Horrifying tales of Taliban fighters trolling Afghan villages for girls as young as 15 to marry have emerged — even as a spokesman for the group claimed this week it “doesn’t want women to be victims.”
But as they swept through Afghanistan at a shocking pace amid President Biden’s decision to pull out all US forces, the insurgents imposed harsh new restrictions on women, not allowing them to leave the house without male chaperones and forcing them to wear the all-covering burqa, The Wall Street Journal reported.
A senior Taliban figure also ordered that all women over the age of 15 and widows younger than 40 should be married to the insurgent fighters after the group took the Rustaq district of the northern province of Takhar in late June, the report said.
A local man told the Journal that he was then summoned to hand over his 15-year-old daughter, and that he fled to Kabul, the capital, which fell to the Taliban on Sunday.
He was far from the only resident desperately trying to escape the militants — as dread set in that any rights won by Afghan women over the 20 years since the repressive regime was toppled could be reversed.
Diyana Sharifi, a 21-year-old law student, told NBC News she ran away from her hometown Mazar-e-Sharif last week, fearing she would be forced to marry a Taliban fighter.
“It was fear, it was helplessness, it was anger,” Sharifi said, adding that she would rather die than face that fate.
Khaleda Yolchi, 23, said her dad ordered her to bolt from their town of Maymana as he was afraid the militants would take her when they stormed the area last week. She also got engaged in the hope it would protect her from being taken by a fighter, the outlet reported.
“We were so afraid,” she told NBC. “They had guns with them, and their faces were so scary, with long beards and long hair.”
Women also spoke out about being forced from their jobs when the Taliban took Kandahar in early July. Gunmen escorted them home and said male relatives could take their place at the local bank.
“It’s really strange to not be allowed to get to work, but now this is what it is,” Noor Khatera, a 43-year-old woman who worked at the Azizi Bank told Reuters.
Yet, the Taliban is trying to pose as more moderate than their brutal predecessors, and on Tuesday, declared “amnesty” and urged women to join their government.
“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” said Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission. “They should be in the government structure according to Shariah law.”
Samangani’s remarks remained vague as the Taliban are still negotiating with political leaders of the country’s fallen government — and no formal handover deal has been announced.
Lailuma Sadid, a journalist from Brussels Morning Paper and an Afghan native, broke down Tuesday as she begged NATO not to recognize the emirate Islamic Taliban without setting conditions, citing the group’s oppressive treatment of women.
“Twenty years with NATO and the international communities inside Afghanistan and then we are going back again 20 years,” she said.
“I would like to ask how is that possible?”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Sadid at a press conference that it had been an “extremely difficult” decision to end the international organization’s mission in Afghanistan.
“I share your pain. I understand your frustration,” he said, according to Sky News.
“We will continue to hold the new rulers accountable for upholding fundamental human rights, including the rights of women,” Stoltenberg continued. “It is a tragedy what we now see taking place in Afghanistan.”
The US has urged the Taliban to form an “inclusive” government with women in it. A State Department spokesman said the US would recognize a new government as long as it “upholds rights, doesn’t harbor terrorists, and protects the rights of women and girls.”
Experts told the Journal that the open demand for “wives” for its fighters shows the Taliban has grown even more extreme than when it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, and that it has likely been influenced by ISIS, which enforced widespread sexual slavery on women in Iraq and Syria.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said that claims the group was forcing women into marriage were false, and that such actions would be against the rules of Islam and would violate cultural tradition.
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