The Taliban Have Instilled Fear Among Women & Girls

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Human Rights Watch New York: Human Rights Watch recently reported that since taking over Afghanistan’s western city of Herat on August 12, the Taliban have instilled fear among afghan women and girls by searching out high-profile women, denying women freedom of movement outside their homes, imposing compulsory dress codes, severely curtailing access to employment and education, and restricting the right to peaceful assembly.

Many afghan women had been employed outside their homes or were students and played active and often leadership roles in their community. But after the Taliban’s arrival, they found themselves trapped indoors, afraid to leave their house, with their access to education and employment fundamentally changed or ended entirely.

For these women, the best-case scenario is to be unharmed but forced to live a drastically diminished existence. The worst-case scenario is to be arrested or attacked for their past achievements or for their fight to keep their hard-earned rights.

The Taliban in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat are committing widespread and serious human rights violations against women and girls. Women in Herat told that their lives had been completely upended the day the Taliban took control of the city.

Human Rights Watch and the SJSU Human Rights Institute conducted in-depth interviews by telephone in Dari with seven women in Herat. Women in Herat were among the first to organize protests in defense of women’s rights after the Taliban gained control of Kabul and most of the country.

Some of the afghan women felt they had no choice but to protest and organized two demonstrations. About 60 to 80 women attended the first one, on September 2, and the Taliban did not intervene. But the Taliban’s response to the second protest, on September 7, was violent and abusive. Taliban fighters lashed protesters and fired weapons indiscriminately to disperse the crowd, killing two men and wounding at least eight more.

Women Testimonies

“Every day we were dressing the way we dressed in the past, and we were getting ready to go to work, to our job and duties,” said a university professor. “And we were hearing reports of Taliban capturing districts, but it was impossible for us to believe that the Taliban could defeat the government.”

Others worried that acquaintances might report them to the Taliban. “I fear people might tell the Taliban about me regarding complaints I have made over the years about men and people who have harassed my students,” the school director said.

Interviewees described a frantic scramble to conceal evidence of their prior lives and activities that might lead to reprisals against them and others, should it fall into the hands of the Taliban. Taliban forces have in the past committed reprisals against people seeking to educate girls.

The women interviewed said that they had heard reports that the Taliban had searched for at least some women’s rights activists and high-profile women in Herat, and one of the women had seen her own name on a Taliban flyer.

One woman said that elders in her neighborhood told her that the Taliban had come to them with a list of 25 high-profile women, including her, and had asked them for help finding those women.

A professor active in women’s rights said: “Now when I go out, I have the veil on. I cover my whole body and I try to be very organized not to be recognized because I heard and I see that the Taliban are in a clash with those women and girls who were previously active and civil society activists, and they do not like those women and girls”.

“They consider those women and girls to be not Muslim and things like that.”

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