Dr. Zohal used to drive herself to work. But since the weekend, she has been taking a taxi to avoid reprisals from the Taliban, who have been preventing women from driving.
On the second day of Taliban control, militants pulled the doctor out of the taxi and whipped her to film the chaos surrounding the evacuations at Kabul airport from the window of her home, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Since taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban have sought to portray themselves as more moderate than they were when they were last in power in the 1990s when their strict interpretation of Islam and their treatment of women helped make them a pariah state.
While the Taliban have publicly pledged to respect women’s rights within the limits of Islam, the group has so far not detailed what it will do, nor has it made specific promises. Interpretations of Islamic law vary widely, and the potential scope of the restrictions makes many inside and outside Afghanistan fear the worst for women’s liberties.
The American newspaper reported that women began to disappear from view and the public sphere in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s takeover of power.
Fawzia Kofi, an outspoken women’s rights advocate and former parliamentarian in Afghanistan, said she was unable to conduct interviews under the current circumstances. Fatima Gilani, one of the few women who negotiated with the Taliban as part of the Afghan government, declined to comment.
In Kabul over the past years, many young women have never worn a burqa, and some have often appeared in public without a headscarf. The affluent neighborhoods are becoming more like the West, where Afghan men and women mingle freely in cafes.
This is the way of life that Fatima Hosseini, a 28-year-old photographer, is used to. Until a few days ago, she was wandering the streets of Kabul taking pictures of Afghan women and meeting her friends in cafes and restaurants. Now she is afraid to appear in public.
Everything changed in a week
“What about everything we have fought for in the past two decades? Today I am afraid to show my pictures,” Al-Husseini said. She added, “I hide myself. I had my freedom; I had my freedom. We went to the gym and restaurants. Sometimes I don’t cover my hair in public. Everything changed in a week.”
Young women born after the 2001 invasion of the United States say their dreams were shattered overnight. A week ago, we were planning how to study and work in the fall semester of college, but now everyone is scared to death. A student said, “Our dreams are gone!”
“The Islamic Emirate is committed to women’s rights within the framework of Islamic law,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in his first press conference on Tuesday. “We would like to assure the international community that there will be no discrimination against women, but of course within the framework of Islamic Sharia law”.
Many Afghan women remain unconvinced by the Taliban’s pledge to respect their rights.
“Although they say that women will be allowed to go to work and get an education, I cannot trust them because their words are vague and they caused so much terror,” said a 31-year-old government employee.
Despite the reduced intensity of Taliban rhetoric about women, the group said, for example, that women have the right to education, girls’ schools are open in some areas, and Taliban leaders in Doha have sent their daughters abroad to study at university.
But in some areas of Afghanistan that fell last week, the Taliban quickly imposed restrictions on women, preventing them from leaving the home without a male relative, and forcing them to wear the niqab. Some commanders demanded that families hand over unmarried women to marry their fighters.
Laurel Miller, a former US diplomat who met with the Taliban during the Obama and Trump administrations, said it was too early to interpret the mixed signals because the group had not yet formed a government and established the rule of law. She added that it is possible that the local factions carried out some of the measures without guidance from the leadership.
After the American intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, the United States and allied forces invested heavily in promoting gender equality. Girls’ schools reopened, women enrolled in universities and joined the workplace. While rural areas remained largely conservative, women were rarely seen outside without the niqab.