The Taliban impose strict rules on covering head-to-toe face while babies die

by spicyray

W

omen in Afghanistan has a long tradition of being devalued for their personal rights. Last week, Afghanistan supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada continued what many call a deliberate attack on the dignity of Afghan women. 

Akhunzada executed a decree that women must wear a chadori (head-to-toe burqa) in what he called “traditional and respectful.” Although Akhunzada did not issue his ruling verbally, a spokesman for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice gave the news at a conference attended by media members.

“The harshest restrictions imposed on them since the Taliban seized power last year, and an escalation of growing restrictions on women that is drawing a backlash from the international community and many Afghans,” writes author Ruchi Kumar.

As part of his decision, if a woman fails to comply with the ruling that they must cover their face outside the home, family members could suffer repercussions, such as her father or closest male relative, who might receive prison time or termination of their job at the government level.

The burqa is considered a national symbol of a rule from 1996 until 2001.  Typically, women in Afghanistan wear headscarves, although many women in what is considered urban areas do not cover their faces.  

A long history of women being dominated

For one reason or another, when the Taliban took dominance over Afghanistan, their agenda of authority and the restrictions on all its citizens, especially women, generated harsh consequences.  

Similar to most dictatorship decisions, the Taliban’s rules have been met with backlash, although the members of the organization seem unphased.  Taliban leaders are often from the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. 

There was a party known as the Afghan Ministry of Women Affairs, but the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice took control and stipulated rules such as limiting women from traveling no further than 72km (45 miles) without a close male relative.  

Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network said, “Many months into their reign of power in Afghanistan, the Taliban have imposed one of the most iconic aspects of their rule from the 1990s, which is forcing women to cover their faces in public. It’s clearly aimed at controlling women who have been the most troublesome section of the population.”

A group of 36 UN human rights experts voiced concerns that Taliban leaders deliberately engaged in gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls without conscious awareness of its impact.  

13,700 newborn babies died in 2022 due to a lack of nutrition

Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, deputy special representative of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. 23 million told Al Jazeera that many babies and children are passing away from starvation, or what Alakbarov called “unparalleled proportions,” as it relates to the hunger crisis in Afghanistan. 

“In Afghanistan, a staggering 95 percent of the population is not eating enough food … It is a figure so high that it is almost inconceivable. Yet, devastatingly, it is the harsh reality,” said Alakbarov.  According to data, privileged families can eat bread, vegetables (which can be seen as luxury), and green tea that doesn’t have its traditional taste. 

A 24-year-old woman named Farahanaz told Al Jazeera, “As adults, we can manage, but when the kids ask for food, I don’t know what to tell them. My younger sister was recovering from surgery when the Taliban took control and lives were overturned. She has lost so much weight and falls sick when there isn’t enough to eat. “

Farahanaz, who said she was a radio producer, was the sole provider for her family of eight until the Taliban took command, and that’s when she lost her job.

Sadly, Farahanaz didn’t suffer alone. The International Federation of Journalists reportedly said over 50 percent of women in the media field became jobless, with a high percentage of them being the breadwinner of the family. 

Dr. Wahid Majrooh, the former Afghan minister of public health, told Al Jazeera “Starvation and poverty are like a disease that not only affects your dastarkhwan [traditional rug meant for dining] but also your ability to challenge the situation and stand by your values…It impacts your sense of dignity.”   He added, “Mothers cannot pay for their antenatal and postnatal care, and as evident, maternal mortality and morbidity rate is increasing tremendously, and is also affecting child mortality.”

Some parents are resorting to the incompressible of selling their babies and young girls to survive.

Dr. Abdul Rahman Ulfat, head of the nutrition department at the Public Health Directorate, said. “Children under the age of five are worst affected because they are more vulnerable. Their bodies are still developing, and the organs need a steady supply of nutrients, minerals, carbohydrates, and adequate fats.”

He further added, “There is also a lack of domestic resources, particularly access to quality nutrient products, and a lack of transparency in the distribution of food packages among the deserving and vulnerable.”

It’s commonplace that Afghan parents urgently seek assistance from hospitals to treat their ill children, but they encounter obstacles mostly because health care professionals face challenges themselves.   

John Sifton, director at HRW, said, “Health workers are ready to save lives, but have no salaries or supplies. Billions have been pledged for aid, but remain unspent because banks can’t transfer or access funds.”

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