A few months ago, one college girl Afghan went out alone to the street in Kabul. Despite the Taliban’s restrictions on education for women, she was clear: I would continue studying.
But the Taliban, seeing her in the city, arrested her. They took her to the police station. Her mistake: going out alone. Under Taliban law, a woman can never leave home alone or accompanied by a man other than her husband, father or older brother. Under the Taliban penal code, doing so constitutes a crime of “moral corruption“.
“They started giving me electric shocks. On the back, on the face, on the neck… anywhere they could. They called me prostitute. One pointed a gun at me and said: ‘I will kill you, and no one will be able to find your dead body‘” This woman explained to the NGO International Amnesty.
“For an Afghan girl, going to prison is a death warrant. Once you pass that door, you are already stigmatized, marked. And that mark cannot be erased,” says the young woman.
A year of unfulfilled promises
When in August of last year, just one year ago, the Taliban came to power with the conquest of the Afghan capital, Kabul, their leaders and spokesmen they filled their mouths with promises: They cried out to the world that the group had changed, that they would not take the same measures as in the 1990s, that they would be more permissive, that they would not persecute anyone and that they would allow women and students live Free in the new Afghanistan that was born.
The passage of time, however, disproved them, and as the months counted down, as the Taliban felt more secure in power, the draconian laws of old they returned.
One after another: for women, prohibition to go out without a man in the family, a ban on studying after high school, an obligation to cover the body from head to toe with a veil, a ban on work in the public sectoror (except nurses and teachers), prohibition of speak —in person or online— with male friends and a long etcetera to which is added, in addition, a huge increase in forced and child marriages. Restrictions were also placed on men, although much lighter.
“I think the great taliban ruling has been that they have not been able to move from the armed conflict to the government. They have really failed to treat the Afghans with dignity. One example is the ban on secondary education for Afghan women. It is a purely ideological question. The Taliban make excuses, talk about technical problems, as if the Afghans or the international community they believed it. And furthermore, the Taliban have also been attacking the press. Against everyone who reports the truth. They don’t accept any kind of criticism,” he explains. Bilal Sarwarean Afghan journalist who went into exile in August 2021, just after the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
An endless crisis
In addition to the repression, there is an economic and humanitarian crisis without comparison in the world. According to UN, close to 95% of Afghans live below the poverty line. The reason is, above all, the withdrawal of the international community of Afghanistan with the arrival of the Taliban since the previous government in Kabul was entirely dependent on the foreign aid. Now, this help has disappeared.
Then other factors are added. “In addition to the collapse of the economy, we are seeing a lot of natural disasters, like the earthquake in Paktika, which killed 1,000 people; and the floods in the south of the country. This has completely destroyed the crops and herds of an economy that cannot feed their own people“says Sarwary, despairing: “You feel disheartened for the people of Afghanistan.”
“Recently there was a cholera outbreak in the provinces of Oruzgan and Helmand. I spoke to a doctor there, and he assured me that they have nothing to treat patients with. Neither paracetamol“, explains Sarwary, implying that this is a sign of the little connection between the Taliban regime and the other capitals of the world.
After the conquest of Kabul, many embassies returned to send teams to Afghanistan, after a period of recess. But there have been few who have recognized to the new Government of the Central Asian country. Something that, for this journalist, is a death sentence for Afghans. “The recognition of the Taliban has to happen. But for it to happen, of course, the Taliban have to change their policies. They have to treat Afghans and especially Afghan women with more dignity. They must seek a reconciliation policy. But this has not happened, nor does it look like it will happen any time soon,” he says.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.