Fearing the Worst, Whether War or Peace Lies Ahead
Farzana Ahmadi watched as a neighbor in her village in northern Afghanistan was flogged by Taliban fighters last month. The crime: Her face was uncovered.
“Every woman should cover their eyes,” Ahmadi recalled one Taliban member saying.
People silently watched as the beating dragged on.
Fear — even more potent than in years past — is gripping Afghans now that U.S. and NATO forces will depart the country in the coming months. They will leave behind a publicly triumphant Taliban, who many expect will seize more territory and reinstitute many of the same oppressive rules they enforced under their regime in the 1990s.
The New York Times spoke to many Afghan women — members of civil society, politicians, journalists and others — about what comes next in their country, and they all said the same thing: Whatever happens will not bode well for them.
Whether the Taliban take back power by force or through a political agreement with the Afghan government, their influence will almost inevitably grow. In a country in which an end to nearly 40 years of conflict is nowhere in sight, many Afghans talk of an approaching civil war.
“All the time, women are the victims of men’s wars,” said Raihana Azad, a member of Afghanistan’s Parliament. “But they will be the victims of their peace, too.”
When the Taliban governed Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, it barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school, and practically made them prisoners in their own homes.
After the U.S. invasion to topple the Taliban and defeat al-Qaida in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Western rallying cry for bringing women’s rights to the already war-torn country seemed to many a noble undertaking.
Over two decades, the United States spent more than $780 million to promote women’s rights in Afghanistan. The result is a generation who came of age in a period of hope for women’s equality.
Although progress has been uneven, girls and women now make up about 40% of students. They have joined the military and police, held political office, become internationally recognized singers, competed in the Olympics and on robotics teams, climbed mountains and more — all things that were nearly impossible at the turn of the century.
Across the country, schools are now being forced to contemplate whether they will be able to stay open.
文／Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Fatima Faizi and Najim Rahim 譯／莊蕙嘉、核稿／樂慧生