Why is the Taliban robbing much of the hard-earned freedom of Afghan women?
That may seem like a tedious question. When the Taliban ruled the country in the 1990s, after all, their administration was known to have some of the world’s strictest restrictions on women. This group still adheres to the fundamentalist vision of Islamic society.
But ideology is only part of the story.
Not all groups have different beliefs, and not all of them are governance priorities. Some Taliban officials, especially those who have conducted peace talks and supported international involvement, have suggested that this repetition of Taliban rule may be less restrictive to women. And since the resumption of international aid is at least partly based on human rights considerations, there are certainly financial incentives.
So far, none of them seem to make a difference. Some Taliban officials continue to say that the situation will improve, but women are still kept away from work and school. Every week, I seem to receive a new report on limits.
From that perspective, the Taliban’s decision to limit women’s freedom begins to look like a political choice, as long as it is an idealistic issue. By understanding why the Taliban consider their choices rewarding, experts say, they gain insight into the group’s state-building efforts and the nature of the society in which they re-dominate.
Taliban security concerns
“I never believed that the Taliban had changed,” said Mukadesa Julish, a former deputy minister of commerce who fled to the United States with his family when the Taliban came to power. “If anything changes about them, it means they know how to deal with the West.”
Less than two months after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the promised benefits for women at work and school have yet to emerge. Most women are still banned from commuting, and the Taliban’s claim is probably necessary for safety as a temporary measure.
Leadership uses the same language when describing when women are allowed to attend public colleges. And when secondary school reopened this month, the Taliban instructed the boy to return to the classroom, but said nothing about the girl. Families across the country understood it as an instruction that girls should stay home.
Groups like the Taliban often struggle to move from violent rebellion to actual rule, says Dipari Mucopadiyai, a researcher at the University of Minnesota studying the rule of rebels in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. Said.
They do not have the experience, funding, or personnel to provide sophisticated government services. Instead, their main strength is managing security. Taking advantage of the country’s status as the most powerful violent group, it manages a kind of protection racket at the national level and trades public security for obedience.
Metra Melan, co-founder of the Feminine Perspective Campaign, who sought to bring women’s voices into peace talks, said: “They don’t provide security. They stopped killing us.”
Dr. Mukhopadhyay repeated that feeling. “It’s the basis for understanding what the Taliban offers: safety and also a threat to power,” she said. “But people, especially women, know that forms of security are accompanied by idealism.”
Seen through that lens, limiting women’s freedom serves as a powerful demonstration of the Taliban’s power. When women and girls disappear from offices and schools, it has enough power for the Taliban to dramatically redesign public spaces, and enough ability and motivation to implicitly use violence. Indicates that you are.
Dr. Mukhopadhyay not only dismantled the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, but also went out without male relatives or dressed in something other than a burqa.
“This is a very powerful symbol of who is currently winning in the Taliban,” she said.
“Talib for everyone”
But marketing is just one part of the story. Despite the support and funding of the US-backed government’s 20-year commitment to gender equality, women’s freedom in Afghanistan has always been vulnerable.
Yourish said many Afghan men have always felt uncomfortable with women in public. Her own father and husband supported her career, but she said, they often looked like outliers.
During the last few days before the Taliban came to power, Mr. Julish said she and her friends exchanged stories about “how the Taliban of all are coming out.” A male stranger approached her and other women on the street, shouting a mysterious threat such as “Your days are about to end,” she said. She said she could feel the progress of women collapsing even before the collapse of the previous administration.
Gender equality has been a 20-year priority on paper and in the Aid Budget table. And for many women, especially those who were educated and lived in more urban areas, there were significant improvements.
However, Afghanistan is still a deep patriarchal society. The Taliban’s promise to return to the “traditional” values of women being subordinate to male relatives is a fascinating offer for many Afghan men.
Understand the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Who is the Taliban? The Taliban occurred in 1994 in the turmoil after the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. They enforced the rules with brutal public punishments such as whiplash, amputation, and the mass death penalty. Here we will elaborate on the story of their origin and their record as ruler.
Alice Evans, a researcher at King’s College London who studies women’s economic and social progress, said women’s rights were caught in a “paternal trap.”
A society in which family wealth passes through the male family has traditionally valued the innocence of the bride, Dr. Evans said. “The girl then cracks down to improve her marriage prospects and family honor,” she said, developing norms that keep women away from public life.
The dynamics are self-reinforcing. Family members do not want to risk deviating from social norms on their own, so everyone is stuck in a system where women must be close to their homes.
To get out of that trap, women’s wages must be high enough that the benefits of working outweigh the risks to family honor, Dr. Evans said. For example, in East Asia, rapid industrialization has increased women’s potential income and effectively purchased women from honor-based rules that detain them at home.
It did not happen in Afghanistan, where economic productivity and employment were sluggish despite the influx of aid. Women’s wages were not rising enough, enough to outweigh family honor-based concerns and change social norms.
It may strengthen the Taliban. Dr. Mukhopadhyay said rebel groups that are considered to be community and values-based tend to be more successful. For conservative Afghans, especially men, limiting women’s freedom may be a way to claim that the Taliban support local values.
But if the restrictions are so strict that Afghans see it as an overkill by leaders who do not understand how the country has changed, it can still backfire, Dr. Mucopadiyai said. For decades, “…