Vakil Kohsar/Vakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images
Early Monday morning, just before dawn, a 23-year-old Afghan journalist packed his bags, quietly said goodbye to his family, and left his home with a carefully laid out and carefully executed plan. .
“My heart was beating very fast the whole journey until I reached a safe place. I was running away from the brutality of the Taliban and I was afraid that they would arrest me,” he shared. The journalist asked to be identified only by his initials – FJ – because his family is still under Taliban control inside Afghanistan.
She was fleeing the threat of a forced marriage with a local Taliban fighter in her region in northern Afghanistan and moving to another country. “One of their commanders who is only known as “Molvi‘ [a title given to a religious leader] He asked my parents to marry him. They wanted to control and punish me for my work against them.”
“When I refused, they got offended and first threatened to kill my parents, but then they threatened to kidnap me,” he told NPR from where he is hiding.
FJ said he knows girls from his community, including one of his neighbors, who was kidnapped last year and forced to marry Taliban fighters.
Report: Women are caught in a web of restrictions
Amnesty International’s new report on Tuesday titled “Death in Slow Motion: Women and Girls under the Taliban“, confirms his claim and says that “the rate of child marriage, early and forced marriage seems to have increased in Afghanistan under Taliban rule”.
The report, which includes interviews with 90 Afghan women and 11 girls in 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, details a “web of associated restrictions and prohibitions” that has trapped many Afghan women without any institutions. About their work, education and freedom. For moving, clothes and marriage options.
The report also covers a wide range of issues affecting Afghan women living under Taliban rule, including restrictions on education, employment, clothing and even mobility. The report also draws attention to the lack of legal avenues for women to address gender-based violence and protect their rights after the collapse of existing institutional systems and safeguards since the Taliban took over.
Nicolette Waldman, researcher at Amnesty International and one of the authors of the report, said: “Our report shows how in less than a year, the rights of women and girls have been undermined by the Taliban.
Waldman said the report was “heartbreaking for the investigation.”
“What really came out during the research was how all the restrictions on women and girls are so interconnected. I’d start documenting a case of forced marriage and then I’d find out that I was also documenting a violation of the right to work or displacement. I was documenting any number of violations that a single woman faces in her daily life, she said, adding that the Taliban’s restrictions are like “a spider’s web that traps and entangles women and girls.”
Child marriage and forced marriages
The number of child and forced marriages is an important part of the newly released document.
Even before the Taliban took over, rates in the country were extremely high 28 percent of Afghan women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 are married before the age of 18.According to UNICEF.
While a nationwide assessment has not been conducted to determine trends in early and forced marriages, the report states that several indicators point to rising rates, including research by human rights and humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF and the Danish Refugee Council. “During our investigation, Amnesty International received numerous other reports from local protection actors and activists that rates of child, early and forced marriage have increased in their areas, both rural and urban,” the report said.
Often, these marriages are the result of economic and humanitarian crises and widespread hunger, forcing many families to marry their daughters younger in exchange for “bride price”.
“In Afghanistan, it’s a perfect storm for child marriage. You have a patriarchal government, war, poverty, drought, girls dropping out of school – with all these factors … we knew child marriage would go through the roof. Stephanie Sinclair, director at Too young to marryan organization that works to prevent forced and child marriages, told Amnesty International.
In this report, two cases of forced marriage with Taliban fighters and commanders have been recorded, and reliable reports have been received from several other cases.
Hoda Mishim, an exiled Afghan activist who was arrested by the Taliban for protesting, said: “What we read in these reports is only a fraction of the crimes that the Taliban commit against women in Afghanistan, women who are in the darkest days of their lives. they do.” he told NPR earlier this year. Referring to the reports about women in the Afghan media, he said: “It is difficult to conduct a full investigation during the Taliban era, we hear many cases of women committing suicide to escape the violence of the Taliban.”
The Amnesty International report also interviewed family members of girls and women who said the Taliban used their positions of influence and power to force them into marriage – despite a Taliban decree banning forced marriage. The decree issued by Haibatullah Akhunzadeh, the head of the Taliban in December 2021, states: “Both men and women are equal and no one can force women to marry.”
Former humanitarian worker Mohammad Farooq shared a story he knew from his community. “About eight months ago, the district governor of the Taliban, who must be about 45 years old, married one of the young girls of the district who was 17 years old. He was against this marriage, but the Taliban are powerful and perfect. One million to his father. They also paid Afghanis.” Farooq requested that his location be withheld as revealing his location would put him in danger.
Farooq added that he knows of 10 such forced marriages in his district alone last year.
Not blaming the bride’s families
However, he refrains from passing harsh judgments on families. “The kind of pressure they face from the Taliban is unimaginable. The Taliban not only have the power, they are not averse to using force if necessary. Families have no choice but to say no,” he explained. There is no complaint mechanism left. Religious scholars, judges and village elders who could intervene before are also afraid of the Taliban.
FJ, a journalist who ran away from home, agrees with her. “Them [the Taliban fighters forcing girls to marry] They had the support of their leadership because they were so confident when they did it [threats and kidnapping].
“I was lucky to escape to a neighboring country for now, but my life is in limbo because I can be deported whenever I want. But there are many women here that I know who were forced to marry the Taliban, Because it’s not easy to leave if you’re a woman,” she said.
Calling for change, worrying about the future
Veldman called on the Taliban to “immediately change course” while calling on the international community to intervene. “The international community must develop and implement a coordinated strategy that pressures the Taliban to do this – and they must send a clear message to the Taliban that their discriminatory policies against women and girls will never be accepted. They They should impose consequences on the Taliban for their behavior, including targeted sanctions or travel bans imposed through UN Security Council resolutions that can affect the Taliban without harming the Afghan people.
Meanwhile, FJ is deeply concerned about the safety of his family, who are under Taliban surveillance. Choking back tears, she added, “They know I’ve left and they’re harassing and shaming my family for it. I’m so afraid they’ll hurt my parents or take them to Kill me for supporting my freedom.”
“I am in a very bad state of mind, I used to be the voice of Afghan women and I became silent overnight, without rights and no one to fight and defend my rights. What I experienced,” she added.
Ruchi Kumar is a journalist who reports on conflict, politics, development and culture in India and Afghanistan. He tweets @RuchiKumar
Hekmat Nouri is an Afghan journalist covering the intersection of culture and politics in South Asia. He tweets at @noori1st