In the wake of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan nearly two years ago, women in the country continue to resist stringent orders aimed at limiting their rights. Reports from motorized rickshaw drivers like Fereydun in Herat reveal the disturbing consequences of defying the Taliban's decrees, as he faces beatings and vehicle confiscation for carrying women without full-body coverings, according to DW.
The Taliban, since their return to power in August 2021, pledged to respect women's rights but have since implemented policies leading to the expulsion of women from numerous professions and educational institutions. In a recent decree issued in May 2022, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada mandated that women hide their faces completely in public, citing tradition and respect.
The Taliban Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice has deployed morality police across major cities, enforcing strict rules on women's attire. Drivers of taxis, rickshaws, and other passenger vehicles are now prohibited from transporting women without a hijab inside cities. Additionally, women must be accompanied by a man when traveling, and no man is allowed to sit next to them during their journey.
However, the definition of a "full Islamic hijab" remains ambiguous, leaving women like Dina from Herat vulnerable to harassment and insults for wearing a long coat and headscarf instead of a full body covering. Mirza, a cab driver from Kabul, corroborated the enforcement of these rules, fearing punishment and vehicle confiscation if he carries women without veils or burqas.
According to Maryam Marof Arwin, founder of a welfare organization for women and children in Afghanistan, the Taliban's recent restrictions aim to push women out of public spaces entirely, echoing policies implemented during their previous rule from 1996 to 2001. Back then, women were forced to wear burqas in public, had to be accompanied by a male escort when leaving the house, and were denied access to male doctors.
The Taliban's actions have already resulted in female medical students being barred from sitting their final exams, with universities banning women's attendance in December 2022.
Amidst these challenges, women in Afghanistan urge the international community for support and solidarity. They stress the importance of not remaining passive spectators while their fundamental rights are at stake, emphasizing the need for global backing in their struggle against oppressive restrictions and for the preservation of women's rights in the country.