news

"Men have become more violent since the Taliban." The reality for women living in Afghanistan.

Warning: This post features explicit details of domestic and sexual violence that could be triggering for some readers. 

"Men have become more violent since the Taliban," says Mina.

She is a 24-year-old Afghan woman - and before the Taliban returned to power on August 15, 2021, she was one step away from finalising divorce from her husband. 

All Mina needed was two witnesses to sign the divorce document before the court. But right at the last hurdle, the former government collapsed, and now the courts refuse to finalise her case, reported Afghan women's-focused media group, Rukshana Media. 

Since the Taliban resumed its murderous rule, Mina - along with most women - has lost her job, and therefore any financial independence. 

Mannequin heads are being removed in Herat, Afghanistan. Article continues after video.



Video via Twitter.

The Taliban has now also dissolved the Ministry of Women's Affairs which protected women, fired all female judges and prosecutors and invalidated the laws which protected women's rights - including the right to file for separation.

Now, Mina is trapped - and her husband beats her.

Amina's story is not dissimilar. 

Her husband is a violent drug addict, and the 27-year-old mother of two has been going to court for five months in order to gain a divorce. 

"He always beats me," she said, sharing, he once "hit me with a brick on the head when I asked him to work and bring bread to eat". 

When the Taliban took back power of Afghanistan last year, the world held grave fears for the future of the country - particularly for women. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The Islamic fundamentalist regime is well-known for its flagrant abuses of human rights, including the rule of oppressive misogyny it enforced during its reign from 1996 until the US-led invasion in 2001.

During that time, women were denied the right to work, to education and even to begging. Women were also required a mahram, a male guardian to accompany them in any public space.  

The (now reinstated) Ministry of Vice and Virtue publicly beat women if they were found to be without a mahram - and for wearing socks that were considered insufficiently opaque or for showing their wrists, hands and ankles.

But it'll be different this time, said the Taliban as they returned to power almost eight months ago.

Has it been?

No. And it's getting worse as time goes on.

Just this week, the Taliban banned women from air travel, barring them from boarding flights on Afghanistan's Kam Air and Ariana Afghan Airlines unless accompanied by a mahram. This comes after women were already forbidden from taking public transport or inter-city road trips alone.

And last weekend, it was decreed that men and women cannot visit Kabul parks on the same days. Women get Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays - with a mahram, of course.

"It is not the Islamic Emirate's [Taliban's] order but our God's order that men and women who are strangers to each other should not gather at one place," Mohammad Yahya Aref, an official at the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, told AFP.

Since last August, the Taliban also banned girls aged 12 and above from attending school until after the Persian New Year, Nowruz. The new year passed 11 days ago - and so did the Taliban's promise. 

On March 23, girls packed their bags and returned to school, but were turned away. 

One secondary student, Fatima, told the BBC, "We just want to be able to learn and serve our people... What kind of country is this? What is our sin?"

Devastated and in tears, hundreds of thousands of adolescent Afghan schoolgirls took to the street in protest.

ADVERTISEMENT

This is just one of the latest major assaults crippling the ability of women and girls - to live a self-determined life.

Almost immediately when the Taliban took over, women were thrown out of their jobs - only being allowed to keep their positions that a man cannot fill, like being an attendant in a women's bathroom, stated CNN. Women courageously took to the streets in protest in the country's capital, Kabul and the western city of Herat.

Bano was one Herat protester. She lost her job because she was commuting to work alone, reported The Guardian. Her husband, a soldier, has been missing in action for three years, and she has no adult sons or brothers to act as mahram. And now, no way to make ends meet. 

As for higher education, women and men must be segregated, with classrooms divided by a "sharia partition" and women confined to a waiting room before classes to avoid contact with their male classmates. Female students and teachers must also be dressed in black.

ADVERTISEMENT

On dress codes more broadly, guidance has been ambiguous, and seemingly at the discretion of individual Taliban officials on the street. But when the country fell back into the hands of the Taliban, many women feared the worst, and rushed to the bazaar to buy a burqa, because they have never owned or worn one before. 

In January, there were reports that the Taliban captured 40 people in Mazar-e-Sharif, and then gang-raped eight of the women. Those who survived were then murdered by their families in honour killings.

The Taliban also announced that women will be banned from playing sport, "because it's not necessary... [and] they might face a situation where their face and bodies will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this," said deputy head of the Taliban's cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq.

Increasingly erased from public life, where are women - 48 per cent of Afghanistan's population - now? Mostly confined to their homes and living in fear, reported Human Rights Watch.

No identity. No education. No livelihoods. 

16-year-old Laila from Takhar province told the BBC, "We have nothing to do apart from housework."

"We are just frozen in one place."

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Keen to read more from Rebecca Davis? You can find her articles here, or follow her on Instagram, @rebeccadavis___

Feature Image: Getty.