Update: According to The New York Post and Fox News, the Taliban has already killed at least one woman for refusing to wear a Burqa, but the reports have yet to be confirmed by other sources.
With the Taliban seizing control of Afghanistan, one vulnerable community is asking an important question: how will Afghan women be treated? The Taliban, long known for their focus on “morals” and tendency to punish those who don’t fall into line, has long held women to strict rules, imposing a strict version of Sharia Law on Afghan women and girls.
Sharia Law regulates all behavior for Muslims, drawing upon policies taken from the Muslim Holy Book, the Qur’an, and the words of the prophet Mohammad. In addition to restricting their behavior, women under Sharia Law are expected to wear a full burqa, a garment that covers a woman’s entire body, as a sign of modesty.
20 years ago, when the Taliban last claimed total power in Afghanistan, women were not permitted to work or attend school under Sharia Law. Fingernail polish was not allowed, nor was driving.
Taliban enforces strict version of Sharia Law
Punishment for breaking Sharia Law can be extremely harsh. In the past, women were stoned or had their hands cut off for what the Taliban considered serious infractions. One woman, who sought medical aid without a male companion, was beaten when she was discovered.
Malala Yousafazei was shot in the head by Taliban fighters for advocating for women’s education. The 24-year-old made an impassioned plea following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on Sunday, confirming she is “deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates.”
“We watch in complete shock as Taliban takes control of Afghanistan. Global, regional and local powers must call for an immediate ceasefire, provide urgent humanitarian aid and protect refugees and civilians,” she wrote on Twitter.
World watches as Taliban takes over
The Taliban, however, has pledged that they will not retaliate against those who oppose them, and that they will respect the rights of women — within Islamic law. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has sought to distance this Taliban from the same sociopolitical group who ruled the country 20 years ago, while a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Enamullah Samangani, has encouraged women to join the government.
But the people of Afghanistan remain skeptical, while humanitarian groups vow to fight against civil abuses. Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, noted that the U.N. will monitor the evolving situation in Afghanistan, stating, “the rights of all Afghans must be defended.”
Most recently, reports have come in to trusted news sources such as The Guardian, claiming the Taliban, in at least some instances, have beaten women and children in an effort to stop them from fleeing to Kabul’s airport.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said at a recent White House briefing, “there have been instances where we have received reports of people being turned away or pushed back or even beaten.”
“We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issues. And we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days.”