This past week I have spent reading the bestseller Thousand Splendid Suns. And it has opened a can of worms. It has been a revelation of sorts. It had me lapping up a lot of details about Afghanistan, the Taliban and the plight of women in the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.These are the things I knew existed, but I never took enough interest to dig a little deeper. I did now. Before I started reading this book, the mention of word ‘Taliban’ rang only a clichéd bell in my mind. A lot of people like me, I am sure, must have been associating the word Taliban with Terrorism. Like they were some kinds of synonyms. We have always read those words in connection, haven’t we? I have always thought of Osama bin Laden and Taliban in the same breath. After reading this book and a lot of other things about Taliban and Afghanistan on Wikipedia, I realised how superficial my understanding of that word was.
Until recently I only thought that Taliban was a dirty word, as if it was some kind of an antonym for “peace”. I admit my understanding or knowledge of this was so superficial that I didn’t even know whether it was a sect of people, a region or an ideology. Now, I know better.
Before this, I knew that Afghani women lived in less-than-human conditions, that their plight was deplorable. But my estimate of their appalling plight was not even close to what the reality is. Their lives are hellish and within the confines of the four walls of their dark houses (the windows are blackened so that no male can peep through them and get a glimpse of their silhouette) they are treated worse than caged animals. Women have no importance in the Taliban society and their only role is to procreate preferably male protégés.
Few of the Taliban rules of the women are: (Mind you, this is just the tip of the iceberg)
- Ban on women studying at schools, universities or any other educational institution(The female employment ban was felt greatly in the education system. Within Kabul alone the ruling affected 106,256 girls, 148,223 male students and 8,000 female university undergraduates. 7,793 female teachers were dismissed, a move that crippled the provision of education and caused 63 schools to close due to a sudden lack of educators. Some women ran clandestine schools within their homes for local children, or for other women under the guise of sewing classes. The learners, parents and educators were aware of the consequences should the Taliban discover their activities, but for those who felt trapped under the strict Taliban rule, such actions allowed them a sense of self-determination and hope.)
- Women should not appear in the streets without a blood relative mahram and without wearing a burqa (a veiled dress)
- Whipping, beating and verbal abuse of women not clothed in accordance with Taliban rules, or of women unaccompanied by a mahram.
- Women should not wear high-heeled shoes as no man should hear a woman’s footsteps lest it excite him
- Women must not speak loudly in public as no stranger should hear a woman’s voice
- All ground and first floor residential windows should be painted over or screened to prevent women being visible from the street
- The photographing or filming of women was banned as was displaying pictures of females in newspapers, books, shops or the home
- The modification of any place names that included the word “women”. For example, “women’s garden” was renamed “spring garden”
- Women were forbidden to appear on the balconies of their apartments or houses
- Ban on women’s presence on radio, television or at public gatherings of any kind
- Not wearing any fitted, narrow or tight clothes
- Not wearing clothes that resemble male’s clothing
- Not wearing nail paints or the fingers will be chopped off
- Not wearing perfumes or any kind of cosmetics, or she will be considered as an adulteress and flogged in public
- Not talking or laughing in public or doing anything that could entice a male and draw attention to her
- Not listening to music, no singing, no painting
These are just few of the many absurd rules imposed on them in the name of “safeguarding” their dignity and integrity.
The more I read, the more I felt the need to throw up. Seriously, which century are we in? Because of misplaced beliefs and thoughts of one group of people, the whole Islamic community stands humiliated today. They all bear the brunt. The whole thinking is flawed. It will take more than a few good men to change the course of winds in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of thousands of women have died happily to escape the torturous life they were forced to lead.