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Afghanistan: What will happen to women and girls?

It will not be easy for the Taliban to re-impose a regime like the one of 20 years ago. Under the protection of an aware and attentive international community, Afghan women now have a much wider and more varied arsenal of resources at their disposal to defend their rights. However, the future for Afghan women does not look promising.

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Luisa María González

The Taliban’s abrupt seizure of power in Afghanistan casts a pall over the country’s future, not least of which is what will happen to women and girls.

Recent events in the Asian nation revived the worst memories of the 1990s under Taliban rule, when the extremist application of Islamic principles involved a flagrant denial of basic rights.

International organisations, activists, victims and witnesses described that scenario as almost a hell in which people suffered from the obligatory wearing of the burqa to the impossibility of working, as well as the veto on schooling for girls and adolescents and the strict limitation of women’s presence in public spaces.

Now, with the return of that movement to government, alarm bells are ringing and Kabul has in recent days been the scene of a stampede as large crowds desperately try to flee the country, a resource available to only a few.

Millions of girls, young women and women will remain, haunted by the threat of religious fundamentalism.

But neither can it be said that in the 20 years of US occupation Afghan women have lived in a paradise. Since 2001, the war has devastated the nation, leaving 150,000 civilians dead and thousands of people forced to flee the chaos in all sorts of ways.

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However, at least there was a legal system that recognised certain rights for women, something that is now in serious jeopardy.

What stance will the Taliban government take towards women? This is one of the big questions of the moment and so far there is no clear answer.

Disturbing reports are already circulating, such as the removal from public roads of advertising billboards featuring female figures.

In the midst of the convulsive and worrying situation, the fever of fake news that is invading social networks and even the media, where false or manipulated information is circulating and further complicating the situation, is not helping either.

An example of this is what happened to Clarissa Ward, a correspondent for the US channel CNN in Kabul, whose picture was circulated showing her wearing a full-face veil and the news that the Taliban had forced her to wear it.

Shortly afterwards, the journalist herself clarified that from the beginning of her work she had been in the habit of covering herself when recording reports in public spaces.

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In any case, Ward herself illustrated the current difficult conditions a few days later with a video in which she showed a Taliban militant attacking her producer while they were trying to film.

There are tragic fears surrounding Afghanistan, but it must also be stressed that the current context is very different: neither the world, nor the country, nor its women are the same as they were in the 1990s.

Former MP Fawzia Koofi told Tolo news that “Afghan women must be more united than ever. No one will give them their rights easily. They have to be unified and ensure their presence, and it is not acceptable to sit in the corner of their houses and watch the situation.”

A few days ago in Kabul, a demonstration of women who have worked in government agencies and non-governmental organisations in recent years demonstrated their determination to stand up to the Taliban.

Activist Fariha Esar said they would not give up their right to education, their right to work and their “right to political and social participation”. (PL)

(Translated by Rene Phelvin) – Photos: Pixabay

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