KABUL, Afghanistan – Aruja was furious and scared while shopping in Kabul’s Macroyan neighborhood on Sunday, keeping her eyes open on patrols for the Taliban.
The math teacher feared her large shawl, wrapped tightly around her head, and light gray coat would not meet the latest decree from the country’s religiously-run Taliban government. After all, there was more to show than his eyes. His face was visible.
Aruja, who asked to be identified by just one name to avoid attracting attention, did not wear the broad burqa preferred by the Taliban, which on Saturday issued a new dress code for women who appear in public. The order states that only the eyes of a woman should be visible.
The decree by Taliban hardline leader Hibaitullah Akhunzada even suggested that women should not leave their homes unless necessary and a series of punishments for male relatives of women who violated the code. Create an outline.
It was a major blow to women’s rights in Afghanistan, which had been living with relative freedom for two decades before the Taliban’s takeover last August – when US and other foreign forces withdrew at the chaotic end of the 20-year war .
The reclusive leader, Akhunzada, rarely leaves southern Kandahar, the traditional stronghold of the Taliban. He favors the hardline elements of the group’s previous time in power in the 1990s, when girls and women were largely barred from school, work and public life.
Like Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, Akhunzada imposes a strict brand of Islam that marries religion with ancient tribal traditions, often blurring the two.
Analysts say that the Akhunzada has adopted tribal village traditions where girls often marry at a young age, and rarely leave their homes, and this is said to be a religious demand.
The Taliban are divided between pragmatists and radicals, as they struggle to transition from an insurgency to a governing body. Meanwhile, his government is grappling with a worsening economic crisis. And the Taliban’s efforts to gain recognition and aid from Western countries have failed, mainly because they have not formed a more representative government, and have restricted the rights of girls and women.
So far, radicals and pragmatists in the movement have avoided open confrontation.
Nevertheless, divisions deepened in March, on the eve of the new school year, when Akhunzada issued a decision at the last minute that girls should not be allowed to attend school after completing sixth grade. In the weeks before the start of the school year, senior Taliban officials told reporters that all girls would be allowed back to school. Akhunzada insisted that allowing older girls to go back to school was a violation of Islamic principles.
A prominent Afghan who meets with the leadership and is familiar with their internal strife said a senior cabinet minister expressed displeasure over Akhunzada’s views at a recent leadership meeting. He spoke openly on the condition of anonymity.
Torek Farhadi, a former government adviser, said he believes Taliban leaders have opted not to participate publicly because they fear any notion of division could undermine their regime.
“Leadership doesn’t oversee many matters, but they all know that if they don’t put it together, everything can go awry,” Farhadi said. “In such a situation, they may start conflicts with each other.”
“For this reason, elders have decided to stick with each other, including non-agreed decisions, which cost them a lot of uproar in Afghanistan and internationally,” Farhadi said. said.
Some of the more pragmatic leaders are looking for cool workarounds that will soften the harsh rules. Since March, there has been a growing chorus among even the most powerful leaders of the Taliban, silently ignoring other repressive orders, to return older girls to school.
Earlier this month, Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Sirajuddin, the head of the powerful Haqqani network, told a conference in the eastern city of Khost that girls deserve an education and would return to school soon – although he did not say so. when. He said that women have a role in nation building.
Haqqani said at the time, “You will get great news that will make everyone very happy … This problem will be solved in the coming days.”
Women wear traditional conservative Muslim dress on Sunday in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Most wore a traditional hijab, which consisted of a headscarf and long robe or coat, but some covered their faces, as directed by the Taliban leader the day before. Burqa-wearers, a head-to-toe cloth that covered the face and hid the eyes behind a net, were in the minority.
“Women in Afghanistan wear hijabs, and many wear burqas, but it’s not about the hijab, it’s about the Taliban who want to make all women disappear,” said Shabana, who wore her flowing black coat. She wore shiny gold bangles underneath. Hair hidden behind a black head scarf with sequins. “It’s about the Taliban who want to make us invisible.”
Aruja said the Taliban rulers are pushing Afghans to leave the country. “If they don’t want to give us our human rights why should I stay here? We are humans,” she said.
Many women stopped talking. All of them challenged the latest order.
“We don’t want to be in jail,” said Parveen, who, like the other women, wanted to give only one name.
“These orders seek to eradicate the entire gender and generation of Afghans who grew up dreaming of a better world,” said Obaidullah Bahir, a visiting scholar at the New School in New York and a former lecturer at American University in Afghanistan.
“It prompts families to leave the country anyway. It also fuels grievances that will eventually spill over into mass mobilizations against the Taliban,” he said.
After decades of war, Bahir said it would not take too long on the Taliban’s part to satisfy Afghans with their rule “an opportunity that the Taliban are increasingly wasting.”