Young women raised without the Taliban are afraid of their return

Kabul, Afghanistan (AP) — In Sadat’s beauty salon in the capital of Afghanistan, Sultana Karimi leans on customers enthusiastically and shapes their eyebrows with great care. Makeup and hair styling is a 24-year-old passion, and she discovered it here with new confidence in the salon.

Other young women working or apprentices with her in the salon never experienced Taliban domination over Afghanistan.

However, even peacefully as part of the new administration, I am worried that if the hardliners regain power, their dreams will end.

“The return of the Taliban will transform and ruin society,” Karimi said. “Women are sent to hideouts and forced to wear burqas to leave the house.”

She wore a bright yellow blouse that hung from her shoulders during work. This is a little bold style even in every women’s space in the salon. Under the Taliban, which ruled until the 2001 US-led aggression, that would have been completely out of the question. In fact, the Taliban generally banned hairdressers. This is part of a tough ideology that is notorious for hitting women and girls the most, such as banning education, labor rights, and even the right to go out of the house without male relatives.

Women’s rights activist Mahbouba Seraj has promised that the U.S. military will leave Afghanistan altogether by September 11, and women will closely watch the stagnant peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government on the post-withdrawal future. There is.

The United States is calling for a shared power government, including the Taliban. Seraji said she wanted a written guarantee from the Taliban that women would not reverse the interests she had made in the last two decades, and that the international community would like to continue the rebellion against that pledge.

“I’m not dissatisfied with the Americans leaving … it’s time for the Americans to go home,” said Seraji, secretary-general of Afghanistan’s Women’s Skills Development.

But she sent a message to the United States and NATO. “We continue to scream, do at least with the Taliban for God, and take some guarantee from them … the mechanism introduced.” It guarantees women’s rights.

Last week, the Taliban outlined in a statement the type of government they wanted.

It promised that women could “serve society in the areas of education, business, health and society while maintaining the right Islamic hijab.” It promised that girls have the right to choose their husbands, which are considered very unacceptable in many traditional tribal homes in Afghanistan where their husbands are chosen by their parents.

However, the statement provided little detail and did not guarantee that women had the freedom to participate in politics or move without male relatives.

Many are worried that the vague terms used in the Taliban’s promises, such as the “right hijab” and the guarantee of rights “provided under Islamic law,” provide a large margin for imposing a hard-line interpretation. doing.

At the beauty salon, owner Sadat told refugee parents how they were born in Iran. She was forbidden to run a business there, so she returned to her hometown, where she had never seen her start a salon 10 years ago.

She asked her not to be identified by her full name, fearing that attention could target her. She became more cautious last year due to increased violence and random bombing in Kabul. It is the beginning of the turmoil when Americans leave altogether, and many are afraid. She was driving her car. not anymore.

All the women who would work or apprentice in the salon for the future were afraid of the restored Taliban. “Only the Taliban name scares us,” said one.

They leave the game to compromise how much of their rights they can endure. Tamira Pazman said she did not want to “regain old Afghanistan” but wanted peace.

“If we know we will be peaceful, we wear hijab while we work and study,” she said. “But there must be peace.”

In their early twenties, they all grew up in the but significant increase in profits brought about by women since the expulsion of the Taliban. Currently, girls go to school and women go to parliament, government and businesses.

They also know how reversible these benefits are in a highly male-dominated and highly conservative society.

“Afghan women who speak out have been oppressed and ignored,” Karimi said. “The majority of women in Afghanistan will be silent. They know they will receive any support.”

According to indicators held by the Institute for Women’s Peace and Security at Georgetown University, Afghanistan is one of the worst women’s countries in the world after Yemen and Syria.

In most rural areas, life has changed little over the centuries. Women wake up at dawn and do a lot of hard work in their homes and fields. They wear traditional covers that hide them from head to toe. The United Nations estimates that one in three girls was married before the age of 18, and in most cases was forced marriage.

Religious conservatives who rule parliament have blocked the passage of women’s protection bills.

Afghanistan’s broader statistics are also harsh, with 54% of 36 million people living below the poverty level of $ 1.90 a day. Runaway government corruption has swallowed hundreds of millions of dollars, rights workers and observers say.

At a bakery in Kabul’s Cartesaki district, 60-year-old Cobra is crouching in a soot-blackened brick hut in front of a clay oven dug in the floor.

The work is groundbreaking, with smoke filling her lungs and flames burning her. She makes about 100 afghans a day after paying for firewood. That’s $ 1.30. She is the only wage earner for her sick husband and five children.

Her 13-year-old daughter, Zarmeena, works by her side to help burn and clean the soot-covered floor. A woman in the neighborhood brings the dough and bake it, and Zalmina kneads the dough and puts it in the oven. If she accidentally drops her in the fire, they insult her.

Zamina has never been to school because her seven-year-old brother goes to school but her mother needs her at the bakery. “If I could go … I would be a doctor,” she said.

According to the United Nations Fund for Children’s Education, about 3.7 million Afghan children between the ages of 7 and 17 are out of school. Most of them are girls.

Cobra is not looking forward to the Taliban’s return. She is a Hazara, a predominant Shiite minority, faced with violence from the Taliban and other Sunni groups.

But she also opposes the current government, accusing the poor of Afghanistan of “eating all the money” sent to feed their corruption. For months she tried to raise benefits for the poor, worth about $ 77, but every time she was told her name wasn’t on the list.

“Who took my name?” She said. “You need to know someone or contact the government, or you won’t receive anything.”


Associated Press writer Tameem Akhgar contributed to this report.