In the days since the Taliban swept into control of Afghanistan, their leaders have insisted that the treatment of women will improve and that the government will be run differently this time.
They state that women will be allowed to work and girls will be free to attend school. All of these changes will align, they say, with the confines of the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam.
When the Taliban were previously in power, Afghan women could not leave their homes except under narrow, specifically defined conditions.
Women or girls who did risked being tortured, beaten, or executed.
Early signs from the new government have not been promising. The Taliban issued a statement through a spokesperson stating that women should stay home for now because their fighters have not been trained yet “not to hurt them.”
Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman, claimed it is a “temporary” policy meant to “protect” women until the Taliban can ensure their safety.
“We are worried our forces who are new and have not been yet trained very well may mistreat women,” said Mujahid.
“We don’t want our forces, God forbid, to harm or harass women.” He continued saying that women should stay home “until we have a new procedure.”
Ahmadullah Waseq, deputy of the Taliban’s cultural affairs committee, told the New York Times that the Taliban has “no problem with working women” as long they wore hijabs.
“For now, we are asking them to stay home until the situation gets normal. Now it is a military situation.”
According to Heather Barr, the associate director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, the restrictions that are said to be “temporary” and out of necessity are not new to women in Afghanistan. The Taliban made similar statements and claimed the last time they controlled the country.
During the last Taliban rule, from 1996-2001, women were forbidden to work outside the home or leave the house without a male guardian escorting them. They were not allowed to attend school and were publicly flogged if they were found to have violated Taliban morality rules, including the one that requires they are fully covered.