Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

No Backtracking as Afghan Women Paid Sacrifices, Suffered Severely

Despite the strides Afghan women made, traditional custom and sexual discrimination still hold sway in Afghanistan. The role of women is curtailed and their rights and freedoms are trampled upon in some ways. Parochial mindset, traditional culture, and radical attitudes inflict heavy pain and suffering on Afghan women. They are left at the mercy of domestic violence and escalated militancy.
Perhaps, whenever an Afghan woman hears the phrase of ‘violence against women’, the image of a tearful woman screaming under the flogging of her husband is likely to be pictured in her mind. Many others will imagine Sahar Gul screaming bitterly in a dark cellar under the painful torture of her in-laws and her nails are being pulled by pliers. Or the picture of Sitara may flash through one’s mind as blood oozing from her lips and nose lopped off by her addicted husband before the eyes of her children – the two issued occurred few years back.
As an Afghan citizen, whenever I hear the above phrase, I, uncontrollably, imagine an addicted man with a keen knife in his hand and his wild laughter resounding in a pitch black cellar walking towards a woman to harm her. In the meantime, I hear the woman sobbing with utmost chagrin imploring the man not to hurt her. After black and white pictures blinking before my eyes for a moment, I see the woman fell unconscious as streams of blood gushing from her wounds.
Sometimes, I shiver with fear to imagine the women’s dead bodies hanging on trees or left in the corners. Moreover, my mind goes numb when visualizing school girls having corrosive acid sprayed on their faces or lying in a pool of blood simply for going to school. I am also touched when picturing the women sobbing deeply in the hospitals for sustaining serious injuries caused by their husbands – all I heard during the last two decades. 
These are all the daily stories of Afghan girls and women sustained within the last couple of decades. Their rights are violated openly, their noses and lips are lopped off, and they are hanged on trees, killed by ax, shot to dead and lost their lives in terrorist attacks.
Shimon Peres is cited as saying, “You know who is against democracy in the Middle East? The husbands. They got used to their way of life. Now, the traditional way of life must change. Everybody must change. If you don’t give equal rights to women, you can’t progress.”
Afghan women suffered painfully under the Taliban regime. In 2001, Laura Bush in a radio address condemned the Taliban’s brutality to women. In areas they controlled the Taliban issued edicts which forbade women from being educated; girls were forced to leave schools and colleges. Those who wished to leave their homes for shopping had to be accompanied by a male chaperone and were required to wear burqa, a head-to-toe covering. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten. Employment for women was restricted to the medical sector, because male medical personnel were not allowed to treat women and girls. The Taliban put more restrictions on women after taking the control of Kabul. In February 1998, religious police forced all women off the Kabul streets and issued new regulations, ordering people to blacken their windows so that women would not be visible from outside.
Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, the then Taliban Minister of Justice, was quoted as saying, “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.”
Faranos Nazir, a woman who lived in Kabul at the time of Taliban, said, “Because of the Taliban, Afghanistan has become a jail for women. We haven’t got any human rights. We haven’t the right to go outside, to go to work, to look after our children.”
I believe that she has stated the tips of the iceberg. The challenges were much larger. For instance, there were many widowed women who, on the one hand, had no bread-winner for their children, and on the other hand, they were not allowed to go out for working or begging on streets. The women who went out without a male chaperone were beaten severely.
It is said that several Taliban and Al-Qaeda commanders ran a network of human trafficking, abducting women and selling them into sex slavery in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban often argued that the restrictions they placed on women were actually a way of revering and protecting the opposite sex.
Currently, there have happened cosmetic changes in the attitudes towards women. They are still highly vulnerable to violence and cruelties.
Since women paid heavy sacrifices within the last two decades, there should be enough seats for them at the negotiating table and their rights and liberties have to be defined as red-line for the government. In short, women’s achievements should be safeguarded and their rights and freedoms must not be compromised. Women need to be free to play their social, cultural, political and economic role without restrictions and there should be no room for sexual discrimination. Hence, after leaving social and political ups and downs behind and paying heavy sacrifices, Afghan women will not backtrack.