Posted on October 3, 2021:
A year before Kabul and Afghanistan were overrun by the Taliban, sections of the Western media were trying to portray the Taliban as a reformed force.
The New York Times even ran an op-ed by Anas Haqqani, and in this way gave the Taliban a platform for their recognition as Taliban 2.0. More importantly, an impression was created that, once the United States and NATO forces withdrew and the Ashraf Ghani administration reached a peace deal with the Taliban, the latter would be committed to women’s rights, human rights, freedom of expression, etc.
As soon as the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15, the worst fears and suspicions proved true.
In fact, the Taliban have become violent and aggressive with each passing day as they consolidate their grip over Afghanistan. They are reintroducing their strict religious rules of the 1996–2001 period. The notion of Taliban 2.0 has evaporated into thin air within one and half months.
The “changed” Taliban banned secondary education for girls, higher education for women university students and women teachers, citing security reasons, while co-education, protests and women’s sports have been banned. Likewise, shelter homes for abused women are vanishing, women are not allowed to return to their jobs, freedom of media has been curtailed, and the list goes on.
Recently, a Talib, Fazalhaq Samadi, stated in a Tolo TV round table that there are a special set of conditions for women: they cannot wear attractive and colourful clothes, they cannot apply perfume when leaving the house, they cannot wear high heels, because all that incites the men.
Responding to Samadi’s statement, an Afghan on Twitter, Zaher Omar, stated: “The whole world must know what’s going on in Afghanistan. This is Taliban 2.0. Girls don’t even have the right to choose their shoes. Still, do you think the Taliban have changed? Wake up please.”
Likewise, another user, Tamina, tweeted: “Their way of rationalizing the irrational and how they all follow each other in their delusional behaviours is mind blowing.”
Monica Afghan commented on her Facebook wall: “May God destroy you with your stupid thoughts. The world has reached Mars and are talking about technology and look at him.”
Asenat Asey commented under a post related to this viral clip: “I have prepared a red dress for my first day of university, I will wear high heels and wear perfume, though I have never wore such dresses but I want to tell this Mullah that whatever you emphasize on, the opposite will happen. Shame on your mentality!”
Nilofar (not their real name), a resident of Kabul, told me: “The reason that the Taliban are only focusing on women is because they are fundamentally against women." Abdul Wahab (not their real name), another resident of Kabul, told me: “These are the changed Taliban that the Doha agreement imposed on Afghans. I am sure in the next couple of months they will become even more brutal and inhumane."
Afghans did not merely protest, Samadi’s statement also triggered their humour. A satirical tweet that attracted considerable attention stated in Persian: “Taliban are banning Afghan nan and grill kebab too because their smell is inciteful for the poor."
The social media outrage forced the Taliban to respond to this negative PR, and Samadi has now posted a video stating that he does not represent the Islamic Emirate and that these were his personal views.
The Taliban's prime aim is to target Afghan women; they are introducing harsh rules for women, they want to make them invisible, decolourise them. They are punishing women socially, educationally and economically, but Afghan women are fighting fiercely against these medieval forces and will not bow to their inhumane conditions.
[Jeddojehad (Struggle), a left-wing, online Urdu-language daily in Pakistan, is posting reports from Kabul. Filed by Yasmeen Afghan (not the author's real name), these reports depict the picture from inside Kabul and cover what is often ignored in the mainstream media. For a wider circulation, these reports are translated to English.]