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Women in Afghanistan have been oppressed for many years under the Taliban government. In light of recent events, with the U.S. and Northern Alliances joint efforts to force the Taliban out, key cities have become free from the Taliban’s stifling control. Here is a picture of a women revealing her face for the first time in five years, since the Taliban came into power. The future of the Afghan women is uncertain. Clearly changes are in order, but to what extent we do not know. Conditions certainly could not be worse than those imposed on them in the last five years by the extreme Islamic order of the Taliban.
For the past five years women in Afghan have had virtually no rights or freedoms. The impact of the Taliban imposed restrictions was most acutely felt in cities where women had enjoyed relatively greater freedoms. In 1996 the University of Kabul reportedly had several thousand women students while thousands of professional women worked in different capacities in the city. When the Taliban toke over, women were not allowed to attend school and others have been forced to leave their jobs. The Taliban had issued edicts forbidding women from working outside the home, except in limited circumstances in the medical field. Hardest hit were the 30,000 widows in Kabul and others elsewhere in the country, who are the sole providers of their family.
Women and girls were not allowed to appear outside the home unless wearing a head to toe garment called the burqa. A three-inch square opening covered with mesh provides the only means for vision. Although the burqa was worn in before the Taliban control, it was not an enforced dress code and many women wore only scarves that cover the head. Women were also forbidden from appearing in public with a male who is not a relative.
Taliban militia doles out punishment for violations of these rules on the spot. For example, women have been beaten on the street if an inch of ankle shows under their burqa. They have been beaten if they are found to move about without an explanation acceptable to the Taliban. They have been beaten if they make noise when they walk. According to one report, a women struggling with two small children and groceries in her arms was reportedly beaten by the Taliban with a car antenna because she had let her face covering slip of f her face for a moment.
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