Afghan activists denounce the disappearance of women

The Taliban regime continues to perpetuate aggression and violence against Afghan women

AFP/MOHD RASFAN  -   Women hold placards during a protest to demand an end to extrajudicial killings of former officials of the previous regime, in Kabul on 28 December 2021

Afghan women are disappearing. After the Taliban took over Kabul there has been a real "cleansing" of women in public life. Many of them have lost their jobs and are exposed to rules that restrict them almost completely from any semblance of freedom.

In response, and despite heavy repression by the Taliban, Afghan women decided to take to the streets in order to oppose a regime that controls their every step. These demonstrations have been harshly repressed by the insurgents and the disappearance of two Afghan women activists who had taken part in these demonstrations is now being investigated. 

PHOTO/AFP - A member (left) of the Taliban watches as Afghan women hold banners during a protest.

According to allegations, activists Tamana Paryani and Parvaneh Ibrahimkhel were taken from their own homes by armed men and their whereabouts are now unknown. While the Taliban deny having detained them, the men who arrested them identified themselves as members of the "intelligence department" of the current Taliban government.

At one of these protests, Ibrahimkhel had burned a burqa as a form of protest against a restrictive garment imposed on Afghan women. This garment completely covers the women's bodies except for a slit in the eyes, which are covered by a grille.

Before they were arrested, Paryani managed to record a video with her mobile phone in which she could be seen calling for help, which she managed to send to the Aamaj News agency. In it, she cried out "help please, the Taliban have come to our house...only my sisters are at home". Later, members of her family confirmed her arrest along with that of her three sisters, who did not even attend the demonstration.

AFP/HOSHANG HASHIMINI - Burqa-clad women walk at a temporary second-hand market in the Chaman-e-Huzuri neighbourhood of Kabul on 16 September 2021.

Following the release of the video, Kabul police spokesman Taliban Mobin Khan said on Twitter that the video was "a hoax". Alongside him, General Intelligence Directorate spokesman Khalil Hamraz accused the feminists of "defaming Afghanistan's new rulers and their security forces in order to gain asylum in the West".

The spokesman later said that insults to the national and religious values of Afghans would no longer be "tolerated" in response to feminist rallies calling for "equal rights". In addition, they denounced the imposition of "veils and robes", a practice that the Taliban have tried to expose through publicity campaigns and posters recommending the wearing of such garments. 

AFP/ WAKIL KOHSAR - Burqa-clad Afghan women sit outside a beauty salon with images of women disfigured with spray paint in Jalalabad on 13 December 2021.

In addition to dress codes, the Taliban have decreed measures on how they should travel, have segregated universities by sex and have imposed laws on how they should behave through the interpretation of the Sharia.

Despite the fact that during the presence of Western troops Afghan women were able to gain more rights than they do today, progress in women's emancipation in the country has been slow. Afghanistan has remained the country's worst performer in terms of access to education for girls, although the younger generation has managed to improve its position over the last decade.

PHOTO/AFP - Afghan women hold banners as they take part in a protest.

Moreover, 35% of Afghan women were married before the age of 18, which removed any educational or professional expectations they had, something that is now very difficult to achieve under the Taliban regime.

In addition, the deplorable conditions of the health systems have a direct impact on women's health. Afghanistan is one of the countries with the highest number of women in childbirth and there are still no measures in place to eradicate this situation.

AP/WALI SABAWOON  -  Women gather to demand their rights under the Taliban government during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan.

In addition, violence against women is still routine. According to the UN, 80% of women in Afghanistan suffer from male violence in their homes, as well as violence on the streets and in public spaces.

These latest arrests by the Taliban come at a time when members of the Taliban government have been meeting with representatives of the international community and other Afghan civilian groups in Oslo. According to Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, "the international community and Afghans from different social groups must engage in dialogue with the Taliban" to try to alleviate the serious situation in Afghanistan.