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Tension Continues To Highten As Afghanistan Women Terrified By The Return Of The Talibans

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The taking over of the Afghanistan government by the Taliban has left women and girls, a whole generation of whom have grown up with rights and freedoms terrified.

As the Taliban succeed with their dramatic sweep through Afghanistan, taking over the capital they were driven out of two decades ago, women and girls are among the most vulnerable.

Afghan women have been targeted for speaking out against attacks by the Taliban or simply for holding positions of authority.

Since the start of 2021 civilian deaths have risen by almost 50 percent, with more women and children killed and wounded in Afghanistan than in the first six months of any year since records began in 2009, the UN reported in July.

As the Islamist insurgents enter the capital, many fear a disintegration of women’s rights, with the Taliban overturning the freedoms gained during the 20 years since US-led forces helped oversee the country’s transition to democracy. 

As the capital city falls into the hands of Islamist insurgents, those pleas for help may be too late. Numerous reports have emerged of the Taliban going door-to-door, drafting lists of women and girls aged between 12 and 45 years who are then forced to marry Islamist fighters.

Women are being told they cannot leave home without a male escort, can no longer work or study or freely choose the clothes they want to wear. Schools, too, are being closed.

For a whole generation of Afghan women who entered public life, the lawmakers, journalists, local governors, doctors, nurses, teachers, and public administrators there’s much to lose, France24 reports.

While they strove, working alongside male colleagues and in communities unused to seeing women in positions of authority, to help build a democratically-run civil society, they also hoped to open up opportunities for later generations of women to succeed them.

Many other educated Afghan women have taken to social media to appeal for help and express their frustration.

“With every city collapsing, human bodies collapse, dreams collapse, history and future collapse, art and culture collapse, life and beauty collapse, our world collapse,” Afghan photographer Rada Akbar wrote on Twitter.

Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, a former lawmaker and senior UN advisor to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and now a member of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, has watched as her country opened up over the 20 years to become part of the global community.

“My greatest fear is now they are marginalizing women who have been working in these leadership positions, who have been a strong voice against the most powerful abusers but also working with them to change the situation on the ground,” she said in an interview with Bloomberg.  If they eliminate these leaders, she asks, who will be left to speak up for women and defend the gains made over the last 20 years?

When the fundamentalist group ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 they imposed Sharia law, a strict interpretation of Islamic law which meant women could not work, girls were banned from attending school and women had to cover their faces in public and always be accompanied by a male relative if they wanted to leave their homes.

Women who broke the rules sometimes suffered humiliation and public beatings by the Taliban’s religious police. The Taliban also carried out public executions, chopped off the hands of thieves, and stoned women accused of adultery.

So far there have been no reports of such extreme measures in the areas the Taliban have captured.  But the many recently reported incidents of the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls suggest they intend to revert to governing as they once had.

Many women, though, are choosing to flee. Nearly 250,000 Afghans have fled their homes since the end of May, 80 percent of them women and children, according to the UN refugee agency.

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