Women in Afghanistan: The Taliban knocked on her door 3 times. The fourth time they killed her


Najia’s daughter, Manizha, 25, knew they were coming – her mother told her they had done the same the previous three days, demanding that she prepare food for up to 15 fighters.

“My mother said to them, ‘I’m poor, how can I cook for you?’ Manizha said. “(The Taliban) started beating her. My mother collapsed and they hit her with their guns – AK47s.”

Manizha said she shouted for the fighters to stop. They stopped for a moment before throwing a grenade into the next room and running away as the flames spread, she said. The mother of four died from the beatings.

The deadly July 12 attack on Najia’s home in Faryab province was a chilling glimpse of the threat that now hangs over women across Afghanistan after the Taliban take control of the capital Kabul. CNN uses aliases for Najia and Manizha to protect their identity for security reasons.

In 10 days, Taliban militants captured dozens of provincial capitals made vulnerable by the withdrawal of American and Allied troops.

The speed of the advance of the militants caught the inhabitants by surprise.

Some women said they did not have time to purchase a burqa to comply with Taliban rules that women should be covered and accompanied by a male relative when leaving home.

For Afghan women, the loose fabric represents the sudden and devastating loss of rights acquired in 20 years – the right to work, to study, to travel and even to live in peace – whom they fear they will never find again.

Beauty salon workers remove large photos of women in Kabul from the wall on August 15, 2021.

Deep distrust

When the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, they closed girls’ schools and banned women from working.

After the invasion of the United States in 2001, restrictions on women relaxed, and even as war raged, a local commitment to improve women’s rights, backed by international groups and donors, led the creation of new legal protections.

In 2009, the Elimination of Violence Against Women Act criminalized rape, beatings and forced marriage and made it illegal to prevent women or girls from working or studying.

This time around, the Taliban are promising to form an “inclusive Afghan Islamic government”, although it is not clear what form that will take and whether the new leadership will include women.

Farzana Kochai, who was a member of the Afghan parliament, says she doesn’t know what will follow. “There has been no clear announcement on the form of government in the future – do we have a parliament in the future government or not?” she said.

She is also concerned about her future freedoms as a woman. “This is something that concerns me more,” she said. “All the women think about it. We’re just trying to get a feel … would women be allowed to work and have a job or not?”

Women gather outside UN offices in Kabul to ask for help in January 1999.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Monday that under the Taliban girls would be allowed to study. “Schools will be open and girls and women will go to school, as teachers, as students,” he said.

But the stories of locals on the ground paint a different picture – and there is deep mistrust of the activists who caused such misery in their last reign.

In July, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said that in areas controlled by the Taliban, women were ordered not to go to health services without a male guardian. Television was banned, and teachers and students were asked to wear turbans and grow beards.

Religious scholars, government officials, journalists, human rights defenders and women have been victims of targeted killings, the commission said. One of them was Mina Khairi, a 23-year-old who was killed in a car bomb in June. His father, Mohammad Harif Khairi, who also lost his wife and another daughter in the blast, said the young broadcaster had been receiving death threats for months.

When the Taliban last controlled Afghanistan, women who disobeyed orders were beaten.

The Taliban have denied killing Najia, the mother in Faryab province, but their statements are contradicted by witnesses and local officials who confirmed the death of a 45-year-old woman whose house was set on fire.

A neighbor who shouted for the men to stop said that many women in the village of Najia are the widows of Afghan soldiers. They make a living selling milk, but the Taliban “won’t allow it,” she said. “We don’t have men in our house, what should we do? We want schools, clinics and freedom like other women, men – other people.”

Najia's daughter said Taliban fighters threw a grenade inside their home.

Burqa prices are soaring

The takeover of the country by the Taliban was so rapid that some women found themselves without the female uniform required for the Taliban regime.

A woman, who was not named for security reasons, said her household only had one or two burqas to share between herself, her sister and their mother. “If the worst happens and we don’t have a burqa, we have to buy a sheet or something to make a bigger scarf,” she said.

Burqas are hung in a market in Kabul on July 31.  The price has skyrocketed as women scramble to cover up to avoid attracting activists.  Warning.

Burqa prices have risen tenfold in Kabul as women rushed to beat activists before they advanced, according to another woman in the city, who was also not named for security reasons. Some did not make it to the markets until they closed on Sunday as shop owners rushed home.

She said she spent hours at a bank on Sunday trying to withdraw as much money as possible to help the family get through the next few days of uncertainty.

“It was so unexpected, no one expected it to happen so soon. Even people would say, ‘Oh, Kabul can defend itself for about a year,’ but morale is lost. The military does. than hand it over to the Taliban, “she said.

She fears for her life, but also the collapse of a government that the people fought so hard to build and the end of freedoms for Afghan women.

“As a woman, they just keep us inside. We fought for years to get out, do we have to fight again for the same things? To get permission to work, to get permission to go to the hospital alone? ” she said.

“All for nothing”

Over the past 10 days, a succession of Taliban victories over dozens of provincial capitals brought Afghan women closer to a past they desperately wanted to leave behind.

Pashtana Durrani, founder and executive director of Learn, a nonprofit focused on education and women’s rights, said she was short of tears for her country.

“I cried so much that there are no more tears in my eyes to cry on. We have been mourning the fall of Afghanistan for quite some time now. So I don’t feel very good. very desperate sense, ”she said.

Durrani said she had received text messages from boys and girls, who were desperate that the school years were “all for nothing”.

She said the Taliban kept talking about educating girls, but they hadn’t defined what that meant. Islamic studies are assumed, but “what about gender education? What about vocational education? she asked. “If you think about it, it makes you desperate because there is no answer for it.”

In a tweet, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an end to all abuses. “International humanitarian law and human rights, especially the hard-won gains of women and girls, must be preserved,” he said.

In chaotic scenes at Kabul airport on Monday, desperate Afghans climbed an airlift in an attempt to board planes out of the country. But for millions of people, there is no escape.

The woman in Kabul who spent hours at the bank on Sunday said that although she could find a flight, without a visa, she had nowhere to go. The only other option was to stay inside and hope to avoid attracting attention.

“Going out or doing something else can risk our life,” she said.

As the United States and its allies evacuated staff, Patricia Gossman, associate director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, urged international donors not to abandon Afghanistan.

“Many, many cannot get out and will badly need both emergency humanitarian aid and other essential services like education,” she said. “Now is not a good time for donors to say, ‘Oh, we’re done now in Afghanistan. “”

Women across the country are living in fear of the same knock at the door that Najia heard last month. Her daughter, Manizha, said she had not returned home since her mother died. She doesn’t go out much at all.

“The Taliban will not let any woman go out without a male relative. Only men are allowed out. They can go to work,” she said.

“If I need something, how am I supposed to get it? It’s a punishment. It’s not Islam. They call themselves Muslims. It’s not fair for them to punish them. women.”

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