In Afghanistan, the Taliban are further tightening their control over women. Their supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, ordered, on Saturday May 7, Afghan women to wear a full veil in public space, preferably the burqa. This is the most severe restriction on their freedom since the return to power of the Taliban in mid-August.
“They should wear a tchadri [autre nom de la burqa]because it is traditional and respectful”notes the decree signed by Mr. Akhundzada and made public on Saturday by the Taliban government, in front of the press, in Kabul.
“Women who are neither too young nor too old should veil their faces, except for their eyes, according to the recommendations of Sharia, in order to avoid any provocation when they meet a man” who is not a close member of their family, adds this decree. If they don’t have an important job to do outside, it’s “better for them to stay at home”.
This decree also lists the punishments to which heads of families are exposed who do not enforce the wearing of this full veil. The first two offenses will be penalized with a simple warning. On the third, they will be sentenced to three days in prison, and on the fourth they will be brought to justice. In addition, any government employee not wearing the full veil will be immediately fired.
Despite promises, repression of women’s rights
“Islam has never recommended the chadriresponded a women’s rights activist who remained in Afghanistan, on condition of anonymity. The Taliban, instead of being progressive, are going backwards. They behave like during their first diet, they are the same as twenty years ago. »
“We are a broken nation, forced to endure assaults we cannot understand. As a people, we are crushed”has on his side tweeted Muska Dastageer, former professor at the American University of Afghanistan, now based abroad. Since mid-August, the dreaded Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice had already issued several recommendations on how women should dress. But this is the first text on the subject promulgated at the national level.
The United States responded to these restrictions on women’s rights in Afghanistan through a spokesperson for the US State Department. “We are extremely concerned that the rights of Afghan women and girls and the progress made in this area over the past twenty years are being undermined”said the spokesperson. Washington and its allies are “deeply disturbed by recent Taliban measures against women and girls, including restrictions on education and travel”he added.
The United Nations also condemned this decision. She “goes against many assurances regarding the protection of human rights for all Afghans” that have been given in recent years to the international community by representatives of the Taliban, insists in a press release the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
The Taliban had previously demanded that women wear at least a hijab, a scarf covering the head but revealing the face. But they strongly recommended the wearing of the burqa, which they had already imposed during their first passage to power, between 1996 and 2001. During this first regime, they had deprived women of almost all their rights, in accordance with their interpretation ultrarigorist of sharia, Islamic law. Agents from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice whipped any woman caught without a burqa.
Quest for international recognition made difficult
After regaining power, ending twenty years of occupation by the United States and its allies, who had driven them out in 2001, the Taliban had promised to be more flexible. However, they soon reneged on their promises, again steadily eroding rights and sweeping away two decades of freedom won by women.
These are now largely excluded from public employment and are prohibited from traveling alone. In March, the Taliban closed high schools and colleges for girls, just hours after their long-announced reopening. This unexpected volte-face, which was not justified except to say that the education of girls must be done in accordance with Sharia law, scandalized the international community. The Taliban have also imposed the separation of women and men in Kabul’s public parks, with designated visiting days.
The decree issued on Saturday could further complicate the Taliban’s quest for recognition, which the international community has directly linked to respect for women’s rights. “It’s an unexpected setback, which will not help the Taliban gain international recognition. Such moves will only intensify opposition to them.”said Pakistani analyst Imtiaz Gul.
Over the past two decades, Afghan women had acquired new freedoms, returning to school or applying for jobs in all sectors of activity, even if the country remained socially conservative. Women first tried to assert their rights by demonstrating in Kabul and in major cities after the Taliban took power. But the latter fiercely repressed the movement, arresting many activists and detaining some, sometimes for several weeks.