside their homes to provide for themselves, divorce becomes out of question. Their only option besides staying with their husband is to go back to their parents’ house, whether they are welcomed there or not. Often times, their families are poor and an extra person is an economic burden. If the divorcée brings her children with her, paying for their food, clothes, and medication can be very difficult for poor families. It’s another reason Afghan women stay in their husbands’ houses, no matter how bad the conditions there.
In addition, Afghans view divorced women with disapproval. Divorce not only destroys a woman’s reputation, it also brings shame to her family and her entire tribe. That’s why women are encouraged by her family members to quietly and dutifully accept their fate. Women who compromise when they are in abusive relationships are often praised by other female relatives. Because they don’t speak up or demand their rights, they are viewed as loyal and strong women.
Also, divorced women are thought to bring bad luck, and are looked down up by not only people in their community, but also by their own family. For example, during the pre-wedding henna ceremony, when the groom’s family puts henna on the bride’s hands, divorced women are strongly discouraged from touching the bride’s hand lest her “bad luck” transfer to the girl. The stigma keeps divorced women from participating in the cultural ceremonies surrounding their relatives’ marriages.
Married women are also encouraged to stay away from talaqi, or divorced women because it is believed that she might be a bad influence, even if the failure of the marriage wasn’t her fault. The belief that she could misguide married women into divorcing their own husbands is so strong that sometimes even her own friends and relatives sever their ties with her. To many Afghan women, the stigma of divorce seems worse than living unhappily in an abusive relationship.
Since Afghan women do not get the emotional support they need after a divorce, they lose their self-esteem and seclude themselves from the community that reminds them every day how unlucky and unfortunate they are. Often divorced women go through severe depression, with little psychological or medical support.
In short, no matter how much a woman is abused in her husband’s house, if she asks for divorce or if he divorces her, she is the guilty party. While a divorced man can soon remarry and move on with his life, a divorced woman in Afghanistan has to confront mountainous challenges.
Update from Afghanistan, June 2023: Women and the Taliban in Afghanistan
Today I am talking from a country where it’s a crime to be a woman.
Hardly a day goes by without more bad news and restrictions on women. The suffering that the women of Afghanistan have endured, women have not suffered in any other land throughout history.
Today I am presenting a report from a country in which women don’t have access to their essential rights of education, work or free movement. But if women ask about those rights, the answer will be beating, arresting or killing.
Today I am raising my voice for women and girls from a country in which the Minister of Higher Education said, at the graduation ceremony of the students of a religious center that those who write/talk against, and/or resist the Taliban deserve to be murdered. This includes both online and offline criticism of their regime.
They actively search every single home, even searching the phone, laptop and all private things to see and find who is working against them. If yes, then they will arrest, beat or kill them. But no one has the right to complain.
But the Taliban don’t know that today’s women are not like women were during 1996–2001.
Today’s women strongly believe that “an educated mother builds a strong nation”. And they are stronger than their restrictions. These women are not afraid. Afghan women get stronger day by day, as they raise their voice against the Taliban to demand their own essential rights of education, work and free movement.
Today I am here to tell you that there are no HUMAN rights and there are no WOMEN’S rights in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s control.
Afghanistan is not the only country where women’s rights are being rolled back. But what is happening should ring alarm bells for all of us; of progress on sex equality and women's rights can be literally wiped out in months.
There are countless unsolved problems facing Afghan women, but because of restrictions, women can't share their stories with each other. And on the other side, there is no ear, no organization, and no group to hear the problems women face. Afghan women are entirely isolated.
Things I can no longer do
I can’t go outside alone without a male relative from my home.
I can’t go to school over the age of 12.
I can’t go to university or the gym or park.
I can’t be an engineer or pilot or singer or athlete.
I can’t go work, except as doctors or nurses in some hospitals
I can’t go to male doctors for treatment.
I should wear a long burqas which covers me from head to toe.
I can’t laugh loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman's voice).
I can’t present or speak in radio, television or public gatherings. But if I did I would have to cover my face during any TV program.
I can’t play sports or enter a sports center or club.
I can’t ride bicycles or motorcycles, even with a mahram.
I am banned from listening to music – this applies not only to women, but men as well.
To make sense of this moment, it helps to discuss the Taliban’s history.
I’ll start with the year I was born.
I was a newborn baby during the Taliban’s early ruling years, and I wasn’t aware of how women were treated then. But last year, my grandmother, mother, and sisters heaved with grief as they reopened old boxes of burqas they had packed away 20 years ago. They told me unbelievable stories about the horrible ways women were treated.
My grandmother shared how the Taliban entered Afghanistan back then, at a time when fewer men and women were educated. The Taliban leveraged the name of Islam and the conditions of traditional society to manipulate uneducated people. They were particularly cruel to women. “People can’t just forget or forgive all the killings,” my grandmother said. “Almost every family in Afghanistan now knows of somebody or has a family member who was killed by the Taliban.”
The golden years: 2001–2021
Despite my country’s many issues, 2001–2021 was a golden time for Afghan women. The Taliban was ousted, and women started to learn about their rights and gained autonomy in their lives. I was one of those girls whose life was changed for the better. Despite our relatives' objections, my parents enrolled me in school, and I was the first girl in our extended family to attend.
Our relatives said that I shouldn’t go to school past the age of 12. But my parents didn't listen to them. “We had a hard time, but we don’t want a hard time for our children,” they said. “We want a bright future for you – especially our daughters.” I continued to the university then job….
This life for Afghan girls is one of prisoners who do not know when they will be released. I hear the situation is more horrible in some areas and provinces, where women don’t have access to the internet, mobile phones, or any education. There are reports the Taliban has taken cruel actions such as kidnapping, targeted killing, killing by stoning, and forced marriage.
Helping women and girls in Afghanistan
WDI calls on the international community to open reserved corridors for Afghan women and children
Women's Declaration International is calling on the UN and the international community to:
- Open humanitarian corridors specifically for women, girls and children who need to leave Afghanistan
- Support women’s rights organisations such as the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) who intend to stay in Afghanistan and resist
- Use any possible influence to prevent the Taliban’s assaults on women and women’s rights
- Protect women all over the world who are persecuted on the basis of their sex
We are concerned at the relatively low number of female political refugees reaching Europe, and ask the UN to focus its efforts more closely on protecting women, girls and children who are often in the greatest danger from the Taliban; and to open protected humanitarian corridors to allow those women and children a passage to safety.
We ask the UN to allocate resources to support the brave women who have chosen to stay and resist the Taliban and their organisations, such as the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.
The Taliban regime is not a legitimate government. Not only are women’s rights curtailed by the Taliban to such an extent that they are treated as non-people in their own country, but they face physical punishment, imprisonment and death for the most minor contraventions of intensely misogynist rules. Women and girls throughout Afghanistan are at constant risk of rape and sexual slavery as Taliban fighters demand to be rewarded with sexual access to them.
In different degrees and respects, all women in the world undergo similar forms of oppression under male domination. The Afghan women’s struggle for liberation is the same struggle women face everywhere. WDI calls on the UN and national governments to protect women and girls all over the world who are persecuted and oppressed because of their sex; and to extend special refugee status and protection to all women and girls fleeing male violence.
WDI is looking into ways to help our sisters in Afghanistan - in the mean time, please sign these petitions and consider donating to one of these organisations. If you know of any other organisations or efforts to help please let us know and we will share them.
Sign the UK petition to protect Afghan women and girls' freedom and safety
Sign the Italian petition to create humanitarian corridors
Sign the Australian petition to bring vulnerable Afghan families to Australia
Petition to the Spanish Prime Minister to prosecute Taliban crimes before the International Criminal Court and grant asylum to afghan women in Spain
Call to the international community (in several languages): Abrid las puertas a Afganistán y las afganas / Let's open our doors to Afghanistan and Afghan women / Ouvrons nos portes à l’Afganistan et les femmes afganes / Afghanistan und den Afghaninnen die Türen öffnen
Support these organisations:
CARE International - one of the world's largest humanitarian organisations with a long history of helping people in Afghanistan
International Federation of Journalists solidarity campaign (for journalists)
Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace and Security - How to Save the Lives of Afghan Women
Articles and statements:
European Network of Migrant Women statement on the situation in Afghanistan and the rights of Afghan women and girls
Statement from the European Women's Lobby
Radical feminists rescue Afghan women - 4W article
Statement from FILIA - We Stand with the Women and Peoples of Afghanistan
Afghanistan: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union
Afghanistan and Gender: why can't women identify out of their oppression? Jaclynn Joyce
The World Must not Look Away as the Taliban Sexually Enslaves Women and Girls - Laura Hood (English)