By: Ellyas Ahmadi
The Taliban have issued nearly forty decrees and orders related to controlling the behaviour and movement of women in the 15 months since they took power.
Despite the Taliban’s apparent belief they ensure women live a more protected life, women are being killed at an alarming rate and restrictions on their movements and access are extreme.
In the past 15 months, more than 320 women and children have been killed in violent acts. This includes domestic violence, Taliban shooting, death by stoning, suicides, explosions, suicide bombings, honor killings, or the explosion of remnants of war.
The total number is derived from statistics calculated by Rukhshana Media from reports in several local and foreign media outlets, including archives of BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al-Arabica, daily news, Hasht-e- Sobh, and Nimrokh weekly online newspapers.
Of these 320, at least 75 of these deaths have been attributed to Taliban shootings, murders and honor killings.
A significant portion of the total – or 130 women and children who died – have died in Taliban attacks on an area or killed by members of the group, including suicide attacks, and explosions.
Sixty of the cases of women and children killed are still unresolved or not clarified in the media reports. While in more than 20 cases, domestic violence has been said to be the cause of the death.
In the latest case of domestic violence on Wednesday November 23, a man killed his wife with a knife in Sar-e-pol province. The woman was killed because she was talking on the phone with someone.
Other horrendous instances include a Taliban demining employee killing his wife by exploding a mine on her stomach on October 27 in Parwan’s Siah Gerd district. And more recently on November 6, a woman was killed by her uncle, the head of Taliban morality police in Sholgara district of Balkh Province, for running away from her husband.
The restriction of women
The various orders and decrees of the Taliban have been implemented haphazardly, some are in writing, some are communicated orally, and all are interpreted depending on who is in charge.
Most of the decrees focus on women’s behaviour and public life, such as what women should wear in public and where they can go.
The decrees are generally delivered in such a way that claims to be according to Islamic law, or in a way that draws less media attention or foreign interference from the international community. For the banning of girls’ high schools, for example, the Taliban say they are working on opening the schools. It is a trick to detract attention from the matter.
The Taliban announced a decree in April of current year to make the hijab mandatory. On the day this decree was announced, the Taliban advised that a hijab that covers a woman’s face, such as a burqa or niqab, was more wholly Islamic. If a women cannot wear such a garment, it is better she remains at home.
The Taliban have also made hijab mandatory for children in some cases. On the first week of June 2022, the Taliban local government in Ghazni province ordered that the female students of the fourth to sixth grade also observe the hijab.
Similarly, related to the hijab, the Taliban have implemented decrees in Kabul and several provinces, according to which the sale of goods to women in markets is prohibited and women’s photos must be removed from advertising billboards and hair salons.
On 21 November 2021, an eight-point order sent to the media imposed restrictions on presenters and also banned the broadcasting of dramas with female actors.
Decrees restricting women’s education
In the first weeks after taking power, the Taliban closed girls schools and ordered all universities to apply gender segregation in classrooms. However, with no girls above sixth grade allowed to attend school, they have effectively banned girls from higher education in a matter of time as well.
Furthermore, for girls who did manage to study for the university entrance exam, the Taliban has banned them from studying fields such as journalism, veterinary medicine, engineering, economics, and mining.
Decrees restricting women’s travel
On February 27, the Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid announced new restrictions against women during a news conference, banning women from travelling abroad without a male companion.
Five days later, the Taliban’s Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice also announced a ban on women’s domestic travel. The ministry said that women without a male chaperone are not allowed to travel more than 72 kilometers inside the country.
In April, Inamullah Samangani, a Taliban spokesperson, announced that the Independent Human Rights Commission and several other departments that protected women’s rights under the previous government have been abolished.
The Taliban had already dissolved the Ministry of Women’s Affairs after the first month of their rule and instead used the offices to activate the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Most of the orders and decrees restricting women have been issued by this same ministry.
Orders removing women from public places
The Taliban has implemented orders and decrees restricting women’s work, access to justice, government services and driving licenses.
“In Herat, women are prohibited from learning to drive, accessing the Taliban court in complaints against their husbands, and buying and selling from shops depending on what they are wearing.”
This month, the Taliban closed women’s public baths and gyms in the cities of Kabul and Herat.
Arrests of women by the Taliban
Many of the women who have been arrested and imprisoned in the past 15 months were demonstrating for their rights to education. The fate of at least five women activists who were detained by Taliban remains unknown.
While many of the arrests have been covered in the media, in the case of these five women, there have been no answers or access to families nor to journalists.
An unofficial Taliban source has told Rukhshana Media that at least 67 men and women have been imprisoned on the charge of extramarital affair.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has estimated the total number of people imprisoned in Afghanistan across 11 central and provisional prisons controlled by the Taliban is more than 20 thousand people. There is no gender breakdown provided for this number.
Punishment for not adhering to decrees
There have been at least 45 people publicly whipped for not adhering to Taliban decrees. Of these people, 36 of them are women. In two of those cases, two women who were accused of extramarital sexual relations have been ordered to be stoned in Ghor and Badakhshan provinces.
There are numerous cases of women being killed after being accused of having sex outside of a marriage. Many killings may have been approved by the Taliban and some are done without their support.
Reaction from women to decrees
Arifa Fatimi, a women’s rights activist, believes the Taliban has a focus on restricting women, because of backwardness in thinking and because they are using it as a political tool.
Ms. Fatimi, who lives outside Afghanistan, told Rukhshana Media that with each order issued, the Taliban claims to be independent and show off their power to the world, but on the other hand, they engage in political blackmail and try to use women’s rights as leverage. According to her, the Taliban have taken women hostage in their political relations.
The activist believes that the Taliban will continue to find more ways to restrict women even further and will even begin to issue orders on women in their own homes.
Some restrictions may already in motion. Rukhshana Media recently learned that there are plans to try to stop women from attending university. While in Uruzgan, the local Taliban has banned the sale of SIM cards to women. In a written order obtained by Rukhshana Media, says, “All the customer service centers of telecommunication companies in Uruzgan province are seriously instructed that no telecommunications center has the right to sell SIM cards to women, until they create a special SIM cards sale section for women, with all women employees.”