Afghanistan will be ruled according to Sharia laws, there will be “no democratic system at all”, as a Taliban commander stated. This is like a nightmare for the thousands of people living in Afghanistan. A nightmare that you cannot wake up from, because, unfortunately, it is the reality. The Taliban ruling had stopped in 2001, when the United States had attacked the country and removed the Afghan government that was protecting Osama Bin Laden, found guilty of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
After 20 years, it is a terrifying déjà-vu for the whole population, but in particular for women. A Taliban spokesman guaranteed their rights will be respected within the framework of Islamic law. No words were spent regarding the dress-code.
Considering this, here comes the question: what do the Taliban mean when they say they will refer to Sharia laws? Does the lack of democracy ensure there will be no violation of women’s rights?
Sharia is the totality of Islamic law. Quran is the first source of law, upon which all is built, considered as the holy book of Islam, and which often requires interpretation. Sunna of the Prophet is the second source of law, focused on the explanations and conduct of the Prophet. It is composed of hadith that are sahih – historically accurate.
Despite this, the interpretation of Sharia laws that the Taliban are using is a very strict one. It is so strict that for years, before the US intervention, women were forced to conduct a life that was mainly about respecting the Taliban rules. They could go out only if accompanied by a male person: even a child was considered more valuable than his own mother. Women were not allowed to have an education, they could just attend primary school, and they were not allowed to work. Staying at home and taking care of the family was their main and sole duty.
Paradoxically, despite living a very restrictive life, they could sin: in case of adultery, they would be harshly punished, even with death. The windows of the houses were obscured so that people could not see inside. Under the Taliban government, women were considered just a shadow, servants of their husbands. They were voiceless and left apart in a society that cannot even see their faces, because of the burqa. Women were forbidden to have a public face, to make an impact in society. They were lost in the shadows, in a thunderous silence, since music and any kind of entertainment were forbidden. Maybe their sin was just to be born female in Afghanistan, under that conservative regime.
However, for the girls born after 2001, the reality depicted above is unknown, they did not have to hide their passions, their job or their books. Until now.
Taliban want the world to believe they have changed since they last ruled Afghanistan, that history does not repeat itself. However, it is hard to trust them, for the women who had been through the acts of violence of the previous Taliban government. “Living under the rule of the Taliban regime is like being in an abusive relationship.” These are the words of an Afghan woman interviewed by BBC. It is not by chance the interviewee did not choose to say her name; this silence speaks more than words. No matter if the Taliban let a woman interview them on a TV program, no matter their promises, the truth is so much bitter. They are under the international spotlight, the whole world is watching them. Moreover, we live in an era where human rights and gender equality are crucial issues for society. Taliban have their hands tied. Despite this, this international pressure will not last long: as time passes, the curtain will fall, and a gap will be created between the promises made and the restrictions which will be imposed.
After all, the Taliban government has recently forbidden music. This innocuous detail let the horrific dance begin.
Zahra Nader, Amie Ferris-Rotman. What Afghanistan’s Women Stand To Lose. Time. 20th August 2021. https://time.com/6091712/aghanistan-women-loss/
Rozina Sini. A woman’s story of life under the Taliban in 1999. BBC News. 24th August 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-58250780
Jim Waterson. Female presenter interviews Taliban spokesman on Afghanistan television. The Guardian. 17th August 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/17/female-presenter-interviews-taliban-spokesman-on-afghanistan-television
Soutik Biswas. A woman tries to flee the Taliban: ‘We lost everything again’. BBC News. 27th August 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-58278210