Young girls, grown up without Taliban, dread their return

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Inside Ms. Sadat’s Beauty Salon in Afghanistan’s capital, Sultana Karimi leans intently over a buyer, meticulously shaping her eyebrows. Make-up and hair styling is the 24-year-old’s ardour, and he or she found it, together with a newfound confidence, right here within the salon.

She and the opposite younger girls working or apprenticing within the salon by no means skilled the rule of the Taliban over Afghanistan.

But all of them fear that their desires will come to an finish if the hard-line militants regain any energy, even when peacefully as a part of a brand new authorities.

“With the return of Taliban, society will be transformed and ruined,” Karimi stated. “Women will be sent into hiding, they’ll be forced to wear the burqa to go out of their homes.”

She wore a brilliant yellow shirt that draped off her shoulders as she labored, a mode that’s a bit daring even within the all-women house of the salon. It would have been completely out of the query below the Taliban, who dominated till the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. In truth, the Taliban banned magnificence salons basically, a part of a notoriously harsh ideology that usually hit girls and women the toughest, together with forbidding them training and the correct to work and even to journey outdoors their house unaccompanied by a male family member.

With U.S. troops dedicated to leaving Afghanistan utterly by Sept. 11, girls are carefully watching the stalemated peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan authorities over the post-withdrawal future, stated Mahbouba Seraj, a girls’s rights activist.

The U.S. is urgent for a power-sharing authorities that features the Taliban. Seraj stated girls need written ensures from the Taliban that they received’t reverse the features made by girls up to now 20 years, and so they need the worldwide group to carry the rebel motion to its commitments.

“I am not frustrated that the Americans are leaving … the time was coming that the Americans would go home,” stated Seraj, the chief director of Afghan Women’s Skill Development.

But she had a message for the U.S. and NATO: “We keep yelling and screaming and saying, for God’s sake, at least do something with the Taliban, take some kind of assurance from them … a mechanism to be put in place” that ensures girls’s rights.

Last week the Taliban in a press release outlined the kind of authorities they search.

It promised that ladies “can serve their society in the education, business, health and social fields while maintaining correct Islamic hijab.” It promised women would have the correct to decide on their personal husbands, thought-about deeply unacceptable in lots of conventional and tribal properties in Afghanistan, the place husbands are chosen by their mother and father.

But the assertion supplied few particulars, nor did it assure girls might take part in politics or have freedom to maneuver unaccompanied by a male family member.

Many fear that the imprecise phrases the Taliban use in their guarantees, like “correct hijab” or guaranteeing rights “provided under Islamic law” give them vast margin to impose hard-line interpretations.

At the wonder salon, the proprietor Ms. Sadat informed how she was born in Iran to refugee mother and father. She was forbidden to personal a enterprise there, so she returned to a homeland she’d by no means seen to begin her salon 10 years in the past.

She requested to not be recognized by her full title, fearing that spotlight might make her a goal. She has turn out to be extra cautious as violence and random bombings have elevated in Kabul the previous yr — an augur of chaos when the Americans totally depart, many concern. She used to drive her personal automobile. Not anymore.

The girls constructing a future working or apprenticing within the salon all dreaded a restored Taliban — “Just the name of the Taliban horrifies us,” stated one.

They’re left gaming out how a lot compromise of their rights they’ll endure. Tamila Pazhman stated she doesn’t need “the old Afghanistan back,” however she does need peace.

“If we know we will have peace, we will wear the hijab while we work and study,” she stated. “But there must be peace.”

In their early 20s, all of them grew up amid the incremental, however vital features made by girls for the reason that Taliban’s ouster. Girls at the moment are in class, and girls are in Parliament, authorities and enterprise.

They additionally know the way reversible these features are in an overwhelmingly male-dominated, deeply conservative society.

“Women in Afghanistan who raise their voices have been oppressed and ignored,” Karimi stated. “The majority of Afghan women will be silent. They know they will ever receive any support.”

Afghanistan stays one of many worst international locations on this planet for girls, after solely Yemen and Syria, in accordance with an index saved by Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

In most rural areas, life has modified little in centuries. Women wake at daybreak, do a lot of the heavy labor within the house and within the fields. They put on the normal coverings that conceal them from head to toe. One in three women is married earlier than 18, most frequently in pressured marriages, in accordance with U.N. estimates.

Religious conservatives who dominate Parliament have prevented passage of a Protection of Women invoice.

Afghanistan’s broader statistics are additionally grim, with 54% of its 36 million individuals dwelling under the poverty degree of $1.90 a day. Runaway authorities corruption has swallowed up tons of of thousands and thousands of {dollars}, rights staff and watchdogs say.

At a bakery in Kabul’s Karte Sakhi neighborhood, 60-year-old Kobra squats in a brick shack blackened by soot in entrance of a clay oven dug into the ground.

The work is backbreaking, smoke fills her lungs, flames scorch her. She makes about 100 Afghanis a day, the equal of $1.30, after paying for firewood. She is the one wage earner for her sick husband and 5 kids.

Her 13-year-old daughter Zarmeena works by her aspect, serving to bake and sweeping the soot-coated ground. Neighborhood girls carry their dough to be baked, and Zarmeena kneads it and places it into the oven. They yell insults at her if she unintentionally drops it into the hearth.

Zameena has by no means been to high school as a result of her mom wants her within the bakery, although her youthful brother, at 7, is in class. “If I could go … I would be a doctor,” she stated.

Nearly 3.7 million Afghan kids between 7 and 17 are out of college, most of them women, in accordance with the United Nations Children Education Fund.

Kobra isn’t wanting ahead to a Taliban return. She’s Hazara, an largely Shiite ethnic minority that has confronted violence from the Taliban and different Sunni teams.

But she additionally rails towards the present authorities, accusing them of “eating all the money” despatched for Afghanistan’s poor to feed their personal corruption. For months, she has tried to gather a stipend for the poor value about $77 however every time she is informed her title isn’t on the checklist.

“Who took my name?” she stated. “You have to know someone, have a contact in the government or you will never receive anything.”


Associated Press Writer Tameem Akhgar contributed to this report.

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