By Sanchita Bhattacharya*
On December 8, 2022, the Taliban publicly flogged nine women and 18 men in a football stadium in Charikar city, the capital of Parwan Province, for the crimes, variously, of robbery, being in premarital relationships and running away from home. Each of them received between 29 and 35 lashes. Local Taliban officials and hundreds of spectators witnessed the scene.
On December 6, 2022, the primary court of Goshta District of Nangarhar Province gave orders to flog a woman, along with two men, on the suspicion of having premarital relationships. Later, Taliban fighters carried out the lashings in front of hundreds of onlookers.
On November 30, 2022, Taliban punished two women and three men by flogging in a field trial in Aybak city, the provincial capital of Samangan Province. In addition to the physical punishment of 50 lashes each, the Taliban insulted the women with invectives such as “prostitute” and “impure”. The women were arrested on charges of adultery and the men on charges of theft and adultery.
On November 24, 2022, Taliban fighters in Takhar Province whipped a woman and a man accused of talking on the phone and allegedly having premarital relations. The two victims were publicly tried in the Darqad District of Takhar Province. The man and woman were given 30 lashes each.
On November 23, 2022, Taliban whipped 12 persons, including three women, in Logar Province, on charges of adultery. Based on the appeals court’s order, the trial took place at the provincial sports stadium and each one of the individuals were given between 21 and 39 lashes for adultery and theft, respectively. Attendees were invited via social media, but were requested not to film the event.
On November 11, 2022, in Taloqan, the provincial capital of Takhar, Taliban publicly lashed nine women and 10 men accused of adultery and ‘trying to flee’. They were each lashed 39 times.
These incidents are not in isolation. Inputs indicate that such incidents have been on a continuous rise since the return of Taliban in Kabul on August 15, 2021.
More dangerously, these barbaric practices are justified by the Taliban regime under Sharia law.
Indeed, Afghanistan’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada ordered judges to fully enforce aspects of Sharia that include public executions, stoning, flogging and the amputation of limbs, the Taliban’s chief spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid disclosed. On November 13, Mujahid tweeted that the “obligatory” command by Akhundzada came after he met with a group of judges. “Carefully examine the files of thieves, kidnappers and seditionists,” Mujahid quoted Akhundzada as saying. “Those files in which all the Sharia [Islamic law] conditions of hudud and qisas have been fulfilled, you are obliged to implement. This is the ruling of Sharia, and my command, which is obligatory.”
Hudud refers to offences for which, under Islamic law, certain types of punishment are instructed, while qisas translates as “retaliation in kind”, effectively an eye for an eye. Hudud crimes include, inter alia, adultery, and falsely accusing someone of it, drinking alcohol, theft, kidnapping and highway robbery, apostasy and rebellion. Qisas covers murder and deliberate injury, among other things, but also allows for the families of victims to accept compensation from the perpetrator, in place of punishment.
The suppression and abuse of women and girls is, unfortunately, nothing new in Afghanistan under the Taliban. In the late 1990s, the use of football grounds to carry out public executions, stoning and beating was one of the crucial features of the Taliban’s brutal rule. They believed thata such horrifying public spectacles would discourage dissent.
Despite mounting evidence of the restoration of a regressive and barbaric order, some ‘experts’ continue to argue that ‘Taliban 2.0’ would be different, and would not try to alter the hard-won rights of Afghan girls. As expected, and true to its nature, however, the Taliban is doing everything possible to cage women again. Sadly, this time around, the Taliban is acting with greater impunity with the regime devising strategies to systematically exclude women from every possible public sphere in Afghanistan
For instance, on May 7, 2022, the Taliban announced the ‘hijab decree’, under which it is “required for all ‘respectable’ Afghan women to wear a hijab”, or headscarf. The Vice and Virtue Ministry, in a statement, identified the chadori (the blue-coloured Afghan burqa or full-body veil) as the “best hijab” of choice. Also acceptable as a hijab, the statement declared, is a long black veil covering a woman from head to toe. Punishment for the failure to comply was also indicated:
If a woman is caught without a hijab, her mahram (male guardian) will be warned. The second time, the guardian will be summoned [by Taliban officials], and after repeated summons, her guardian will be imprisoned for three days.
Further, male guardians found guilty of repeated offences “will be sent to the court for further punishment.
As reported on November 10, 2022, the Taliban prevented females from entering amusement parks in Kabul city. According to the Ministry of Vice and Virtue’s verbal order, “women are prohibited from entering the park.”
On November 24, 2022, causing further damage to the well-being of the female Afghan population, Taliban’s Vice and Virtue Department issued a new order in nine districts of Nangarhar Province, indicating that women cannot visit health clinics, or have a doctor examine them, without a male companion. Local sources in Nangarhar confirmed that this order was announced to the residents of Achin, Ghanikhel, Nazian, Durbaba, Goshta, Kama, Khogyani, Shirzad and Surkhroud Districts. Residents and the imams (religious leaders) of the mosques have received the order, and must ‘seriously convey and implement’ the order, and inform the people in congregational prayers.
Further on November 26, 2022, the Taliban’s Vice and Virtue Department ordered the closing of shops of female tailors in Parwan Province, calling women’s tailoring “haram”. Earlier on November 23, Taliban entered women’s tailor shops in different parts of Charikar city, the capital of the province.
Indeed, explaining the distressing situation of young girls in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, Save the Children, reported on December 5, 2022,
…Instead of spending their days reading, writing and learning, hundreds of thousands of girls now spend their days working on farms or in other people’s homes, weaving carpets, looking after their younger siblings or the family’s livestock, collecting drinking water or cooking bread. They’ve been transformed from students into child labourers against their will…
Meanwhile, the objections of various international organisations and foreign governments have proven to be nothing more than ‘token’ acts of condemnation and criticism. Three recent instances include:
- November 28: The German Embassy for Afghanistan called public flogging by Taliban a “heinous violation of human dignity”. The German Embassy for Afghanistan tweeted: “Taliban is also obliged to comply with international law and the Organization’s Convention against Torture.” Several international organizations have condemned whipping and torture in public and have asked the Taliban to stop such inhuman acts immediately. Such declaration have had no impact.
- November 25: Amnesty International stated that the rights of Afghan women and girls were been violated under the Taliban rule over the last 15 months: “We must remember that the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan have been continually violated by the Taliban for 15 months now.” The group asked the Taliban to stop suppressing Afghan women and girls.
- November 25: the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) called on the Taliban leadership to end violence against women and the “broader deterioration of women’s rights” in an effort to establish a sustainable peace in the country.
Indicating the change in ground realities and to UNAMA’s November 25, criticism, the Taliban ‘fired back’, as its spokesperson tweeted, on November 26, 2022,
…Countries and organizations should not allow people to make irresponsible and provocative statements on their behalf about the blessed religion of Islam.
Women in Afghanistan, are tortured, beaten up, whipped, excluded from public spaces, refused education and employment, and oppressed in every sphere of life. Such acts are justified under the pretext of religion to preserve the honour of family and tribe. The day is not far when Afghan women will be dragged deep into the darkness of relentless suffering by the fanatical Taliban regime.
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management