Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, August 1st, 2021

Have Taliban Moderated Their Mindset About Women?

The Taliban are unlikely to have changed their mindset regarding women and their gender. Discriminatory attitude towards women is observed not only in the Taliban’s militant group but also within their negotiating team in the Qatari capital of Doha despite saying that their mindset was moderated vis-à-vis women and their rights.
The rights and freedoms of women will be a highly contentious issue at the negotiating table since the Taliban are less likely to reconcile their parochial mindset with democratic system, in which there is no room for gender discrimination. Although the Taliban are not outspoken about their attitude towards women, they are presumed to haggle over women’s rights and seek to paint restriction of their rights and freedoms with the brush of religion.
Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, the Taliban former Minister of Justice said regarding women, “If a woman wants to work away from her home and with men, then that is not allowed by our religion and our culture. If we force them to do this they may want to commit suicide.”
In her recent statements, Habiba Sarabi, a member of negotiating team, has said that the Taliban have not changed their mindset about women and their rights. She cited the discriminatory attitude of the Taliban’s negotiating member towards her.
When talks were ongoing between the United States and the Taliban, Afghans were apprehensive about the Taliban’s approach towards women. Subsequently, the Taliban leaders said they had moderated their mindset in that regard. However, they could not alleviate the public concerns as they still view women from their radically ideological prism.
Many of the Taliban members are from tribal belts and strongly believe in tribal code of conduct, which view women as inferior. With this in mind, the Taliban are unlikely to think out of box and bestow women equal rights and freedoms as men. The Taliban will only agree with women’s rights discourse under the public pressure as well as that of US and its allies.
Some facts are indisputable. Afghan girls and women suffered greatly under traditional customs. Their role was restricted within the four walls and they were considered as a pariah, especially in remote areas where traditional mindsets held strong sway. They suffered physical and mental tortures in one way or another. For instance, when a girl denied living with a man of her parents’ choice under the same roof, she was considered brazen and deserved to be punished in a severe way. After all, if she dared elope with a man of her own choice, she was deemed a disgrace for her family and would be stoned to death – such stories are no more outdated but repeated every once in a while in tribal belt. Few years back, a girl was flagellated in a desert court and Rokhshana, a young girl, was stoned in Ghor province. Similarly, a girl named Aziz Gul was reportedly killed by her family in Ghor province for eloping with a man of her choice – which prompted the civil society activists to raise their concern and said that the graph of violence had increased in Ghor. The activists added that the violators of women’s rights were at large and alleged that the government neglected women’s rights in that province. Hence, women are still left at the mercy of conservative customs.
Moreover, Afghan women have been the victim of traditional cultures. Their rights were restricted within the closed frame of traditions being practiced mainly in tribal belts. In other words, the parochial mindsets regarding women played highly negative role across the country through engendering hatred and misogyny. Women’s role was tailored to men’s desires. They were deemed inferior creature and had to be all ears to their spouses’ orders. After all, stereotypes abounded in our literature and our culture concerning women and continue up to now.
To lessen the anguish of Afghan women, the religious figures and clergy will have to enlighten women’s fundamental rights according to the true spirit of religious tenets so that they can root out wrong traditions deeply implanted in our culture. Meanwhile, the government must protect women’s rights through enforcing law and campaigning against the radical mindsets and advocate women’s rights at the negotiating table, which was defined as “red-line”. Violators of women’s rights and liberty should be prosecuted on the basis of law.
In the meantime, the Taliban have to respect women’s rights as stipulated in the constitution and stop seeking to impose their ideology on the public. Afghan men and women will not backtrack and the peace talks will be acceptable if they do not put women’s rights and freedoms at stake. The sacrifices of Afghan people, about achieving democratic gains and empowering women, should not be disregarded.