In a grim replay of old days, and contradicting newer promises, the Taliban have banned Afghan women from sports and perhaps from most workplaces. There is no woman in their Cabinet. Women may still attend college, but a curtain will segregate them from male students.
Students might have returned to classes, but curtains have also come up in university classrooms segregating men and women students. Despite promises of an “inclusive role of women” in their new regime, the Taliban reality is far from their rhetoric in Afghanistan.
Afghan women, including the country's women's cricket team, will be banned from sports under the new Taliban government, according to reports on September 8.
On September 7, the Taliban announced a 33-member Cabinet with no woman representation.
In the past 20 years, women played an active role in politics, with Fawzia Koofi, Zarifa Ghafari and Salima Mazari holding important positions.
The Taliban’s return to power in August had drawn concerns on the status of women in the new regime. Women’s rights had been heavily curbed by the Taliban during its previous rule between 1996 and 2001. Women were not allowed to attend school or college, they were banned from working, had to cover themselves and be accompanied by male escorts if they wished to step out. Those who did not adhere to the rules were humiliated and beaten in public.
After a 20-year hiatus, when the Taliban returned to power last month they assured women’s rights would be respected. "Women are going to be very active in society, but within the framework of Islam," Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid had said.
Yet, almost a month later Afghan women are still uncertain of their position.
No country for working women
In August, working women had been asked to stay at home till proper systems were installed for their safety. “It's a very temporary procedure,” Mujahid had told reporters.
But even before their return to power, Taliban fighters had walked into the office of Azizi Bank in Kandahar in July and escorted nine women employees back to their homes. They were asked not to return to work, but told that they could let a male relative take their place.
According to reports, a number of women journalists were also not allowed to join work by the insurgents.
Curtains in colleges
Afghanistan's union of universities representing 131 colleges has submitted a proposal to the ministry of education to renew classes. The proposal states classes should be separate for male and female students and can only be mixed if there are less than 15 female students in a class. However, the room should be divided by a curtain.
All female students, employees and lecturers at the universities should wear the hijab, the proposal said.
Female students should be taught by female professors. In the absence of female teachers, elderly professors should be appointed to teach female students, the proposal said.
The ministry of education under the Taliban has accepted the proposal.
Dozens of Afghan women thronged the streets of Herat and Kabul protesting against the new Cabinet and demanding more rights for women. The Taliban used force to disperse the protesters, firing shots and beating up at least 10 women in Kabul.
“When I saw that they are badly beating one of the participants, I went to help but the Taliban soldier hit me with a metal object, and I fainted. All I remember is that there were two other women on the ground, and they were still being beaten,” a protester told the international organisation Human Rights Watch.
Al Jazeera reported that two bodies were brought to Herat’s central hospital with bullet wounds.
“The Taliban have told women that they have no place in the new order,” another protester told Human Rights Watch. “We told them that we want to continue working, but they say only female nurses and teachers are allowed to work. We are engineers and lawyers and we want to work in our professions, but they say we cannot and should stay at home instead.”
“We want the Taliban to know that they cannot eliminate us from society,” a women protestor said in Kabul recently.
Meanwhile, the Taliban asked the media not to cover any demonstration.