Taliban divisions deepen as Afghan women challenge the edict of the veil

NEW ONENow you can listen to the articles from Fox News!

Arooza was furious and scared, keeping her eyes peeled for the patrolling Taliban as she and a friend shopped in Kabul’s Macroyan neighborhood on Sunday.

The math teacher feared her large shawl, tightly tied around her head, and her loose tan coat would not meet the latest decree of the country’s religious Taliban government. After all, it wasn’t just his eyes that showed. Her face was visible.

Arooza, who asked to be identified with a single name so as not to attract attention, was not wearing the all-encompassing burqa preferred by the Taliban, which on Saturday enacted a new dress code for women who appear in public. The edict said that only a woman’s eyes should be visible.

AFGHANISTAN WOMEN ORDERED BY THE TALIBAN TO COVER THE HEAD IN PUBLIC

The decree of hardline Taliban leader Hibaitullah Akhunzada even suggested that women should not leave their homes unnecessarily and outlines a series of punishments for male relatives of women who violate the code.

It was a huge blow to women’s rights Afghanistanwho had lived with relative freedom for two decades before the Taliban took power last August, when the United States and other foreign forces withdrew at the chaotic end of a 20-year war.

A woman wearing a burqa walks past her home in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, May 8, 2022.

A woman wearing a burqa walks past her home in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, May 8, 2022.
(Photo AP / Ebrahim Noroozi)

A lone leader, Akhunzada rarely travels outside southern Kandahar, the traditional heart of the Taliban. He favors the tough elements of the group’s previous period in power, in the 1990s, when girls and women were largely excluded from school, work and public life.

Like the Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, Akhunzada enforces a strict brand of Islam which marries religion with ancient tribal traditions, often confusing the two.

Akhunzada took the traditions of tribal villages where girls often marry during puberty and rarely leave their homes, and called it a religious request, analysts say.

TALIBANS CANCEL GIRLS ‘HIGHER EDUCATION DESPITE COMMITMENTS

The Taliban were torn between pragmatists and hardliners as they struggled to move from an insurrection to a governing body. Meanwhile, their government faced a worsening economic crisis. And the Taliban’s efforts to gain recognition and help from Western nations have failed, largely because they have not formed a more representative government and restricted the rights of girls and women.

So far, the hardliners and pragmatists of the movement have avoided open confrontation.

A woman wearing a burqa and her children in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, May 8, 2022.

A woman wearing a burqa and her children in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, May 8, 2022.
(Photo AP / Ebrahim Noroozi)

Yet divisions deepened in March, on the eve of the new school year, when Akhunzada issued a last-minute decision banning girls from going to school after completing sixth grade. In the weeks leading up to the school year, senior Taliban officials told reporters that all girls would be readmitted to school. Akhunzada said allowing older girls to go back to school violated Islamic principles.

A prominent Afghan meeting with the leadership and familiar with their internal squabbles said a senior cabinet minister expressed his outrage at Akhunzada’s views at a recent leadership meeting. He spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely.

OFFICIALS: UNACCOMPANIED WOMEN BLOCKED BY FLIGHTS

Torek Farhadi, a former government adviser, said he believes the Taliban leaders have chosen not to fight in public because they fear any perception of divisions could undermine their government.

“Leadership has no eyes on a number of issues, but everyone knows that if they don’t keep it together, everything could fall apart,” Farhadi said. “In that case, fights could start between them.”

“For this reason, the elders have decided to put up with each other, even when it comes to unacceptable decisions that are costing them a lot of fuss within Afghanistan and internationally,” Farhadi added.

A woman wearing a burqa walks through a bird market holding her baby in central Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, May 8, 2022.
(Photo AP / Ebrahim Noroozi)

Some of the more pragmatic leaders appear to be looking for silent alternative solutions that soften hard-line decrees. Since March, there has been a growing chorus, even among the most powerful Taliban leaders, of bringing older girls back to school while silently ignoring other repressive edicts.

Earlier this month, Anas Haqqani, Sirajuddin’s younger brother, who heads the powerful Haqqani network, told a conference in the eastern city of Khost that girls have a right to education and will soon be back in school, although did not say when. He also claimed that women played a role in nation building.

“You will get great news that will make everyone very happy … this problem will be solved in the next few days,” Haqqani said at the time.

AFGAN WOMEN REAGUE TALIBAN TO ALLOW GIRLS TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL WHILE THEY FEAR FOR THEIR SAFETY

In the Afghan capital of Kabul on Sunday, women wore the customary conservative Muslim dress. Most wore a traditional hijab, consisting of a veil and a long robe or coat, but few covered their faces, as indicated by the Taliban leader the day before. Those who wore the burqa, a head-to-toe garment that covers the face and hides the eyes behind the nets were in the minority.

“Women in Afghanistan wear hijabs and many wear burqas, but it’s not hijabs, it’s the Taliban who want to make all women disappear,” said Shabana, who wore bright gold bracelets under her long. black coat, her hair hidden behind a black sequined scarf. “It’s about the Taliban who want to make us invisible.”

A woman wearing a burqa walks through the old market as a Taliban fighter stands guard in central Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, May 8, 2022.

A woman wearing a burqa walks through the old market as a Taliban fighter stands guard in central Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, May 8, 2022.
(Photo AP / Ebrahim Noroozi)

Arooza said the Taliban rulers are pushing Afghans to leave their country. “Why should I stay here if they don’t want to give us our human rights? We are human,” she said.

Several women stopped to talk. Everyone challenged the latest edict.

“We don’t want to live in a prison,” said Parveen, who like other women just wanted to give a name.

“These edicts attempt to wipe out an entire gender and generation of Afghans who grew up dreaming of a better world,” said Obaidullah Baheer, a visiting scholar at New York’s New School and a former lecturer at American University in Afghanistan.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

“It pushes families to leave the country by any means necessary. It also fuels grievances that will eventually turn into a large-scale mobilization against the Taliban,” he said.

After decades of warfare, Baheer said it wouldn’t take long for the Taliban to please the Afghans with their government “an opportunity the Taliban are quickly wasting”.