‘Now I Often Sit in a Burqa, Hiding my Face, and Begging’ — A Grim Glimpse Into Taliban Rule Commentary
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‘Now I Often Sit in a Burqa, Hiding my Face, and Begging’ — A Grim Glimpse Into Taliban Rule

Nearly three years after the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan, the regime’s oppressive actions against women continue unabated. In a recent broadcast reminiscent of ISIS tactics, the Taliban’s leader communicated a chilling message: a declaration of war against women’s rights and human dignity, effectively shattering any remaining hopes for Afghan women’s liberation under their rule.

I recently interviewed a woman named Farkhonda, whose story exemplifies the brutality of the everyday lives of many Afghan women. At 20, her father forced her to marry a much older married man who already had several children. Her family was so poor they felt they had no choice but to accept the proposal, and Farkhonda was left without a say in the matter.

Despite these challenges, Farkhonda pursued an education, earning a university degree and a position as a local teacher, where she advocated for women’s rights.

The irony was that at home, she faced consistent violence from her husband and other male relatives.

In the year leading up to the Taliban’s rise, both of Farkhonda’s parents died, and her husband was murdered. Her primary abuser was gone, but now she found herself in the role of head of household, scrambling to support her young son. Shortly thereafter, her brother-in-law demanded her hand in marriage — following an old Afghan tradition whereby a widow would marry her deceased spouse’s brother.

Haunted by years of abuse already sustained with this family, Farkhonda repeatedly resisted his demands.

As a widow without a male guardian, Farkhonda struggled to assert her rights, but fought hard, living in particular fear of losing her son to her deceased husband’s family. To protect her little family, Farkhonda sought and received support from a human rights organization.

But then the Taliban regained power, and abruptly set about repealing women’s rights. Under this new regime, her brother-in-law was emboldened, and the organization that had been supporting her buckled.

Her brother-in-law’s threats grew increasingly menacing. “Every day he would call and tell me he would rape me, torture me, kill me — that he could do this whenever he wanted,” she told me.

She tried to flee and start a new life beyond the reach of the family that had brought her so much suffering, but her brother-in-law found her, beat her violently, and took her son from her.

She hopes to regain custody of her son, but as a woman under the Taliban, she lacks so many of the rights required to do so. And given that she can’t legally hold meaningful employment, she knows if she does get her son back, supporting him will be a struggle.

Under the current circumstances, she struggles to support herself. “I used to clean houses, but there’s less and less of that work available, so now I often sit in a burqa, hiding my face, and begging,” she said.

For now, she struggles to sleep, worrying about her son, and fearing another violent encounter with her brother-in-law.

The international community’s hesitance to intervene or clearly oppose the Taliban’s regime, despite such blatant human rights abuses, raises critical questions about its commitment to protecting Farkhonda and the countless other vulnerable Afghan women facing similar atrocities.

The clarity of the Taliban leader’s message leaves little room for ambiguity: under Taliban rule, women like Farkhonda have no hope for justice or peace. Their plight underlines an urgent need for international action to address these dire human rights abuses.

*The author is an Afghan legal scholar whose identity cannot be revealed due to security threats. 

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