Special for Africa ExPress
19th September 2021
Versione in italiano
In the twenty five years since the Taliban first came to power in Afghanistan , much has changed. However, the Taliban still wants Afghan women to don their traditional cage, the Burka.
In 1996, when the group first captured Kabul, a Taliban official facing questions from western journalists was challenged on their position regarding women’s issues. This included girls’ education, working women, and widows forced to be the breadwinner for their family. Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, acting foreign minister of the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ accused the assembled western news media of spreading Anti-Taliban propaganda, refuting claims that the group were against women education.
He claimed that the order for women and girls to stay out of schools and offices was temporary, only put in place until the government was able to provide separate spaces for education and work, away from men and boys. The foreign minister also assured the western press that widows and other female breadwinners would be paid to remain at home, saved from having to work.
Twenty-five years on and in one of its first acts, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, (a.k.a the Taliban) removed girls in Afghanistan from all education post-secondary school, whilst women with jobs have been ordered to stay at home. Meanwhile, Boys and male teachers have been ordered to return to their classrooms and jobs, often taking the place of their female relatives.
The Taliban appears to be full of the same false promises, claiming girls secondary schools will reopen soon, with little evidence supporting this promise. Afghan girls have the most to fear if history does repeat itself, with their mothers generation deprived of education with high rates of illiteracy.
When the ministry of women affairs was officially replaced with the “Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of vice”, the Taliban government immediatelyacted to restrict women’s fundamental rights. Female employees are no longer allowed to work in the government ministries with men. On September 16, 2021 a group of Afghan female breadwinners gathered to protest the new regime in Kabul/Afghanistan, asking, “When there is no ministry, what should an Afghan woman do? How will we feed our families?”
Banning 50% of the Afghani population from school and work is clear and unabashed discrimination and a direct attack on the rights of these women and girls. Now, more than ever, Afghan women need the support of Women Leaders, Communities, Organizations and Foundations from around the world to fight with them for their rights and identities.
*Author of the book “Burka: Not My Identity”
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