International Day of Education requires us to fight for women’s education everywhere. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has denied women and girls access to education.

“I love school. It brightens my future, builds up my education, and I learn about life,” Fariza, Afghan girl, UNICEF

As the world celebrates International Day of Education, this day serves as a grim reminder of the restrictions on Afghan women’s and girls’ opportunity to pursue an education. 

Afghan women and girls have been forced out of school for more than 850 days. 

Girls cannot pursue an education beyond sixth grade and women cannot pursue higher education in public universities. Banning women from receiving an education does not only inflict harm on 50% of the population, it isolates Afghanistan from the rest of the world, affects all Afghans and their communities, and has a negative impact on Afghanistan’s economy. 

Prior to the Taliban takeover, all 34 provinces offered women and girls access to education at all levels. From 2002 to 2021 3.5 million girls enrolled in first to 12th grade. Afghanistan also had 200,000 teachers, including 80,000 female teachers. Over 100,000 women were enrolled in public or private universities. 

The right to education is a universal human right outlined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Moreover, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC) holds that countries must make education accessible to all. In fact, a quality education is listed as goal number 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

“In Afghanistan, education for all, for girls and boys, women and men, is more than just a fundamental right. It is the foundation for Afghanistan’s future,” said Roza Otunbayeva, using this day as an opportunity to once again call on the Taliban to lift the ban on girls’ education. 

Opening schools is not only a western ideal but a demand of Muslim countries. “In the holy religion of Islam, every day is the day of education, but unfortunately today on the International Day of Education schools and universities are closed [in Afghanistan.]”, said Tafsir Seyaposh, a women’s rights activist.

It is no secret that education is the key for women to independence, escaping poverty and building a successful future. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations said “to educate girls is to reduce poverty.” In Afghanistan, the dire humanitarian crisis demonstrates the need to educate women and girls. 

The Taliban’s edicts on education also target men and boys. Schools have been burned down as a tactic to crack down on educational institutions. Over the past two years, Afghanistan has seen the rapid increase in madrassas, religious education institutes. While there is nothing inherently wrong with religious education, these madrassas have been used as centers for training suicide bombers and weapon use. 

Source:

UNICEF, Tolonews, UN, USIP 

Taliban Leader: Afghan Women’s Rights “have been fully secured” despite ongoing gender apartheid 

Mullah Hibatullah, the Taliban’s leader, said in a recent statement that women’s rights in Afghanistan “have been fully secured.” The Taliban leader who has never been seen in public or by any official except Taliban members, claimed that women have been given their full rights under Sharia. 

It is unclear which standards the Taliban is using to assess the status of Afghan girls and women’s rights. The pervasive systemic discrimination against women through the release of over 100 edicts issued nationally and sub-nationally would suggest otherwise. According to Tahira Nasiri, a women’s rights activist, not only are women deprived of their basic rights such as work and education, “but women have also faced forced and early marriages, murder, detention, and suppression for over two years.”

By educational standards, Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls cannot seek an education after elementary school. In fact, Afghan culture and Islam both value the importance of women’s education. In terms of employment, women are prohibited from working in all sectors, including with local and international humanitarian organizations. As a result, women who were once the primary breadwinners are now unable to feed their families. 

Over the past two and a half years, we have been witness to gender apartheid policies that relegate women to a subhuman status. Women have been essentially erased from public life and are prohibited from any social and cultural contributions. 

A recording released on Wednesday at a religious scholars’ meeting in Kandahar, however,  conveys a different interpretation. Hibatullah says in this recording that women’s rights have been “guaranteed in all areas” under their rule. He refers to the orders he issued in areas such as inheritance rights, prevention of forced marriages and providing a dowry for women but none of those have been implemented and the order issued were more advisory. Hibatullah, leader of the de facto authorities, suggested that these rights are “better secured” than in previous governments.

Gender apartheid must be officially recognized as the situation in Afghanistan, regardless of the Taliban’s empty promises for women’s rights.

Source: social media, Khaam Press.

Seven out of every ten people in Afghanistan are unable to meet their basic life requirements

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that Afghanistan is in a deepening economic crisis and suffering economic insecurity under the Taliban regime.

The organization stated in a report released recently that 69% of Afghanistan’s population faces a shortage of necessities such as healthcare, essential goods, suitable living conditions and job opportunities, particularly for women. The collapse of the banking system in Afghanistan can be largely attributed to policies of gender apartheid against girls and women, which has had devastating consequences on the progress of the overall nation. 

Women, who are prohibited from working, attending school, or being a part of public social life, are unable to feed their families and do not know where the next meal will come from. Since the Taliban took over, they have prevented women from working with domestic and international aid agencies, which has further affected Afghan people and created a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Source: UNDP-Afghanistan

Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Face the Risk of Deportation and Human Rights Abuses

The spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern over Pakistan’s plan to deport undocumented Afghan refugees on November 1st. This will disproportionately affect more than a million Afghans who moved to Pakistan for safety. 

The plan for mass deportation was announced earlier this month, after which, 59,780 individuals left Pakistan to return to Afghanistan due to fears of arrest. Currently, there are over 2 million Afghans living in Pakistan without proper documentation, of which 600,000 fled Afghanistan after the takeover of the Taliban in 2021.

Those facing risk of deportation are at even greater risk of being subjected to human rights abuses if they return to Afghanistan. Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the OHCHR, said that “at particular risk are civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders, former government officials and security members, and of course women and girls as a whole,” due to harsh policies of gender apartheid banning them from education, employment and many aspects of public life. 

Deporting Afghans is a violation of the principle of non-refoulement, defined as the practice of not forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country in which they are liable to be subjected to persecution. This international law is included in the Convention Against Torture (CAT), which Pakistan has ratified. 

Afghanistan is experiencing an ongoing humanitarian crisis, worsened by two large earthquakes that hit Afghanistan’s northwestern Herat province. The international community has a responsibility to observe and respect the rights of Afghans, rather than punishing them. 

Source:

OHCR 10/27/2023; OHCR

Pakistan Threatens to Deport All Afghan Refugees, Violating Refugee Rights and Putting Afghans at High Risk 

Last week, Pakistan ordered all “illegal” migrants to leave the country, leaving millions, including long-term residents with valid documents, vulnerable to being returned to Afghanistan. 

According to Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti, “illegal” Afghan migrants are those without Proof of Registration (PoR) cards or expired Afghan Citizen cards (ACC) issued by the Pakistani government. 

The detainment and deportation of Afghan refugees has led to international outrage over human rights abuses. All refugees have the right to non-refoulement, a law outlined in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which states that individuals facing fear of persecution in their countries cannot be returned. Many Afghan refugees currently residing in Pakistan are former government employees – civil and military, activists, journalists, women’s groups leaders and many other groups who face threats of torture and detention by the Taliban if they return to Afghanistan. 

Currently 3.7 million Afghans fleeing war, poverty and political instability in their homeland, live in Pakistan. The Taliban takeover in 2021 saw an increase in 700,000 refugees to Pakistan. Afghans have fled to the neighboring country of Pakistan since 1979 during the Soviet occupation and in the 1990s during the first Taliban regime. Only around 1.4 million Afghans hold Proof of Registration cards required to stay legally, according to Pakistani officials. Moreover, one-time Afghan Citizen Cards (ACC) issued by the government to 880,000 refugees in 2017 have expired. Now with an extended refugee crisis, the maintenance of large-scale documentation for refugees is in peril. 

Before the deportation was announced, for over a year, Afghan citizens were being detained, for alleged illegal stay, entry violations, and involvement in crime. Pakistan’s detention of Afghan citizens is in an effort to regulate its borders and maintain internal security, especially as tensions rise between Islamabad and the Taliban over the rise in extremist militancy in Pakistan. 

In response to this, Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban government spokesman, said that Pakistan’s plans to push out Afghans was “unacceptable,” and that “Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problems.” In response to international pressure and calls from activists and global organizations, Pakistan released some 2500 refugees detained in Pakistani prisons. 

Afghan citizens have also faced detention and deportation in Iran and Turkey as well. Bugti added, “If they do not go… then all the law enforcement agencies in the provinces or federal government will be utilized to deport them.”

Every human being deserves the right to liberty and safety, including refugees. Forced deportation will only worsen conditions for refugees.

Sources:

Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty 10/08/2023

Devastation from Earthquakes in Afghanistan Strikes an Already-Shaky Foundation

Authorities have confirmed over 2000 casualties following a devastating earthquake that hit northwestern Afghanistan’s Herat province. Two 6.3-magnitude earthquakes hit several districts on Saturday, followed by 7 tremors, causing mud-brick homes to collapse. Thousands of people have since been sleeping outside in freezing temperatures to protect themselves from aftershocks that could destroy their homes. Several villages have been reduced to rubble with the count of fatalities and injuries continuing to climb. 

Aid workers on Sunday encountered devastating effects from the earthquake: people’s homes destroyed, entire families killed, and hospitals and clinics overwhelmed with injured people – hospitals and clinics that were already close to collapsing due to lack of funding. The earthquakes are one the deadliest disasters Afghanistan has seen in decades and recently, the country has grappled with flooding and mudslides too. The earthquakes and other disasters have exacerbated the precarious humanitarian aid situation and economic crisis caused by the takeover of the government in Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2021.

The consequent disappearance of millions of jobs have led to almost half of the population’s 39 million people facing severe hunger and 3 million on the brink of starvation, according to the United Nations World Food Program. The Taliban released edicts earlier this year to prevent women from working for NGOs and delivering much-needed aid. Aid money has begun to peter out as the world’s attention goes elsewhere and the Taliban’s gender apartheid policies against women have led to calls to stop funding the country entirely. 

Taliban officials claim to be directing military and service organizations to help those injured and provide food and shelter to remote areas but volunteers shared that “little” if any aid had been received from the Taliban. Distribution of tents and blankets in Herat only begins to scratch at the surface of people’s needs.

Sources:

CNN 10/08/2023; NYTimes 10/08/2023

Solutions Lagging Behind the Urgency: United Nations Addressed Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan

Recently, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the issue of gender apartheid in Afghanistan and compel the Taliban to stop policies of gender apartheid. Issues of human rights and women’s rights are fading from the global landscape’s attention. It is more important than ever to continue to fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan and to hold the Taliban authorities accountable.  

Ongoing gender apartheid worsens conditions for Afghan women and girls in all aspects of life. The United Nations expresses hope that the Taliban will reverse its course, despite restrictive policies issued by the de facto authorities which show no signs of stopping. The group has solidified its exclusionary stronghold in the country and its influence grows through the implementation of madrassas, religious institutes across Afghanistan. The Taliban views criticism of its rule as an orchestrated attack from the west against the interpretation of Sharia law. It is important to note that neither Islamic law nor Afghan culture call for banning women from education, work or erasing them from society. 

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) produced three reports, underscoring the ongoing attack on fundamental human rights, including women’s rights, and other violations. In spite of slight economic improvement, these issues remain of critical concern. 

The international community has come to a juncture where it is forced to bridge the gap between the Taliban de facto authorities’ policies and the international norm. The UN and the international community do not currently recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan. Yet, the issue of direct engagement has to be contended with in order to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance. This is a process from which women are also excluded, limiting its efficacy and reach. According to the representative from the United Kingdom, “Afghanistan cannot be self-reliant when 50% of its people are excluded from society.” 

Roza Otunbayeva, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA voiced her concern over the “more than 50 decrees issued by the Taliban, aimed at eliminating women from public life and education.” In response to this, she cited a recent report in which more than 46 per cent of Afghan women stated that the Taliban should not be recognized under any circumstances. This was taken from an UNAMA survey of 529 women surveyed across 22 different provinces. Women’s voices must be heard and acted upon. UN Women’s Sima Sami Bahous says “Afghan women continue to call on international actors to use all means at their disposal to leverage and pressure for change, including the use of sanctions without exceptions for travel, and the issue of non-recognition.” 

The UN recommends the de facto authority engage in dialogue with neighboring countries and the international community to counter present security threats. Although security incidents have decreased, the presence and activity of terrorist groups is a concern. Without respect for human rights, economic growth, and resilience to natural disasters, the risk of radicalization among young people grows, threatening the prospect of peace in the future. 

Karima Bennoune, international legal expert and civil society representative, urged the Security Council to adopt resolutions labeling the treatment of Afghan women by the Taliban as an institutionalized framework of “gender apartheid.” This is one step in the right direction toward recognizing and addressing the dehumanizing existence women have been relegated to. 

Source:

UN 09/26/2023

China’s Ambassador to Afghanistan as a Catalyst to Slippery Slope of International Recognition for Taliban

Recently, China announced its new ambassador to Afghanistan, Zhao Xing, who presented himself at a lavish ceremony in Kabul last week. He is the first foreign envoy to occupy an ambassador position since the Taliban took power in August 2021. The Taliban has not been officially recognized by any government, but they celebrated this moment as “the beginning of a new chapter.” The Chinese foreign ministry, however, tried to downplay hopes for formal recognition of the de facto authorities. 

Observers said that the appointment indicates China’s openness to create close ties with the Taliban regime. Beijing kept their ambassador-level relations and their embassy in Kabul after the fall of the previous government. Other countries and bodies, including Pakistan and the European Union have sent senior diplomats on missions using the title “charge d’affaires” which does not require presenting ambassadorial credentials to the host nations, as China did.

Zhao said that China was “a good neighbor of Afghanistan” and “fully respects Afghanistan’s independence, territorial integrity and independence in decision-making.” The Taliban has been criticized globally for their treatment of women and human rights violations. Countries in the region care more about security and economic ties than human rights issues, which they consider an internal problem. In May, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to work together tri-laterally to counter terrorism and strengthen security. The Taliban has also been accused of allowing various extremist terrorist groups to flourish within the country. 

Afghanistan is a key region to China. It falls in Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Militants of the Turkistan Islamic Party along Afghanistan’s border with China’s Xinjiang region have targeted Chinese projects in the past to retaliate against Beijing’s mistreatment of Muslim minorities of the Uyghur ethnic group. Such mistreatment includes mass detentions, forced labor, “re-education” of the Uyghur population, and abuse of a million Uyghurs under surveillance – all of which China has denied. The Taliban has vowed to help China in the removal of these militants from Afghanistan and that it would not allow the Uyghur leaders to operate against China from Afghanistan’s territory. Thousands of Uyghurs have fled to Afghanistan, but now fear becoming victims of China’s influence on the country.

This comes ahead of Russia reportedly inviting the Taliban to attend the Moscow Format later this month in the Russian city of Kazan. Spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that the goal is to “bring together key regional actors to address various aspects of Afghanistan’s situation, intra-Afghan reconciliation, regional security and post-conflict reconstruction efforts.” Russia reports that the main focus of the conference will be to form an “inclusive” government reflecting the major ethnopolitical groups within Afghanistan.

Both developments reflect a shift in the international outlook and treatment of the de facto authorities, leading in the direction of normalized relations and diplomatic recognition. We cannot forget the plight of Afghan women and the continuing human rights violations occurring in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban. 

Sources:

CNN 09/14/2023; BBC 09/14/2023; Reuters 09/13/2023

Human Rights Crimes Against Former Government Officials Further Solidifies Taliban’s Grip of Power on Afghanistan

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released a report recently calling attention to several instances of human rights violations by the Taliban against former government officials across 34 different provinces in the country, with the greatest occurring in Kabul.

To date, there have been at least 800 instances of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest, torture and disappearances against people affiliated with the previous government, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan supported by the US and an international coalition of countries. These cases go against the Taliban’s promise to pardon all those who worked for the former government and international allies. It represents “a betrayal of people’s trust,” said Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

After the Taliban takeover of the Afghanistan in 2021, former U.S.-backed government officials were targeted, especially those in the Afghan security forces and judicial branch. Some were killed before even being taken into custody, others killed in custody, and some taken to remote locations and killed. UNAMA interviewed families of the victims who had gone missing and whose bodies turned up months later. The former head of Herat Women’s Prison, Alia Azizi, never returned home from work on October 2, 2021. Her whereabouts are still unknown. 

Moving forward, says Roza Otunbayeva, Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA, “the de facto authorities must demonstrate genuine commitment to general amnesty.” This would be “a crucial step in ensuring real prospects for justice, reconciliation, and lasting peace in Afghanistan.” 

Despite being the de facto authorities of Afghanistan, the Taliban still has an obligation under international human rights law to prevent further violations and hold perpetrators accountable. The Taliban responded by saying that the killings were simply personal matters or “revenge cases” and not carried out in any official capacity. Even then, the Taliban has failed in providing security to Afghans at risk and are evading responsibility. 

The Taliban has received international criticism for their harsh policies of gender apartheid against women and are currently not recognized by the U.N. or the international community.

Source:

UNAMA 08/22/2023; ABC News 08/22/2023

“Immeasurably Cruel” Oppression of Afghan Women and a Further Collapse of Human Rights

The United Nations Rights Chief accused the Taliban of a “shocking level of oppression” of women and girls, and said that more broadly, human rights in the country were in “collapse.” The observation and fulfillment of human rights in Afghanistan has been in steady decline since the takeover of the government by the Taliban in 2021. The Taliban did not respond, but in previous statements claimed that they respect women’s rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law. 

A recent UN report based on the time from March 2022 to August 2023, tracks the systemic regression of women’s and girls’ rights and records hundreds of cases of gender-based violence against women. Women have been banned from education, work, and most public spaces through Taliban-issued edicts that are “immeasurably cruel,” according to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk. 

The human rights crisis is affecting millions of Afghan women, men, girls, and boys, and demands international attention.

Source:

Reuters 09/12/2023

What is “Freedom” to the Taliban? The Taliban’s Constricted Vision for Afghanistan’s Future. 


The Taliban has remained firm and doubled down on its vision for the future of Afghanistan. Since its takeover of the Afghan government 2 years ago, it established a de facto government, composed of different ministries to impose their interpretation of an “Islamic” rule and rollback the achievements of the former government. The Taliban has reversed almost every measure, going as far as taking out trees planted under the former government, calling the trees “infidel.” 

Recently, in an opening of a religious center in eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban Minister of Interior Affairs, Sirajuddin Haqqani, called on people to support the Islamic system, saying “the enemies of our religion and country cannot take away our freedom and now they are plotting and warning the system.” He added, “our belief is firm and our struggle is pure and we are united.” 

The Taliban notion of “freedom” is misplaced and criminal as they lack national and global legitimacy. When Haqqani invokes the term freedom, he refers to the Taliban’s ability to force people to obey their rules that are in contradiction with Afghan values and Islam, and which erase women from society altogether. When the Taliban invokes the term “freedom” and “liberation” they refer to forcing global allies out of Afghanistan and militarily collapsing a system that valued freedom and democracy. 

The assertion that the Taliban is united is untrue. Earlier this year, senior Taliban officials began expressing public disagreements with official stances. The dissent comes as the group struggles for international legitimacy, with some leaders pushing to respect the demands of the Afghan people. The Taliban Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, said the group “must aim for winning the hearts of our people rather than ruling over them with batons.” There is also conflict over the way in which the supreme leader “monopolizes” power and issues decrees that he expects other officials to obey and enforce on the Afghan people. 

The Taliban’s rhetoric is focused on defending the country from perceived outside threats and “enemies,” but neglects the humanitarian crises facing the country, the rise in extremist activity by various terrorist groups, and continues to steadily strip women of their fundamental rights.

On another occasion, the Minister of Information and Culture, Khairullah Khairkhah, asked young people to make more and effective use of the opportunities created now in the country. Such opportunities mainly constitute religious training in madrassas, religious seminaries under the Taliban. He tells them “you are lucky that there are scholars.” Since the Taliban’s return to power, opportunities have been limited and to women, erased. People are forced to flee due to unemployment, which is the highest it has been in the past 25 years.  

These standpoints ignore crucial issues surrounding Afghan women, the economy, and Afghanistan’s place on the global stage. Not to mention that millions of Afghans face unemployment, which is at a 30% rate, and a lack of opportunities for a livelihood. Other officials have made similar statements. 

The Acting Minister of Economy, Din Mohammad Hanif, also discussed the sacrifices made in order to establish the Taliban’s Islamic system, emphasizing the role of mujahideens, fighters and religious scholars. He said “the majority of the sacrifices were made by the scholars,” and the “leadership was led by the scholars.” To the Taliban, a scholar is only a person with religious education and with the Taliban in power, there has been increasing focus on madrassas, religious institutions and less focus on other subjects. 

Emphasis on the victory of the Taliban and its role in freeing the Afghan people leaves little space for critique of the current political system and ideas regarding Afghan freedom that deviate from the Taliban’s narrow ideals. The goal is ultimately power through force, which is considered victory and freedom, not anything that the Afghan people, including women, want. 

The Taliban has not liberated the country and its people. The regime has erased the human rights of women and girls, destroyed a democratic and electoral system, and enforced primitive rules on the Afghan people. The Taliban doesn’t deserve the legitimacy from the international community that the regime demands. 

Sources: 

Ariana News, 9/2/2023; VoA 02/23/2023; RFE/RL 06/02/2023; Human Concern

Ethnic and Religious Minorities Face Systemic Discrimination Under Taliban Rule in Afghanistan

The Taliban’s rise to power in 2021 raised concerns about their treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in the country, who had been persecuted during the first Taliban regime. Shi’ite Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and other religious minorities suffer systemic discrimination under Taliban rule. 

In the 1980s, there were around 100,000 Hindus and Sikhs across the country. After the war began in 1979, growing persecution pushed many out. The Taliban and rival groups promised to protect religious minorities but this did not occur, and Sikhs and Hindus lost their homes and businesses. During the first Taliban regime, militant rulers announced that Sikhs and Hindus would be forced to wear yellow badges to be identified, which led to international uproar. They were also prevented from building new temples and had to pay jizya, taxes for not being a Muslim.

Other religious minorities, such as Shi’a Muslims, make up approximately 15% of Afghanistan’s 40 million people, and are mostly ethnic Hazaras, some Tajiks and few Pashtuns. In addition to harassment and persecution, the minorities are also denied the right to use their jurisprudence in courts. Afghanistan’s 2004 Constitution permitted Shi’a to use their Jafari jurisprudence in court cases. But the Constitution has since been suspended indefinitely by the Taliban and minorities are asked to follow the Taliban’s rules. 

Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” 

The Taliban originally promised better treatment towards minority groups. They visited Shi’a mosques in Kabul and designated officials to protect ceremonies for the Shi’ite month of Muharram. Since then, they have broken promises granting the Shi’ite community freedom to observe their religion. 

Last month, the Taliban stopped Shi’a from celebrating an important festival, Eid al-Ghadir, a day that marks when Prophet Muhammad declared Ali, a cousin, his successor. In Sunni belief, this day is when Abu Bakr, the first Muslim caliph, became the successor to Prophet Muhammad. This is the main ideological difference between the two sects. The Taliban has also restricted Shi’a teachings at universities and in February announced an edict banning marriages between Shi’a and Sunnis in Badakhshan province, in northern Afghanistan. 

Sikhs and Hindus also face harsh restrictions on their appearance and have been banned from celebrating religious holidays in public to the point where many have fled. Fari Kaur, one of the last Sikhs remaining in Kabul describes that she “cannot go anywhere” and is forced to “dress like a Muslim” so that nobody will identify her as Sikh. 

Kaur’s father was killed in a suicide attack targeting Sikhs and Hindus at a temple in Jalalabad five years ago, in eastern Afghanistan. After that attack, some 1,500 Sikhs left Afghansitan, including Kaur’s remaining family. In 2020, 25 worshippers were killed when IS-K militants attacked a Sikh temple in Kabul. Kaur says “we have very few community members left behind in Afghanistan. We cannot even look after our temples.” 

Historically, the Taliban has been intolerant of public expressions and displays of the Sikh and Hindu, Shi’ite and other religious minorities. The Taliban has often forced to impose their interpretation of Islam and Islamic laws on all Afghans, and especially on religious minorities who are not Muslim and Sunni. 

The ban on observing religious holidays goes “against the spirit of Islamic brotherhood and national unity,” said Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Rizwani, a scholar at Shi’a Ulema Council of Afghanistan. The de facto authorities are attempting to institute their “distorted view of Islam,” leaving minority groups vulnerable to other religious extremists in the region, whose presence has increased since 2021.

The situation in Afghanistan worsens as political extremist factions claiming to represent Islam rise to power throughout the region. According to Niala Mohammed, director of policy and strategy at the nonprofit Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, “this exodus of diverse religious groups has left a void in the country’s social fabric.”

Source: 

RFE/RL 07/17/2023; RFE/RL 08/252/2023

More Decrees Issued by The Taliban and the Ongoing Dangers Faced by Afghan Women

August 15th marked the 2-year-anniversary of the Taliban takeover in 2021. Since then, the Taliban has issued over 100 edicts and orders, taking away the human rights of Afghan women and impacting all aspects of life. The latest decree on park visits only adds to the long list of Taliban restrictions against Afghan women and girls.

The latest decree of the Taliban banned Afghan women and girls from visiting the Band-e-Amir national park, Afghanistan’s first national park established in 2009, in Bamiyan province in central Afghanistan. According to the Taliban’s minister of virtue and vice, Mohammed Khaled Hanafi, the ban was “a result of women not observing hijab inside the park,” although no incident of women violating the hijab has been recorded over the past two years. Religious clerics and security agencies have been called on to prevent women from entering the park “until further notice.”

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, questions the decision and asks, “can someone please explain why this restriction on women visiting Band-e-Amir is necessary to comply with Sharia and Afghan culture?” There is no mention of women not being allowed to visit parks in Islamic laws, but the Taliban Sharia is their interpretation and ideology of way of life. 

Band-e-Amir park is a popular destination for families to visit. UNESCO describes Band-e-Amir park as a “naturally created group of lakes with special geological formations and structure, as well as natural and unique beauty.” The restriction placed on women will make it difficult for many to attend the park. This latest ban is just one instance of the Taliban implementing rules on women’s movement since its rise to power in 2021. 

Fereshta Abbasi of Human Rights Watch, noted that the ban occurred on Women’s Equality Day, symbolizing a “total disrespect to the women of Afghanistan.” Many Afghans took to social media, sharing their aspirations and hope for the day they will return to the national park. 

Afghan women face increasing dangers

News of Hora Sadat’s passing was reported last week after she mysteriously died at age 25 in Kabul. Reports suggest that she was poisoned after attending a public event. 

Sadat was a female Youtuber in Afghanistan with 300,000 subscribers who created videos aimed at a young audience. She participated in public events organized by women in Kabul, but was not known for publicly criticizing the Taliban. 

Sadat’s death has led to accusations from activists pointing to the Taliban’s role. Her family has not commented on the details of her death. Sadat’s death is just one example highlighting the dangers faced by women in Afghanistan. The Taliban has placed strict bans on Afghan women, essentially erasing them from public life and controlling their mobility and appearance. 

Sources:

BBC 08/27/2023; Twitter 08/27/2023; RFE/RL 08/25/2023

Afghan Girls Above Age 10 are Barred from Primary Schools in Afghanistan, Casting a Shadow on Education 

Girls over the age of 10 have been banned from attending primary school in Afghanistan in the latest edict issued by the Taliban-led Ministry of Education.

Taliban leaders met with school principals in certain provinces and told them strictly that “any girl over 10 years of age is not allowed to study in primary schools.” The Taliban had previously allowed girls up until sixth grade to attend school. But now girls above third grade are prevented from even entering school premises. 


The Taliban has a long history of restricting women’s education, dating back to the first regime during the late 1990s. After the takeover of the government two years ago, they banned girls from attending secondary schools, only allowing males to return to high schools. In December 2022, they extended the ban to university women. The United Nations has criticized the Taliban for increasing restrictions on education and employment for girls and women. 

This latest draconian rule is part of an effort at the hands of the de facto authorities to systematically erase women and girls from society. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls and women cannot legally attend school.

Meanwhile, the Taliban seeks to completely rehaul Afghanistan’s education system, by placing their officials in charge at the in education departments and at universities. Religious institutions have been increased and more religious subjects are incorporated into the curricula. Before women were banned from higher education, there were strict rules imposed on male and female students regarding conduct and appearance. Women had to dress and behave a certain way, facing far more obstacles than men.

Throughout the country there has been an increase in madrassas, religious learning institutions, and plans are in place to construct thousands more. In addition to teaching religious studies, jihadi madrassas have been used as centers for training suicide bombers and weapon use. Political analysts expressed concerns that the establishment of madrassas would fuel extremism among youth. While religious education is not always negative, these institutions follow the Taliban’s interpretation of religious text and mindset that focuses on war, killing, violence, and hate. 

Sources:

Outlook India 08/06/2023; Afghanistan Analysts Network July 2023; 

Afghan Journalists in Jeopardy and the Taliban’s Tightening Grip on Media Freedom

The Taliban has halted local TV network’s broadcasts in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. Hamesha Bahar TV and Radio network was the outlet targeted in a Taliban raid of the office on Monday. 

This is not an isolated incident, nor the first of its kind, as the media outlet had a similar situation and treatment by the Taliban two months ago in Jalalabad city. Media freedom has been severely restricted under the Taliban, as well as women’s rights and freedoms. 

Employees described the office breach that led to verbal abuse towards people who were attending a journalism class, including women. Atal Khan Stanekzai, head of Hamesha Bahar Radio and TV network in Nangarhar said that the Taliban treated employees and attendees with inappropriate language and belittling words. Afghanistan Journalists Center released a statement on Tuesday and revealed that the class at Hamesha Bahar TV network had 16 attendees, including six women. Yasamin Sahar, an employee, shared disappointment because some female employees did not return to work the next day. Sources have said that the reason behind the outlet’s closure was the presence of women in this class. 

Hamesha Bahar Radio and TV network has had an influential presence in Nangarhar for nearly 12 years and has been crucial in sharing information through its broadcasts. The organization has also educated the youth about journalism and helped them develop skills related to working in journalism. This latest incident has raised concerns about the obstacles facing media outlets and educational programs in areas under Taliban control.

The issue at hand is that the safety and rights of media professionals and students in Afghanistan is in jeopardy. Journalists expressed their worries over the shrinking work opportunities for them, and have accused the Taliban of restricting freedom of expression. Shakrullah Pason, a journalist, said the “Taliban’s actions are squeezing the space for journalistic activities, making it narrower than ever” an employee at Radio Sada in Nangarhar, Irfanullah Bidar, was even imprisoned for 12 days before the Taliban raid. 

Amnesty International has noted that the takeover of the Taliban has caused various restrictions on freedom of expression in the country. The restriction of reputable and established media outlets has repercussions throughout Afghanistan, leading to a news vacuum that gives way to disinformation and to the violation of rights for journalists.

Source: 

Amu TV 08/02/2023

The Political Offside: Politics Takes the Field in Afghan Women’s Fight to Play Soccer

Thousands gathered at a stadium in Brisbane to watch Australia’s World Cup match against Nigeria. Among the crowd, sitting close to the pitch were players from the Afghan women’s national team, who are now exiled. They dream of representing their country again, as they have done in the past. Currently, however, the national team is not recognized by the sport’s governing bodies. 

Khalida Popal, co-founder of the team, met with the players who now live in Australia as refugees who fled Taliban death threats. “It’s very difficult to believe we’re actually here,” Popal said, donning a yellow Australia jersey. 

After the Taliban takeover in 2021, she called on the international community to help evacuate the team out of Afghanistan, and told players to burn their kits so that Taliban fighters would not attack them for playing competitive sports – now fully banned for women in the country. Today, she calls on FIFA, the sport’s main authority, to allow women and girls to represent Afghanistan on the pitch again. 

They have the senior women’s national team, youth teams around Europe and even some in the U.S. and Canada. Popal asks “can these Afghan players from diaspora represent Afghanistan at international games? It’s not that difficult. It’s not like going to the moon.” 

FIFA is currently unable to recognize any team unless it is first recognized by the “concerned” Member Association, in this case, Australia. The Afghan Football Federation also cannot stand up for women because it will be attacked by the Taliban, and shot, stoned or killed.

The Taliban has recently closed all beauty salons country-wide, leaving 60,000 women without a source of income and making it difficult to earn money to feed children. Human Rights Watch calls Afghanistan “the most serious women’s rights crisis.” Heather Barr, from the Human Rights Watch Women’s Rights Division, added “women and girls, they really see the walls continuing to close in on them.”

The Afghan women’s team were guests at the World Cup game for a gender symposium, invited by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. FIFA claims to be working hard to close the gap between men’s and women’s soccer, after decades of inequality. Soccer has even been banned entirely in some regions and countries. Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, said to the women’s team “I wish you were participating in this World Cup with your country behind you.” 

Gender equality is one of eight key issues promoted at the Women’s World Cup, in partnership with UN Women. Craig Foster, a human rights activist who was instrumental in the Afghan team’s relocation to Australia, says that FIFA has more responsibility to bear than simply taking on a social campaign. In their gender equality statutes, there can be no discrimination against women in any member federation in the world.  

The Afghan Women’s Team currently plays in Melbourne with a local club, the Melbourne Victory. They wear black and red as their team colors, representing the national colors of Afghanistan. Recently, the team took part in the Hope Cup, a competition for refugees. The goalkeeper, Fatima Yousifi, said that the players’ minds are never far from their families and friends back home, who fear for their lives and the loss of ambitions in a country where women don’t count. “I am encouraging them to watch the World Cup…because you can at least be having the hope that there are still women who are fighting,” she explained. 

John Didulica, the director of Melbourne Victory, described that the Afghan team needs hope to play for their country after the trauma of having to leave home, but that every time an international game occurs and Afghanistan is not included, they lose hope. “There is a lot of tokenism. There is a lot of symbolism – but there’s not a lot of action,” he said about the superficiality of international governing bodies.

Foster urged other female players around the world and male allies to push FIFA to reinstate the Afghan team. It is unacceptable that in Australia women can dream of winning a World Cup at home, whereas in Afghanistan, women and girls are prohibited from kicking a ball.

Yousifi said after the game, “I know Afghanistan will not remain like that forever, someday it will change, because we are the changemakers. I believe in myself. I believe in my sisters.” 

Source:

CNN 07/29/2023; BBC 07/24/2023

Taliban Torches Music Instruments in Kabul, Setting Culture and Music Ablaze

The Taliban-led Ministry of Vice and Virtue says its officials burned down musical instruments which were collected nationwide over the past few months and which were used “for the promotion of music and corruption.” They were destroyed according to the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia law. 

The Ministry of Vice and Virtue did not provide any more details of the instrument, but pictures posted of the bonfires on Twitter showed drums, cassettes, harmoniums and other items. The Ministry tweeted that the materials had been seized from “immoral programs” in Kabul and other provinces and which allegedly caused “the loss of our youth and the deterioration of society.” 

Afghanistan has a long history of art and music at the center of its rich culture. Since the Taliban takeover in 2021, many Afghan musicians have fled to Iran to live in exiled communities to avoid persecution at home.

Source:

Pajhwok News 07/19/2023

Afghan women face economic challenges—three personal stories of resilience and hardship amidst Taliban bans. 

In a feature story by the Afghanistan Analysts Network, three resilient Afghan women open up about their experiences enduring economic hardships under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. 

Despite different backgrounds, these women share a common thread – they all face the oppressive bans imposed by the Taliban prohibiting them from employment and numerous other opportunities. 

These narratives only represent the stories of three remarkable women, providing insights into the struggles millions of Afghan women face across all generations. Afghan women are not allowed to work, they cannot leave their homes “unless necessary,” they cannot seek education, and so much more, but despite the numerous bans, they continue to find ways to earn an income and survive in the face of adversity. 

Nilofar, for example, is a 26-year-old Afghan woman who had a government job before the Taliban takeover in 2021. She had to support her family: two children, her disabled husband, his father and four sisters. Her husband was in the military and lost both his legs and damaged his spine. 

“I used some of my savings to buy a karachi [handcart]. I sold soda, cigarettes and cold water, but my husband’s injuries required medical attention, so I had to sell the handcart to pay for his treatment.”

Then she started selling ice cream for a company. She gets a percentage of what is sold – 2 afghanis (about two and a half U.S. cents) for every small ice cream cone, which sells for 10 afghanis (12 U.S. cents) and 5 afghanis (about 5 and a half U.S. cents) for the larger ones, which go for 20 afghanis (24 U.S. cents).

At the end of the day Nilofar makes 100 to 200 afghanis, or 1.17 to 2.33 U.S. dollars. That covers basic needs including rent and utilities.

“Life is hard for a woman in this country and for women street peddlers, it’s doubly hard. We have to endure street harassment which is an unfortunate pastime of some Afghan men. They say and do disgusting things without a second thought.”

In the early days of the Taliban takeover, they wouldn’t allow women to work without a mahram, or male guardian. She now moves around, observing the hijab, searching for crowded places where customers will buy a luxury like ice cream in a country that is facing an economic crisis. 

“So this is how I spend my days, peddling ice cream from Kart-e Parwan to Shahr-e Naw and Wazir Akbar Khan and sometimes all the way to the airport…I take my meager earnings and rush home. I pick up some bread along the way. Sometimes when I have the money, I get some vegetables or yogurt, but I’m worried about the winter when people don’t buy ice cream.”

Leilama is another women, doing everything she can to survive. The 35-year-old Leialma from Kabul, supports her two daughters and infant son by selling socks and masks in the west part of the city. She used to work for a private company as a cook, alongside her husband. Her husband traveled to Iran, searching for work but because of the high cost of living, he is unable to send much money back, leaving Leilama to support the family. With no jobs for women, Leilama decided to sell socks and masks. She makes about 2 afghanis (2 and a half U.S. cents) in profit for each mask and 5 afghanis (5 and a half U.S. cents) for a pair of socks. Most days she returns home without enough money to buy bread for her children.

“My infant son is now malnourished. I heard some organizations give people food and treat malnourished children, but we haven’t received anything and I don’t know where to go to get help. We don’t have a man at home to follow up on these things and find the offices and I don’t have time to do it myself. I can’t miss time from work because every hour I’m not on the street is money lost.”

The Taliban bother her about the rules against street peddlers staying in one place, and even sometimes confiscate her karachi (handcart). When she gets it back from the police station, her stock is missing and she has to find money to buy more things to sell.

“They made me sign a paper several times promising I would not sell on the main roads, but I don’t have a choice; there is no footfall and no customers on the side streets.”

The 48-year-old Maryam is her family’s breadwinner since her husband was killed by a suicide attacker. She used to work at an international organization but when the Republic fell, she lost her job and couldn’t find a new one since the Taliban barred women from working in offices. She has six daughters and a son. Her older daughters once helped her work, but she decided to leave them at home to protect them from Taliban attention and street harassment.

“Most people are friendly and respectful, but there are always those few bad apples who say off-color or hurtful things. What can I say? It’s the lot of women on the streets of Kabul. We hear a thousand and one unpleasant things every day. We have to tolerate it; there is no other way. Sadly, this is our culture. When you’re down, people look down on you.”

The Taliban believes that women should not be working outside the home, especially not as street peddlers where men can see them. They tell Maryam that she cannot operate a karachi among non-mahrams. She is adamant on getting around such obstacles in order to feed her family.

“Life is getting more difficult every day. I wish the Taliban would let women work for the government or foreign organizations. Many women don’t have a husband to provide for them and have to find ways to provide for their children.”

Maryam says that if she could get a job, she could make as much as 5,000 afghanis a month (58 USD). She is prepared to do any kind of work. 

“I wish I had enough money to start a small business at home and put my girls to work. But I have borrowed money from everyone I know and no one will lend me any more money because they don’t think I can pay them back.”

Earning about 150 to 200 afghanis (1.75 to 2.3 USD) is enough to meet expenses if Maryam works every day. But sometimes business is bad, or she is prevented from selling by the Taliban. If she gets sick, that’s one day’s earnings gone. Some days, she cannot afford to buy much stock if the prices of vegetables have increased overnight. She is behind on the rent, 3,000 afghanis (35 USD), which keeps her up at night worrying that her family will end up without a roof over their heads. At the end of the day, she takes the wilted greens and rotten vegetables home for her family to eat. It eats into the profits, but keeps food on the table and losses to a minimum.

“During the Republic, my husband and I had so much hope for our daughters. They were all in school and we helped them with their homework. We thought they would grow up educated, get office jobs and support us in our old age. Now that future seems like an impossible dream. I don’t know what to do. Where should I raise my voice to ask for help? There is no one to hear us.”

Source:

Afghanistan Analysts Network July 2023. 

The Taliban officials confirmed that only men will take the university entrance exams. Afghan women and men demand equal access to education for the sake of Afghanistan’s future. 

The National Examination Authority (NEXA) in Afghanistan announced that only male students can attend the university entrance examination this year. This came from a letter written by the Ministry of Higher Education stating that only male students should be recruited to universities. 

This removal of women from society will negatively impact the country, many women worry. Suraya Paikan, a women’s rights activist, expressed her disappointment, “unfortunately, the interim government has failed in this regard and has not been able to reopen the doors of the schools and universities for the girls.” 

Female students have urged the de facto authorities to allow women to attend classes. Kubra, a student, said “we call on the Islamic Emirate to respect us as humans, as girls, and reopen the doors of the schools.” Another student, Sahar, added that “we should not be forced to migrate from Afghanistan because of lack of access to education.” Even male students have called for the attendance of women in the university entrance exam. Elham, a male student, explained that the Taliban government should “provide educational opportunities to females, as the girls also have the right to education.” 

U.S. special envoy for Afghan women and human rights, Rina Amiri, shared in a tweet, “stand with Afghan girls’ demand to be allowed to take university exams,” noting in particular that “their success will be Afghanistan’s success, leading to food on the table, an improved economy & future.” She added, “the Taliban should put the country and people before their ideology.” As of 2023, six million Afghans are currently on the brink of starvation and 9 in 10 people are living in poverty. Access to education is a fundamental right for everyone, regardless of gender or sex.

Source: 

Tolonews, 7/19/2023

“We are here for justice.” Afghan Women Take to the Streets to Protest Against Latest Taliban Edicts

Dozens of women took to the streets in Kabul on Wednesday to protest against the Taliban’s closing of women’s beauty salons. The order forces thousands of beauty parlors across the country, run by women, to close. 

The Taliban government has banned women from high schools and universities, parks, gyms, working for NGOs, and in the latest move, operating and proving services at beauty salons. This is part of a concerted effort to erase women from public life. This is known as gender apartheid and is defined by the United Nations as “the economic and social sexual discrimination against individuals because of their gender or sex. It is a system enforced by using either physical or legal practices to relegate individuals to subordinate positions.” A report by the Human Rights Council last month found that the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan was “among the worst in the world,” due to systematic harsh discrimination. 

Beauty salons are often the only source of income for households. This prevents women from socializing outside the home away from men and seeking business opportunities. One of the protestors carried a sign saying, “don’t take my bread and water.”

Public protests in Afghanistan have become rare under the Taliban and often dispersed violently by the Taliban officials. Nearly 50 women took part in the demonstration, which attracted national attention. Security forces tried to break up the women using fire hoses, tasers and gun shots in the air. Two or three women were put into cars and taken away by the Taliban. 

“Today no one came to talk to us, to listen to us. They didn’t pay any attention to us and after a while, they dispersed us by aerial firing and water cannon,” a salon worker explained. Her name has been withheld for safety reasons. Farzana stated, “we are here for justice. We want work, food and freedom.” The purpose of the demonstration, as explained by Farzana, was to make the Taliban reconsider and reverse the decision to close beauty salons because it affects women’s livelihoods. 

The Taliban claimed that salons were closed because they are too “extravagant” and un-Islamic. More than half a million people have been forced out of jobs since the Taliban took over, worsening the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The spokesman for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Akif Muhajir, commented “the protestors should have paid attention to the notification we had issued earlier.” 

According to the Taliban leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada, women’s status as “free and dignified human beings” has been restored, by forcing them to stay home and not receive an education or be able to work. 

Source:

Aljazeera 07/19/2023

>

Support eh ERA banner