Law students and lawyers in and around Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. Here, Marwa Ghyasi, an Afghan law graduate currently attending Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Kazakhstan, shares her views on a strict new Taliban decree issued Saturday requiring Afghan women to wear full hijabs under threat of sanction against themselves or their male “guardians”. For privacy and security reasons, we are withholding our correspondent’s name. The text has only been lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
Sheikh Khalid Hanafi, the well-known Taliban minister, said in a meeting held last Saturday to announce the new order on women’s hijab that the Taliban’s 20-year jihadist struggle was for the rule of the divine system. Therefore they say they have to gradually Islamize society according to their own understanding of Islam, and they have started by imposing restrictions on women, such as banning them from studying, working, traveling, driving, and even going to the market and shopping, which must be done with their Mahram (guardian). The issuance of this new Taliban order imposes the most severe restrictions on Afghan women since the Taliban returned to power. And unfortunately, in the process of so-called Islamization of society, vulnerable women are made victims of irrational policies.
The decree states that it is obligatory for Muslim women to observe the hijab. Women’s clothes should not be too tight to show the woman’s limbs, nor should they be so thin that the woman’s body is visible, and the decree say the Chador (the Taliban’s tribal covering) is a religious hijab and the best type of hijab. In order to prevent sedition and moral corruption, women exposing themselves to non-Mahram must cover their other limbs or any part of their body except the eyes. Over the past 20 years before the return of the Taliban, however, Afghan women have been seen in public and even in the media as observing the traditional hijab and living in a free and humane environment.
The decree states that the importance and benefits of hijab should first be explained to women through the media and forums, and that it should be written on billboards and installed in markets, parks and public places so that women are encouraged to wear hijab.
The Taliban directive states that if women do not observe the hijab, as the first step the house of the woman without the hijab will be identified and her husband will be advised and punished, and in the second step the guardian of the woman without the hijab will be summoned and then in the third step imprisoned for three days. In the fourth step, the guardian of unveiled woman is brought to the court and a “suitable” punishment is determined for him.
By issuing this decree, the Taliban have deprived women of their freedom, independence and humanity. The imposition of such harsh restrictions by the Taliban violates all human rights standards. The Taliban decree states that when women do not observe the hijab, they turn to men for advice, punishment, and this means that the Taliban do not accept women as free and independent human beings. They believe men speak instead of them, and that women should always be subject to men. The truth is that the Taliban have taken a nation of almost 40 million people captive and are doing whatever they want to oppress them.
The world and the international community and human rights institutions should not leave Afghan women alone in this critical situation. In Islam and the Qur’an, there is no definite ruling on hijab that it is obligatory, and even this issue is not jurisprudential and legal, but subject to moral, customary and cultural rules.
Dressing is one of the most private matters of a society. Determining the type of clothing for women in a society is greatest insult to the rights of women in that society. The hijab that the Taliban want is the hijab of the first period of their government (1996-2001). Unfortunately, we are going back to the Middle Ages. A dark period for Afghan women is beginning again. Under the pretexts they offer, the Taliban want to stop women’s civil struggles, deprive them of their right to work, study and other social activities in order to make them housewives. Bertrand Russell once said that slavery means that someone else has decided how free you are. The women of Afghanistan are going straight into slavery. A captive mother will never be able to raise a free generation.