Taliban militants, although they have called for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) to tone down their extreme views and agenda, are looking to create a council that could potentially be a mere passing of the baton of women’s oppression in Iraq . Although they have been disbanded and removed from power in Afghanistan, they are re-emerging in the region and are gaining ground in Pakistan once again. This terror group wielded power and influence in Afghanistan in the first decade of the 21st century, and may seize control of the country once again.
The Taliban hold women in no regard, viewing them as temptations that are held accountable for the Taliban rule, and denying women education and social freedoms while advocating child marriage. Young brides often end up in hospitals after their wedding night, traumatized and injured by their new husbands. These young brides have no authority in the families they marry into, often being mistreated by family members and their new husbands, and they have no real protections in court, with women’s’ testimonies being regarded as having half the importance of the man.
During Taliban rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, women had to go in public completely covered. The Taliban were even going as far as to demand women to cover their eyes. Women in professional positions lost their livelihoods, and had to beg for money or go into prostitution, which could have potentially gotten them executed during this time. Although Afghanistan’s new government has given women more political power and positions in government.
President Karzai, who is often viewed as a political puppet of the U.S., signed a law in 2009 which affects Shi’a women in the nation negatively. The law legalized marital rape, denied women of the right to leave their homes unless their reasons are considered “legitimate”, and stripped women of custodial rights to their children if they get a divorce. Although Shi’a women are less than 20% of the population, this law shows how easily women’s rights can be taken away. Women are allowed to work, although they are passed over for employment of men. The legal age of marriage for women has been raised by only a year, from 16 to 17, yet many men simply forgo a licensed marriage and marry young girls anyway. The laws are symbolic only, with no real enforcement, and with the rise of ISIS, Taliban militants could potentially pass the baton of religious rule and continued discrimination and oppression of women, not just in Afghanistan, but in Iraq, Syria and neighboring countries that ISIS is planning to occupy. This is happening due to the Taliban’s call to create a Jihadist council, and as ISIS is a radical remnant of Taliban affiliate al-Qaeda, there will be a melding of policies and mandates that could potentially wipe out even more, if not all rights for women.
Women who run away from home are imprisoned. Women who are simply accused of immorality are imprisoned or killed and with U.S. troop pullout scheduled for this year, women are in jeopardy of once again losing what little rights that they have. Humanitarian organizations have stepped in and tried to alleviate the plight of women in Afghanistan, but the U.S. government’s apathy toward women’s rights has many of these organizations deeply concerned about the fallout from this removal. Afghanistan also has peace negotiations with the Taliban in the works, where women may be used as a bargaining chip once again.
In Iraq, ISIS is gaining ground quickly, and Iraq’s Ministry of Rights reports rising violations and abuse toward women by ISIS, ranging from murder to kidnapping and rape. Mosul, which is under ISIS’s control, is experiencing bans of women’s stores selling modern clothing, and closing of hair salons, due to religious reasons. Leaflets have been disseminated that encourage sex with ISIS militants, and an Islamic cleric issued a religious order mandating rape and forced marriage of women to the militants. ISIS also has been raping women in front of their husbands, as well as raping children in front of their parents. Taliban members, although they have issued a call for more integrity and morality in ISIS, still have an agenda. Hopefully, this agenda will bring some degree of peace and safety to ISIS, instead of passing the baton of oppression toward women in Iraq.
By Adrianne Hill