I can’t expect the Taliban to change

The restrictions are vague and subject to various interpretations, which would give the Taliban ample opportunity to crack down on anyone

It increasingly appears that the second round of the ruling Taliban is heading towards a clone of the first (1996-2001). Women had been denied all of their basic human rights – to work, to education and even to health care, during the Taliban’s previous tenure. Nor could they appear in public without the accompaniment of a “close” male relative – husband, father, son or brother – and wrapped head to toe in a burqa. Men were deprived of all sources of entertainment and amusement and imprisoned in a life full of taboos. A savage criminal justice system was in place with public executions and penalties like amputation for theft.

Indications that this will also be the case this time around are gradually appearing as restrictions are imposed. The latest, according to AFP and the BBC, are the new “religious directives” issued by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. These are directing Afghan television channels to, among other things, stop broadcasting plays and soap operas featuring women actresses. Women journalists and presenters have been ordered to wear the Islamic hijab on screen. Films showing Prophet Mohammad or other venerated figures should not be shown, and films should not be viewed as contrary to the principles of Sharia – or Islamic law – and Afghan values. Comedy and entertainment programs that insult religion or may be considered offensive to Afghans are also prohibited.

The restrictions are loosely worded and subject to various interpretations, which would give Taliban law enforcement numerous opportunities to crack down on anyone they consider to be an offender. This has already happened with musicians. While, unlike in the early Taliban rounds, music was not banned, musicians are harassed. Their establishments are raided and instruments broken. They live in fear. Many of them are trying to leave the country. There is a growing feeling that music is on the verge of disappearing from the lives of Afghans. It would be a tragedy if that happened. Afghanistan has a vibrant musical tradition, influenced by classical Indian and Iranian music. In addition, he had a flourishing pop music scenario marked by the synchronization of electronic instrumental and dance rhythms with more traditional rhythms.

The justice system also appears poised to revert to what it was under the Taliban’s first innings. On September 25, 2021, the bodies of four men, alleged kidnappers killed in a shootout with police officers, were hanged in public places in several places in the city of Herat to convey, in the words of the vice-governor of the province, Mawlawi Shir Ahmad Mujahir, the “message” that the kidnappers would not be tolerated. That this was not an aberration is clear from the fact that it happened just after Mullah Noroddin Turabi, one of the founders of the Taliban and the head of the dreaded Department for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, who had savagely imposed the draconian rules and laws that prevailed under the previous Taliban rule, told the PA’s Kathy Gannon in an interview that the punishments administered then would return, although these could not be performed in public. “Cutting off your hands is very necessary for safety,” he said, adding that it had a deterrent effect.

The media are under great pressure. The 11-point guidelines announced by Qari Muhmmad Yusuf Ahmed, Acting Director of the Government’s Media and Information Center, on September 19, 2021, include guidelines against publishing material in conflict with Islam or insulting public figures national governments and instruct journalists to produce reports. in coordination with the government media office. The announcement, a requiem for media freedom, comes following sustained attacks on journalists and other forms of pressure against them, which have driven many people into hiding and effectively shut down 153 media outlets since. the coming to power of the Taliban.

The fate of women, it seems increasingly, could be the same as under the first Taliban regime. Neither were any of them included in the first group of 33 ministers in the interim government announced on September 7, 2021; nor in the second of 44, announced on September 21, 2021. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid raised the possibility of women being included later, but suggested no time frame. The Taliban’s record during their current incarnation in power does not leave much hope, the order not to broadcast IPL matches due to the presence of women in the audience, the order of the mayor of Kabul regarding women – except those whose jobs could not be done by men – staying at home, reopening secondary schools with boys and not girls, the order of the vice-chancellor of the ‘Kabul University named by the Taliban barring women from entering campus until “a true Islamic environment is provided because” are examples that reflect an attitude towards women that does not bode well for the future of their rights under the current exemption.

Nothing, however, makes the attitude of the Taliban Government towards women more worrying than the closure of the Ministry of the Status of Women and the reincarnation of the Ministry of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, in the building industry. that he occupied.

(The author is consulting publisher, The Pioneer. Opinions expressed are personal.)

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