2021-09-17 22:21:47 Taliban Seize Women’s Ministry Building for Use by Religious Police

Taliban Seize Women’s Ministry Building for Use by Religious Police

KABUL, AFRICAN REPUBLIC — When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan two decades ago, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs building was converted into offices for the religious morality police, who were once feared in Afghanistan for their suppression of women and brutal enforcement of the militant government’s interpretation of Shariah law.

The conversion of the building in Kabul, the country’s capital, suggested at least a symbolic slapping down of a ministry that had come to symbolize the ascension of women in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s ouster from power in 2001.

According to a video posted by Reuters, women employed by the ministry were protesting outside the building because the Taliban had refused to allow them to enter and had told them to return home.

It is unclear whether the Taliban, who reclaimed power last month after the US-backed government collapsed, abolished the women’s ministry. However, there was no appointment to oversee women’s affairs when the Taliban announced their acting cabinet members for the new government earlier this month.

In another sign of the Taliban’s renewed gender discrimination, the Education Ministry ordered male teachers back to work and announced that secondary school classes for boys would resume on Saturday. There was no mention of any females.

The new occupant of the women’s ministry building, the Ministry of Invitation, Guidance, Promotion of Virtue, and Prevention of Vice, appears to be nothing more than a slightly rebranded name for the notorious enforcer of Taliban standards of behavior that turned the group into a global pariah in the 1990s.

The ministry’s police officers gained a reputation for beating or lashing women who ventured outside their homes without a full body covering and male escort. They forbade girls from continuing their education after the primary grades and forbade women from seeking employment. For adultery, unmarried couples faced death by stoning.

While Taliban leaders have acknowledged that Afghanistan has evolved after two decades of American-led occupation, they have also left women fearful of the future. The new Taliban government has appointed no women to positions of authority, and it has taken steps to separate men and women in public spaces.

Earlier this week, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, the minister of higher education, stated that women could continue to study in universities and postgraduate programs, but only in gender-segregated classrooms wearing appropriate Islamic attire.

The former women’s ministry building is located in Kabul’s liberal quarter, which is dotted with coffee shops and a popular Turkish-run mall that houses clothing outlets, a knockoff Apple store, and restaurants ranging from fast food chains to a high-end steak house.

As Taliban security guards keep watch, a white Taliban flag waves above the building compound’s armored gate, adorned with a sign for the ministry that is its new occupant.

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What exactly are the Taliban? The Taliban arose in 1994, in the midst of the upheaval that followed the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. To enforce their rules, they used brutal public punishments such as floggings, amputations, and mass executions. Here’s more on their history and record as rulers.

What are the Taliban’s top leaders’ names? These are the Taliban’s top leaders, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in prison, and avoiding American drones. Little is known about them or their plans for governance, including whether or not they will be as tolerant as they claim. According to one spokesman, the group wanted to forget its past, but there would be some constraints.

The blast walls that surround the compound are still adorned with murals and signs depicting the work of the women’s ministry, but some of the women’s faces have been desecrated, a type of vandalism that has been seen elsewhere in Afghanistan since the Taliban reclaimed power.

One sign reads, “Supporting women who have been the victims of violence is our human duty,” and depicts a woman with a black eye. Another is from the United States Agency for International Development, which was a major source of aid to Afghanistan, and reads, “Keep your city green and clean.”

Even critics of America’s long-term presence in Afghanistan have acknowledged the progress made by Afghan women over the last two decades. Women’s health, literacy rates, and employment all increased under the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Women who had been abused were given assistance and shelter. Women gained access to the legislature and other positions of power.

The changing composition of the labor force was a telling indicator of the gains. According to a World Bank study, women made up 22% of the labor force in 2019, up from 15% in 2009. A poll conducted by the Asia Foundation two years ago revealed growing public support for women in the workplace, with 76 percent of Afghans supporting women’s right to work outside the home.

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Taliban Seize Women’s Ministry Building for Use by Religious Police