Taliban divisions deepen as Afghan women oppose veil order

KABUL Arosa was furious and frightened, keeping her eyes open for the Taliban on patrol while she and a friend went shopping in the Macroyan district of Kabul on Sunday.

The math teacher feared that her large scarf wrapped tightly around her head and her wide pale brown coat would not satisfy the latest decree of the country’s religiously led Taliban government. In the end, they were more visible than her eyes. Her face was visible.

Aruza, who asked to be identified by just one name to avoid attracting attention, did not wear the all-encompassing burqa favored by the Taliban, which released a new dress code for women appearing in public on Saturday. The decree says only the woman’s eyes should be visible.

A decree by staunch Taliban leader Hibaitullah Akhunzada has even suggested that women do not leave their homes unless necessary, and outlines a series of punishments for men, relatives of women who violate the code.


It was a severe blow to the rights of women in Afghanistan, who lived in relative freedom for two decades before the Taliban seized power last August, when US and other foreign forces withdrew to the chaotic end of a 20-year war.

A solitary leader, Ahunzada rarely travels outside of South Kandahar, the traditional heart of the Taliban. He prefers the harsh elements of the group’s previous rule in the 1990s, when girls and women were largely banned from school, work and social life.

Like Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, Ahunzada has imposed a strict brand of Islam that combines religion with ancient tribal traditions, often blurring the two.

Ahunzada has adopted tribal rural traditions, in which girls often marry at puberty and rarely leave their homes, and called it a religious requirement, analysts say.

The Taliban are divided between pragmatists and hardliners as they struggle to move from a rebel to a governing body. Meanwhile, their government is dealing with a worsening economic crisis. And the Taliban’s efforts to gain recognition and help from Western nations have failed, largely because they have not formed a more representative government and are restricting the rights of girls and women.


Until now, hardliners and pragmatists in the movement have avoided open confrontation.

However, the division deepened in March, on the eve of the new school year, when Ahunzada issued a last-minute decision that girls should not be allowed to go to school after the sixth grade. In the weeks leading up to the school year, senior Taliban officials told reporters that all the girls would be allowed back into school. Ahunzada claims that admitting older girls back to school violates Islamic principles.

A prominent Afghan, who is meeting with the leadership and is aware of their internal quarrels, said a top cabinet minister expressed outrage at Ahunzada’s views at a recent leadership meeting. He speaks on condition of anonymity to speak freely.

Torek Farhadi, a former government adviser, said he believed Taliban leaders had chosen not to argue publicly because they feared that any perception of divisions could undermine their rule.


“The leadership is not seen face to face on a number of issues, but everyone knows that if they do not come together, everything could fall apart,” Farhadi said. “In that case, they can start clashes with each other. ”

“For this reason, the elders have decided to reconcile, including when it comes to unacceptable decisions that cost them a lot of noise in Afghanistan and internationally,” Farhadi added.

Some of the more pragmatic leaders seem to be looking for quiet solutions that will soften hard-line decrees. Since March, there has been a growing chorus, even among the most influential Taliban leaders, of returning older girls to school, while quietly ignoring other repressive orders.

Earlier this month, Anas Hakani, Sirajuddin’s younger brother, who heads the powerful Hakani network, told a conference in the eastern city of Khost that girls have the right to education and will return to school soon – although he did not say when . He also said that women have a role to play in nation-building.


“You will receive very good news that will make everyone very happy … this problem will be solved in the coming days,” Hakani said at the time.

In the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Sunday, women wore the usual conservative Muslim dress. Most wore a traditional hijab consisting of a headscarf and a long robe or coat, but few covered their faces, as indicated by the Taliban leader the day before. Those wearing a burqa, a head-to-toe garment that covers the face and hides the eyes behind the net, were in the minority.

“Women in Afghanistan wear the hijab and many wear the burqa, but this is not a hijab, but the Taliban who want to make all women disappear,” said Shabana, who wore bright gold bracelets under her flowing black coat and her hair. , hidden behind a black scarf with sequins. “This is for the Taliban who want to make us invisible.”

Aruza said the Taliban were forcing Afghans to leave their country. “Why stay here if they don’t want to give us human rights?” We are human beings, “she said.


Several women stopped talking. They all challenged the latest decree.

“We don’t want to live in prison,” said Parvine, who, like other women, wanted only one name.

“These decrees are trying to wipe out an entire gender and generation of Afghans who grew up dreaming of a better world,” said Obaidullah Bahir, a visiting scientist at the New York School and a former professor at the American University in Afghanistan.

“This encourages families to leave the country in all necessary ways. It also fuels complaints that would eventually escalate into large-scale anti-Taliban mobilization, “he said.

After decades of war, Bahir said it would not take much for the Taliban to make Afghans content with governing “an opportunity the Taliban is rapidly losing.”

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Taliban divisions deepen as Afghan women oppose veil order

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