Afghan women face "mental and physical problems" after losing their rights

Afghan women face "mental and physical problems" after losing their rights

Akhundzada decreed that women must completely cover their bodies and faces in public / Photo: AFP

After 20 years of freedoms, Afghan women and girls face “mental and physical problems” due to progressive loss of rights which was the installation last year of a new Taliban government in the country, denounced the Organization to Strengthen the Welfare of Women and Children of Afghanistan (awcswo)local advocate for gender equality and childhood.

“With the return of the Taliban, Afghan women and girls lost all the rights they had won for 20 years and are suffering mental and physical problems,” Mariya Ghafoory, head of the women’s area at the NGO, told Télam.

“Every day they get psychologically upset when they think they’re back to square one,” he said.

Despite their initial promises to respect women’s rights and not to return to the brutal repression of their first government (1996-2001), the Taliban gradually introduced a series of restrictions on women’s freedoms, the most recent being imposition of the integral veil.

“The integral veil is not the culture of Afghanistan or that of Islam”Mariya Ghafoory

In early May, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, decreed that women they had to completely cover their body and face in public Y considered the burqa -which only has a peephole at eye level- cas the most suitable option.

In case of breachthe norm maintains that the Male “guardians” will be reprimanded by the authorities and could even be incarceratedwhile the public employees will be fired.

This order sparked bold women’s protests in the capital, immediately dispersed by Islamic fundamentalists, and initial opposition from TV presenters, who eventually had to bow to the measure.

“The full veil is not the culture of Afghanistan or that of Islam,” said Ghafoory.

“Nowadays, all a woman wears is a hijab (a veil that covers her hair) and according to Islam, we don’t need any other compulsory veil. We can’t accept it,” he said.

The obligatory nature of the integral veil ratified the Taliban radicalizationwho initially tried to be moderate in the face of the desire for recognition and international aid.

But with the deadlock in negotiations and the international community focused on the war between Russia and Ukrainethe extremists gradually abolished the rights obtained by women during the occupation of the United States and its allies (2001-2021), under which enjoyed educational, employment, and political opportunities beyond the prevailing instability.

During his nine months in power, the 19 million Afghan women were excluded from employment -except for some specific jobs such as health or teaching- and deprived of secondary education and sports practice, in addition to being segregated in public spaces and not be able to travel alone.

The mandatory nature of the integral veil ratified the radicalization of the Taliban Photo AFP
The mandatory nature of the integral veil ratified the radicalization of the Taliban / Photo: AFP

Some qualified directives “Taliban crimes against women” by the founder of Awcswo, Maryam Marof Arwin, who denounced families with young girls fleeing areas controlled by fundamentalists to protect them from forced marriages.

This radical interpretation of Islamic law was condemned last week by the UN Security Councilwho expressed his “deep concern” for the situation of the Afghan women.

In a unanimously approved statement, its 15 members called on the Taliban to “promptly reverse policies and practices that currently restrict the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls.”

The United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, also criticized these measures, which in his opinion “describe a model of total gender segregation and seek to make women invisible in society.”

However, the taliban rejected these calls and called “unfounded” the concerns of the international community, while reaffirming “their commitment” to guaranteeing women’s rights.

“Since the Afghan people are predominantly Muslim, the government considers that respect (of the use of) full veil is in line with the religious and cultural values ​​of the society and with the aspirations of the majority of Afghan women,” argued the Afghan Foreign Ministry in a statement.

These claims they were refuted by Ghafoory, who defended the right of women to choose what to wear and how to live.

Mariya Ghafoory We are afraid not only of losing our rights but also of living Photo AFP
Mariya Ghafoory: “We are afraid not only of losing our rights but also of living” / Photo: AFP

“The Taliban only want women to stay at home or get married (…) They should prioritize the economic, social and political improvement of the Afghan people instead of these things,” said the activist, who lives in exile with her family in Pakistan since the return of radicals to power.

The head of Awcswo explained that the work of this NGO, whose main mission is “to achieve gender equality in a democratic Afghan society”, is becoming more difficult every day in the country.

Especially for the women, who face “too many problems” to exercise their profession and see their security threatened.

“We are afraid not only of losing our rights but also of living. We Afghan women believe that the Taliban have not changed and continue to think the same as 25 years ago,” he said.

For Ghafoory, if the Taliban have not yet implemented their interpretation of Islamic law to the extreme of their first government, when they did not hesitate to humiliate and execute women for violating it, it is because the international community has not recognized or accepted them.

Therefore, he considered Countries need to renew their interest in Afghanistan and take action to reverse this growing degradation of rights.

“After the war in Ukraine, the international community somehow forgot about Afghanistan. As the representative and coordinator of Awcswo I want Awcswo to do something to protect Afghan women and pay more attention to their rights before there are new bans” , he concluded.
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