Beirut. If Afghan women could speak as the protagonist of Atiq Rahimi’s film, As Patient Stone, does in front of the body of her mujahideen husband reduced to a vegetable, we would understand a world that may seem distant and incomprehensible. With the return of the Taliban, women in Afghanistan continue to be outraged and segregated. But now the Islamist group in power has issued a new decree on the rights of Afghans that looks like a small light in the dark of an increasingly gloomy night, even if the doubts and contradictions remain. Already many promises of the Koranic students have fallen on deaf ears, but according to this new decision, the consent of women will be necessary to get married. The Taliban are under pressure from the international community to guarantee women’s rights. A precondition for recognizing their government and restoring aid.
“A woman is not a property, but a noble and free human being; no one can give it to anyone in exchange for peace or to put an end to animosity, ”says the decree released by spokesman Zabihillah Muhajid. Among the new directives also “the right of widows to marry”, the right to inheritance and a fixed share of the property of husband, children, father and relatives. And those who have more than one wife are obliged to recognize their rights and maintain justice between wives. However, the possibility for women to work, study or access facilities outside the home is not mentioned.
The status of women had greatly improved in the past two decades of international presence in Afghanistan, but is now considered threatened by the return of the Taliban. During their previous government from 1996 to 2001, they banned women from leaving the house without a male relative and girls from receiving education, and forced all Afghans to cover their faces and heads with burqas.
However, the Taliban claim that they have changed and that in some provinces it has been allowed to open high schools for girls. But many women and human rights defenders remain skeptical. Forced marriages have become more common in the increasingly poor and conservative country as IDPs marry their young daughters in exchange for money that can be used to pay off debts and feed their families. Women in Afghanistan for decades have been treated as property to obtain money, bargaining chips to end tribal disputes or feuds. The Taliban now declare themselves against it. They also said that a widow will be able to remarry 17 weeks after her husband’s death, and freely choose a new spouse. Tribal traditions dictated that a widow marry one of her husband’s brothers or relatives on death. But the doubts remain. Thousands of girls are still unable to attend school, and most women are forbidden from returning to work.
The international community has been clear and has made women’s rights a key element of any future endeavors. The country, which is also suffering from a liquidity crisis due to sanctions, risks economic collapse and poverty has been on the rise since the withdrawal of US and NATO troops ended in mid-August. The dream is that the Afghan women as the protagonist of the film can one day free the word, pray, shout, but to the world this time, and finally find themselves again.