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The rights of women are improving in Afghanistan, but some fear the return of violence toward women if the Taliban is included in a coalition government. In TIME magazine (vol. 176, No. 6 , 2010) the cover article, “Betrayed,” discusses fears that Afghan women have about Taliban beliefs and practices returning in an integrated government which includes them. The example given is Bibi Aisha, an 18 year old , who had her nose and ears sliced off because of the Taliban leadership. Aisha ran away from abusive in-laws who beat her. This was her punishment and she was left to die, but survived to tell her story. She was taken to a U.S. military medical unit because the local Afghan hospital would not treat her. From there, she was taken to a shelter created and supported by a U.S. organization, Women for Afghan Women. It has now been reported that she will come to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery. Additionally, TIME reported that the religious council of Herat province issued an edict in May forbidding women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a male relative.
Taliban law forbids the education or employment of women or examination by a male doctor without the presence of a close male relative. Since women were teachers and nurses, these professions have practically disappeared. This has caused the physical, mental, and intellectual health of women under Taliban rule to deteriorate. Burqas became required clothing under Taliban rule. A burqa covers the entire body of a woman in tent like fashion, with only a small fenced window with which to see. Women not wearing burqas or unaccompanied by a male relative outside the home were beaten in public with sticks. Women, by law, were only allowed to read the Qur’an and windows had to be blackened so no one could see into houses. We now hear in the news that a woman is to be stoned to death for adultery in Iran. This is also a Taliban law. With international publicity, the stoning has been suspended, but it can be reinstated at any time. We see from this that open international dialogue is having an effect.
On the progressive side, female talk show host, Mozhdah Jamalzadah, is an example of how things are changing in Afghanistan. She has her own TV show and fears she may lose it if the Taliban are included in a coalition government. The constitution of Afghanistan now guarantees equal rights for women and it is said that this is non-negotiable. However, the constitution also cannot contradict Islamic law (Shari’a), which is yet to be defined in the constitution. The Taliban has the most restrictive interpretation of Islamic law. There are fears that with sufficient votes, the laws and practices will return to Taliban restrictions when the U.S. leaves Afghanistan and the Taliban joins the coalition government.
Women for Afghan Women have shelters in Afghanistan for abused women. The Taliban wants them declared as brothels and eliminated. Women for Afghan Women also have counseling centers to help end violence against women. Their fate is in questionable hands if the U.S. removes troops from Afghanistan. There are 15 million women in Afghanistan. Some have already started wearing burqas again, fearing the influence of the Taliban on a coalition government when US troops leave Afghanistan.
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