Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the country has become the world’s most repressive for women and girls, deprived of many of their basic rights, the United Nations said Wednesday.
In a statement issued on International Women’s Day, the UN mission said Afghanistan’s new rulers have shown a “almost singular focus on imposing rules that leave most women and girls effectively trapped in their homes”.
Despite initial promises of a more moderate stance, the Taliban have imposed harsh measures since they seized power in August 2021, when US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of war.
They have forbidden the education of the girls beyond sixth grade and women from public spaces like parks and gyms. Women are also prohibited from working for national and international non-governmental organizations and are ordered to cover themselves from head to toe.
“Afghanistan under the Taliban is still the most repressive country in the world regarding women’s rights”, said Roza Otunbayeva, special representative of the UN secretary general and head of the mission in Afghanistan.
“It has been distressing to witness your methodical, deliberate and systematic efforts to remove Afghan women and girls from the public sphere,” she added.
restrictions, especially prohibitions on education and the work of NGOs, have provoked fierce international condemnation. But the Taliban have shown no sign of backing down, saying the bans are temporary suspensions allegedly because women did not wear the Islamic headscarf or hijab correctly and because gender segregation rules were not followed.
Refering to prohibition of university educationthe Taliban government has said that some of the subjects taught are not in keeping with Afghan and Islamic values.
“Confining half the country’s population to their homes in one of the world’s biggest humanitarian and economic crises is a colossal act of national self-harm,” Otunbayeva also said.
“It will condemn not only women and girls, but all Afghans, to poverty and aid dependency for generations to come,” she said. “It will further isolate Afghanistan from its own citizens and from the rest of the world.”
At a carpet factory in Kabul, women who were former government employees, high school or university students now spend their days weaving carpets.
“We all live like prisoners, we feel like we are trapped in a cage”said Hafiza, 22, who uses only her first name and was a first-year law student before the Taliban banned women from attending classes at her university. “The worst situation is when your dreams are shattered and you are punished for being a woman.”
The UN mission in Afghanistan also said it has seen a nearly constant stream of discriminatory edicts and measures against women since the Taliban took power: women’s right to travel or work outside the confines of their home and access to spaces is greatly restricted, and they have also been excluded from all levels of public decision-making.
“The implications of the harm the Taliban are inflicting on their own citizens go beyond women and girls,” said Alison Davidian, UN Women’s special representative in Afghanistan.
No Taliban-led government officials were immediately available for comment.
At the carpet factory, 18-year-old Shahida, who also goes by a single name, said she was in the 10th grade at one of Kabul’s secondary schools when her education was interrupted.
“We simply demand the (Taliban) government to reopen our schools and educational centers and grant us our rights”said.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, some 200 Afghan small business owners organized an exhibition of their products in Kabul. Most complained about the loss of business since the Taliban took power.
“I don’t expect the Taliban to respect women’s rights,” said one of them, Tamkin Rahimi. “Women here can’t exercise (their) rights and celebrate Women’s Day, because we can’t go to school, university or work, so I think we don’t have any day to celebrate.
The UN Security Council will meet later on Wednesday with Otunbayeva and women representing Afghan civil society groups.
According to the statement, 11.6 million Afghan women and girls need humanitarian assistance. However, the Taliban are further undermining the international aid effort by banning women from working for NGOs.
(with information from AP)
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