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The Taliban Pressure Women in Afghanistan to Cover Up

KABUL, Afghanistan — Her mom begged her to not go to the protest, at the same time as Maryam Hassanzada was on her method out the door.

However Ms. Hassanzada, 24, reassured her mom, then joined a dozen different ladies protesting a Taliban decree this month requiring Afghan ladies to cowl themselves from head to toe.

Their faces uncovered, the ladies chanted “Justice! Justice!” and “Cease tyranny towards ladies!” They protested for about 10 minutes earlier than Taliban gunmen roughly broke up the demonstration. The protesters mentioned they had been held by Taliban safety officers for 2 hours, questioned and berated, then launched with a warning to not protest once more.

Ms. Hassanzada was unbowed.

“If we don’t protest, the world received’t know the way badly Afghan ladies are oppressed,” she mentioned later.

These are perilous instances for Afghan ladies. The Taliban present no signal of easing a crackdown not solely on such primary rights as schooling and jobs for girls, however on each side of public life, from deportment to journey.

The quilt-up decree, which additionally urged ladies to remain dwelling except that they had a compelling purpose to exit, adopted a earlier rule requiring women who travel greater than about 45 miles from their houses to be accompanied by a male family member.

In August, the Taliban promised much less restrictive insurance policies towards ladies than throughout their earlier rule within the late Nineties. “There can be no violence towards ladies, no prejudice towards ladies,” the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid advised reporters.

As an alternative, in a matter of months, the Taliban have imposed onerous decrees which have dragged ladies from the relative freedoms achieved over the previous twenty years to a harsh interpretation of Islamic legislation that smothers ladies’s rights.

On the streets of the capital, compliance with the decree is blended.

Within the Dasht-e-Barchi district, dwelling to Hazaras, a predominantly Shiite Muslim minority, only a few ladies cowl their faces — aside from surgical masks for Covid-19. However in close by Karte Naw, an ethnic Pashtun space, a part of the Sunni majority, most ladies put on hijabs, or head scarves, that cowl their faces.

Some ladies in Kabul mentioned that males on the road had harassed and berated them once they appeared in public with their faces uncovered.

Outdoors the capital, most ladies appear to be obeying the decree. Throughout the nation, ladies say that Taliban enforcers have accosted them, generally violently, and ordered them to cowl up.

Within the northern province of Takhar, Farahnaz, a college scholar, mentioned the non secular police had arrange checkpoints to examine rickshaws carrying ladies to class. Those that weren’t lined in all-black hijabs had been roughed up and despatched dwelling, she mentioned.

“I had a coloured head scarf however they despatched me again dwelling and mentioned I needed to put on a black hijab and niqab,” she mentioned, referring to a garment that covers the hair and face aside from the eyes. She requested to be recognized by solely her first identify for worry of retribution.

Anisa Mohammadi, 28, a lawyer in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, mentioned she had purchased a burqa as a result of she feared that her honor could be questioned if she didn’t put on it. She mentioned the non secular police there have been intently monitoring ladies and ordering them to cowl up.

In Baghlan Province, additionally in northern Afghanistan, Maryam, 25, a ladies’s rights activist who has refused to cowl her face, mentioned {that a} good friend had been warned that she could be flogged if she continued to put on solely a head scarf.

“I’m scared,” mentioned Maryam, who requested that her final identify not be printed. “The Taliban advised me that I’d higher not come to town once more if my face isn’t lined.”

In Kabul, a 24-year-old college scholar who wore a head scarf however no face overlaying to a preferred recreation space mentioned that she had been struck on the pinnacle by a rifle butt wielded by a passing Taliban gunman who shouted at her to cowl her face.

Taliban gunmen have pointed weapons at feminine protesters, sprayed them with pepper spray and referred to as them “whores” and “puppets of the West,” Human Rights Watch has said.

Native information media reported that some feminine college students at Kabul College had been despatched dwelling by Taliban enforcers for not complying with the hijab decree. And Human Rights Watch reported that the Taliban non secular police tried to compel Afghan women working for the United Nations mission in Kabul to cowl up.

Muhammad Sadiq Akif, spokesman for the Advantage and Vice Ministry in Kabul, denied that any ladies had been accosted or punished. He mentioned that ministry patrols had not pressured ladies to cowl themselves however had merely defined the decree to encourage full compliance.

And he denied that girls had been compelled to put on black hijabs, saying that they might put on hijabs of any coloration.

“Out of respect for the sisters of our nation, we don’t cease, summon or punish any ladies,” he mentioned in an interview on the ministry, which has changed the earlier authorities’s Ministry for Girls’s Affairs.

“The hijab is the command of God and have to be noticed,” Mr. Akif mentioned, including that the regulation for girls was “for their very own safety.”

The decree, ordered by the Taliban’s supreme chief, Haibatullah Akhundzada, mandated a sequence of escalating punishments, together with jail time, for male kin of ladies who repeatedly refused to cowl themselves. Mr. Akif mentioned that some males had been formally warned, however not punished.

That stress was denounced by some ladies. “My father and brothers wouldn’t have an issue with me,” mentioned Mozhda, 25, a ladies’s rights activist in Mazar-i-Sharif who has refused to cowl her face and requested to be recognized by solely her first identify for worry of retribution.

Till the takeover final summer time, the Taliban had been out of energy for 20 years, and many ladies, particularly in cities, grew to become accustomed to the extra relaxed mores.

“Girls now are usually not like the ladies of 20 years in the past, and the Taliban ought to perceive that,” mentioned Fatima Farahi, 55, a ladies’s rights activist in Herat, in western Afghanistan.

Ms. Farahi mentioned that she and lots of different ladies in Herat had refused to cowl their faces. To this point, she mentioned, she and her colleagues had not been threatened by the Taliban.

In Kabul, the protesters, who name themselves the Afghanistan Highly effective Girls’s Motion, vowed to proceed to protest and to make use of social media to induce ladies to defy the decree.

When Taliban gunmen ordered them to cease a current rally, a protest chief, Munisa Mubariz, shouted: “You can’t cease our voices!”

The ladies mentioned they had been warned that they’d be jailed for 5 days in the event that they protested once more.

5 Western journalists and two Afghan reporters who had been reporting on the demonstration had been additionally held and questioned for 2 hours, individually from the ladies, and later launched unhurt.

Mr. Akif of the Advantage and Vice Ministry mentioned that the ladies who protested had made a mistake, and “got the fitting understanding” of the decree by Taliban officers.

“It’s not permissible to face or protest towards any sort of Islamic ruling and it’s thought of against the law,” he mentioned. “In the event that they perceive and the fitting method is proven for them, they may by no means do this stuff. I’m certain they may comply.”

No method, mentioned Zakia Zahadat, one of many protesters.

“I’ll be again — I received’t cease protesting,” Ms. Zahadat, 24, mentioned. “We’re dealing with an financial disaster, a social disaster and a political disaster, however the Taliban solely care concerning the hijab? Does this imply if we put on a hijab all our issues can be solved?”

Jamila Barati, 25, one other protester, mentioned, “Girls must struggle for his or her rights, regardless of the dangers. I received’t cease protesting.”

A number of ladies mentioned that their husbands or mother and father had begged them to cease. The ladies mentioned that that they had obtained threatening telephone calls from Taliban safety officers. Some mentioned that they moved from home to accommodate to keep away from detection.

Ms. Hassanzada mentioned that her mom had requested her to remain indoors always.

However, Ms. Hassanzada mentioned, she spent most of her time at dwelling anyway because the Taliban fired her from her job at a authorities ministry. After she returned dwelling safely the day of the latest protest, she mentioned, she repeated a promise she had made to her mom.

“I mentioned I might by no means depart the home — besides to protest,” she mentioned.

Najim Rahim contributed reporting from Houston, and Safiullah Padshah and Kiana Hayeri from Kabul.

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