By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Arooza was furious and scared, keeping her eyes open for the Taliban patrolling while she and a friend were shopping on Sunday in the Macroyan district of Kabul.
The math teacher was afraid that her big shawl, tightly wrapped around her head, and her pale brown coat, would not satisfy the latest decree of the country’s Taliban government, driven by religion. After all, more than just his eyes were showing. His face was visible.
Arooza, who asked to be identified with a single name so as not to draw attention, did not wear the global burqa preferred by the Taliban, which on Saturday issued a new dress code for women appearing in public. The edict said that only the eyes of a woman should be seen.
The decree by Taliban hardline leader Hibaitullah Akhunzada even suggested that women should not leave the house unless necessary and provides for a series of punishments for male relatives of women who violate the code.
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It was a major blow to women’s rights in Afghanistan, which for two decades lived in relative freedom before the Taliban took power last August, when the United States and other foreign forces withdrew in the end. chaotic of a 20-year war.
A lone leader, Akhunzada rarely travels outside of southern Kandahar, the traditional center of the Taliban. It favors the harsh elements of the group’s previous era in power, in the 1990s, when girls and women were largely banned from school, work, and public life.
Like the founder of the Taliban, the mullah Mohammad Omar, Akhunzada imposes a strict mark on Islam that marries religion with ancient tribal traditions, often blurring both.
Akhunzada has taken up traditions from tribal villages where girls often marry at puberty and rarely leave home, calling it a religious demand, analysts say.
The Taliban have been divided between pragmatists and hardliners as they struggle to move from an insurgency to a governing body. Meanwhile, his government has been dealing with a worsening economic crisis. And the Taliban’s efforts to gain the recognition and help of Western nations have failed, in large part because they have failed to form a more representative government and have restricted the rights of girls and women.
So far, the toughest and most pragmatic of the movement have avoided open confrontation.
However, the divisions deepened in March, on the eve of the new school year, when Akhunzada issued a last-minute decision that the girls could not go to school after finishing sixth grade. In the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, senior Taliban officials had told reporters that all girls could return to school. Akhunzada claimed that allowing older girls to return to school violated Islamic principles.
A senior Afghan who is in the lead and familiar with his internal quarrels said a senior cabinet minister expressed outrage at Akhunzada’s views at a recent leadership meeting. He spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely.
Torek Farhadi, a former government adviser, said he believes Taliban leaders have chosen not to fight in public because they fear any perception of divisions could undermine their government.
“Leaders are not seen in the light of a number of issues, but everyone knows that if they do not keep it together, everything can be broken,” Farhadi said. “In that case, they could start fighting each other.”
“For this reason, the elders have decided to support each other, even when it comes to unacceptable decisions that are costing them a lot of trouble in Afghanistan and internationally,” Farhadi added.
Some of the most pragmatic leaders seem to be looking for quiet solutions that soften hard-line decrees. Since March, there has been a growing heart, even among the most powerful Taliban leaders, for returning older girls to school and silently ignoring other repressive edicts.
Earlier this month, Sirajuddin’s younger brother Anas Haqqani, who runs the powerful Haqqani network, told a conference in the eastern city of Khost that girls are entitled to education and will soon return to the school, though he did not say. When. He also said that women played a role in building the nation.
“You will receive very good news that will make everyone very happy … this problem will be solved in the coming days,” Haqqani said at the time.
In Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Sunday, women wore the usual conservative Muslim dress. Most wore a traditional hijab, which consisted of a headscarf and a long tunic or coat, but few covered their faces, as the Taliban leader said the day before. Those wearing a burqa, a head-to-toe piece 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 the hijab, this is the Taliban who want to make all women disappear,” said Shabana, who wore shiny gold bracelets under the her flowing black coat, her hair hidden behind a black handkerchief with sequins. “It’s the Taliban who want to make us invisible.”
Arooza said Taliban rulers are urging Afghans to leave their country. “Why should I stay here if they don’t want to give us our human rights? We are human, “he said.
Several women stopped to talk. They all challenged the last edict.
“We don’t want to live in a prison,” said Parveen, who like the other women just wanted to give a name.
“These edicts try to erase a whole genre and a generation of Afghans who grew up dreaming of a better world,” said Obaidullah Baheer, a visiting researcher at New York’s New School and a former professor at the American University in Afghanistan.
“It simply came to our notice then. It also fuels complaints that would eventually lead to a large-scale mobilization against the Taliban, “he said.
After decades of war, Baheer said it would not have taken long for the Taliban to satisfy the Afghans with their government “an opportunity that the Taliban are quickly wasting.”
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