Afghanistan: Women under the second Taliban government

Afghan girls in a classroom.
Young girls in Afghanistan attending school. The Taliban has imposed restrictions on women since taking power, including denying access to education. PHOTO: David Mark / Pixabay
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Left Radical of Afghanistan wrote the article below in early October 2021 as they, their families and other staff of the Kabul publication Eteraz (Protest) were in hiding from the Taliban. Among those who work on Eteraz are socialists, secularists, women’s rights advocates and advocates of civil liberties. The Taliban had already raided their offices, brutally beaten the editor, and visited their homes. Nonetheless, they announced their intention to continue publishing online. In a matter of weeks, FSP’s supporters generously donated over $4,600 to help them survive and continue their work. Afghanistan is not a closed book. The struggle there goes on and these anti-Taliban fighters will need our steadfast solidarity.

The Taliban, as an Islamic extremist group, has its own interpretation of Islam and the Qur’an. Not only are they unable to be flexible on women’s rights and civil liberties, but they are also incapable of responding positively to the contemporary economic, scientific, political, cultural and social needs of Afghan society. Contrary to some people’s optimistic assumptions, the Taliban have not become much different over the past two decades. There is no change in their thinking, behavior or viewpoints.

The Taliban do not recognize women as active and independent members of half of human society. They do not believe in women’s abilities, human dignity and equal rights in society and in the family. For the past two years, the Taliban have been pursuing peace and reconciliation talks with the United States and Ashraf Ghani’s government, always insisting that they will acknowledge women’s rights and freedoms, but within the framework of Islam and Sharia!!

Sharia law. The fact is that Islam and Sharia have never given women equal rights and freedoms with men. According to Islamic law, a man has the right to have four wives at the same time, and a brother receives twice what his sister is given from their father’s inheritance. In Islam, women are considered irrational and therefore have no right to be the head of a country or a society, or to serve as a judge. Also, in legal cases, the testimony of two women is equivalent to the testimony of one man.

According to Islamic law, all women and older girls are required to observe the Islamic hijab. Without a full-fledged hijab, women cannot even go to the hospital for treatment or work outside the home. They cannot travel without an adult male Mahram [relative] or leave the house or interact with their friends without the permission of their husbands. A wife cannot get a divorce without strong reasons and proofs, but a husband can divorce his wife whenever he wants.

Even during the war against the U.S.-NATO occupation, women and girls in Taliban-controlled areas were denied access to educational institutions and schools.

No “new” Taliban. Today the actions of the Taliban Islamic Emirate against women in Afghanistan are in line with Islamic principles, values and Sharia law. In addition to waging war against the U.S. military occupation for 20 years, the Taliban’s other goal was to establish a true Islamic and Sharia system in Afghanistan. Taliban leaders and members cannot go beyond their Islamic goals as a result of external pressure or political and economic deals, because they understand the feelings and thinking of their supporters and the tens of thousands of Taliban fighters. These leaders know that if they soften their stance on women’s and civil rights, they will face stiff opposition and resistance from their followers, resistance which could cause the collapse of their government.

When the Taliban captured Kabul on August 15 this year, and the U.S. and NATO puppet regime was overthrown, the Taliban quickly imposed severe restrictions on women. They fired female staff at government agencies, ordered female teachers to stay home and barred girls from going to school. They abolished the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and replaced it with the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” department. Not a single woman has been seen in the Taliban’s announced cabinet or other key government positions.

Fraudulent U.S.-NATO support. The nature of the Taliban movement and their demands and goals have been no secret. The U.S. government and key NATO members such as Britain, Germany, France, Canada and Australia are well aware that the Taliban have not made any changes, but in spite of this fact, in February 2020, the U.S. agreed to allow the Taliban to re-establish their rule in Afghanistan. Criticism of the Taliban by the United States and NATO, the imposition of sanctions on them, or the freezing of Afghanistan’s $9.5 billion in assets are deceptions designed to stupefy the people of Afghanistan and the world. The United States and NATO member states are responsible for the current humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan and the violation of women’s rights.

The political and economic self-interests of U.S. imperialism and its NATO allies are key. They can make deals over women’s rights and human rights very easily and then justify it with poisonous propaganda. The sympathy that the U.S. and European governments are showing to the women of Afghanistan is crocodile tears.

Women’s rights impostors. Anti-Taliban demonstrations by some groups in Kabul and other provinces of Afghanistan or abroad are supportive, but it is also important to know what the protesters want, who is leading them and who they look to for help. Afghan women cannot claim their rights under the leadership of jihadi groups or Islamic fundamentalist parties like the Northern Alliance. Afghan women cannot once again beg for their rights from the United States or NATO.

The “Resistance Front” led by Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh is ideologically no different from the Taliban. Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh, and the “Afghanistan Resistance Front” as a whole, are the former Nizar Shura, or Northern Alliance, made up of Islamic fundamentalist groups affiliated with various imperialist countries. France’s support for Ahmad Massoud or trying to paste a mask on the face of the “Resistance Front” in Panjshir as though it defends democracy and human rights, is aimed at attracting international financial and military aid to trade once again on the blood of the poor people of Afghanistan.

Ahmad Massoud’s group and its supporters have had a 50% share in the Karzai and Ashraf Ghani governments over the past 20 years, but they have done nothing to benefit women, and there is not a single woman in their leadership.

Imperialist traitors. Afghan women should not expect Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton or Queen Elizabeth to put pressure on the Taliban to respect women’s rights in Afghanistan. Afghan women must not forget Hillary Clinton’s statement that the mujahedin, or Islamic fundamentalist groups, were created, funded and armed by the United States in the 1980s against the Soviet Union invasion. The U.S. also helped develop the Taliban in the early 1990s to implement their economic and geopolitical strategies in Afghanistan and in the region. For the governments of the United States, Britain, Germany and France, it does not matter what the nature or purpose of the mercenary group is, whether it is anti-women or anti-human rights. Rather their commitment to the interests of the U.S. and its allies, and the implementation of their agendas, is all that matters.

The Taliban believe that they have defeated the world’s only major military and economic power — the United States — and 45 of its allies on the battlefield, so the current threats and pressures coming from the imperialists will never weaken the Taliban’s resolve. The Taliban will insist on its barbaric Islamic and Sharia system against the wishes and needs of the people, especially women, and will brutally attempt to crush any internal opposition. The Taliban give no priority to people’s lives, economic recovery, education, health and social services.

The Taliban’s ferocious and inhumane treatment of women, their inability to overcome economic crises, their involvement in terrorist activities, and their dependence on some foreign countries will only exacerbate poverty in the country and thus the Taliban government will face widespread protests and uprisings and will eventually be overthrown.

For revolutionary change. Left, democratic, secular and women’s rights activists in Afghanistan must have their own independent demands and goals. Demanding the presence of one or more women in the Taliban cabinet is neither principled nor practical. In fact, the Taliban government cannot represent the people of Afghanistan, so how can the presence of a few symbolic women in such an authoritarian and extremist religious system be interpreted to mean securing women’s rights?

Afghan progressive forces must focus on building and strengthening an independent, democratic and secular alternative to the Taliban. Immediately creating such an alternative — one that would not only oppose the Taliban, but also the Northern Jihadi “Resistance Front” and the intervention of imperialist countries and neighbors — could, in the short term, gain the broad support of the poor.

Thus, the focus of the struggle must be not on reforming the Taliban regime or installing more women in its cabinet, but on overthrowing the Taliban regime and creating a democratic and independent state.

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