A recent message from the Supreme Leader of the Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, claimed that women in Afghanistan are leading “comfortable and prosperous” lives as a result of Taliban policies. Made public just prior to the upcoming Eid Al-Adha, one of the major Muslim holidays, the message states that necessary steps have been taken “for the betterment of women as half of society.”
Arguing that their policies protect women from “traditional oppressions,” such as forced marriages, and maintain their “Shariah rights,” the Taliban indicate their belief that their impact on the rights of women has been positive. The message also states that the “negative aspects” of the previous 20-year occupation related to women’s wearing the hijab and “misguidance” will end soon.
Although Akhundzada claims that the policies of the Taliban have helped women in Afghanistan, the circumstances of women’s everyday lives indicate otherwise. Since the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, they have issued over 100 edicts and nearly 60 of them specifically curtailing the rights and freedoms of women in all areas of life.
In terms of education, women and girls have been banned from secondary education as well as from attending public and private universities. Women were also banned from appearing in movies and TV shows while women journalists were ordered to cover their faces on TV. Even their freedom of movement has been restricted as women are not allowed to leave their houses without a close male relative and many public spaces have become segregated by gender. These harsh edicts are enforced by inducing fear into the population through public displays of violence against those who violate them.
This message also follows a report released by the UN stating that the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan amounts to gender persecution, a crime against humanity, and possibly gender apartheid. All evidence indicates, therefore, that Afghan women are suffering under the Taliban.
Within the message, Akhundzada called for other countries to avoid interfering with Afghanistan’s domestic affairs. This message thus merely represents an attempt by the Taliban to evade criticism of their policies and minimize international attention towards their conduct. Framing their governance as having a positive impact on women would allow the international community to recognize their government, granting it legitimacy.
For the sake of Afghan women, we cannot fall for this attempt. It has become increasingly necessary to recognize the mistreatment of women by the Taliban and call for non-recognition of their regime. The more that their actions are accepted, the more danger Afghan women face. Not recognizing the Taliban and remaining steadfast against their treatment of women will be critical to ensuring that such discrimination does not continue.
AP 06/26/2023; UN 06/19/2023; FMF (Taliban Edicts)