Women under threat – 04 Apr 2023

The Taliban’s campaign against women continues in Afghanistan. On Monday, reports came in that a team from the Afghan Ministry of Culture and Information and the controversial Vice and Virtue Directorate visited a radio station run by women in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan, and shut it down. The station, which was opened ten years ago, is run by eight persons, six of whom are women. The accusation made against the radio station by the Directorate of Vice and Virtue and the minister for culture and information is that it played music during the month of Ramazan. This is denied by the head of the radio station, who says that no music was played at any time and the grounds given were only a pretext to close down the station as one part of the Taliban’s persecution of Afghan women. While there is no official ban on women working in the media, there has of late been a purge of women in the media and in other fields under the Taliban. Some have received threats, others have chosen to leave the country, most likely because they felt they had no choice. Afghan sports women too, including members of the national football team, fled the country almost immediately after the Taliban seized power following the US withdrawal from the country last year. There is already a ban on education for girls beyond grade six.

The radio station run by women was the only one of its kind in Afghanistan and indeed in much of the region. As such, its closure is significant. It is also a sign that the Afghan Taliban have no intention of stopping their regressive policies against women in all fields, and are attempting what is virtually a ban on their appearances in public spaces – including clamping down on literally their voices too. This is much the same pattern as was seen during the previous Taliban rule which ended in 2001 when the US invaded the country. Despite a foreign invasion, progress had been made by women in various fields over the last 20 years after the Taliban were driven out of power. It now seems that progress is to be taken away and women forced to return to the all-encompassing dress codes that had been imposed on them before. Worst still, this is coupled with a bar on their travel alone and on activity in other fields. There is now almost no possibility of an Afghan girl or woman entering a sporting contest and taking part in many other public events. We do not know how long it will take for the country, and its women, to recover.

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