Home » How minority groups are treated when the Taliban are in power in Afghanistan

How minority groups are treated when the Taliban are in power in Afghanistan

Fatima Nazari, her husband, and their two children are hiding in a secret home in Afghanistan, concealed from the eyes of the Taliban.

Speaking to the ABC through a translator app, Ms Nazari says she fears for their lives and is “desperate” for help.

“I have two children, they can’t bear the problems. This [speaking out] is the only [option] we have,” she says.

While the extent of their difficulties was difficult to explain through translation, the urgent need for the Nazaris to escape the Taliban is clear.

Their names have been changed and faces have been blurred to protect their safety.

Ms Nazari says they have not committed any crime but are persecuted by the Taliban for being ethnically and religiously different.

She is from the Sadat tribe and her husband is Hazara — both groups are mainly Shiite, a minority sect of Islam.

Their people belong to some of the dozens of tribes in Afghanistan who do not practice the Taliban’s extremist version of Sunni Islam. 

Since the Taliban’s 2021 takeover, minorities in Afghanistan have been subject to widespread and systematic attacks, torture, mass punishment, arbitrary detention and forced displacement, according to the UN Human Rights Council.

Ms Nazari says her husband can’t work due to the threat of harsh punishment he would face if he didn’t adhere to the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic law.

It is possible they could be killed just for being from the wrong ethnic group, or Shiite, she says.

The family tried escaping to neighbouring Pakistan, but the border was closed, so they have no choice but to hide until the chance to escape comes again.

‘The crime of being a woman’

Shabnam Nasimi’s cousins, who live in Kabul, have been forced to stay home without school for the past 478 days.

After taking back control of Afghanistan, the Taliban once again banned women from school and university. 

Women are also no longer allowed to work or leave the house without a male guardian and must wear a mandatory burqa or face veil.

Ms Nasimi, an activist from London and founder of Conservative Friends of Afghanistan, says Afghanistan is the only country in the world with female education bans.

“It is deplorable that the Taliban are allowed to get away with this with no accountability or consequences,” Ms Nasimi says.

“It is unimaginable to have to be imprisoned at home for the crime of being a woman.”

Ms Nasimi says women were banned from attending university because they were not complying with hijab rules and were mixing with men in the campuses.

“There is no basis for any of the reasons that they have given, other than sending women home and depriving them of an education,” she says. 

In defiance of the recent law changes, dozens of women have risked their lives and taken to the streets to protest.

“The women protesters have been awe-inspiring for us in the West. Despite risks of detention, abuse, torture or even death, these women have been coming out time and time again to protest for their basic human rights,” Ms Nasimi says.

“We must not leave them alone in this global fight for women’s rights.”

Last month, the Taliban banned women from working with NGOs again, reportedly because female staff were not adhering to rules. The move drew international criticism and has many aid givers worried. 

Keyan Salarkia, director of advocacy and communications for Save the Children (STC) Afghanistan, says the ban will mean fewer women and girls receiving essential support.

“It will mean more children are forced into labour and marriage because of the pressure on households.”

Save the Children, which has been operating in Afghanistan since the 1970s, has had to pause its work in areas where it cannot operate without female staff, who make up 50 per cent of the workforce.

In a recent update, STC is now able to restart some activities where they say they have “received clear, reliable assurances from relevant authorities that our female staff will be safe and can work without obstruction”.

“However, with the overarching ban still in place, our other activities, where we do not have reliable assurances that our female colleagues can return to work, remain on hold,” Mr Salarkia says.

Taliban’s ‘Islamic’ law enforced through ‘violence and intimidation’

While the Taliban claims to rule the country under their version of “Islamic law”, the difference is in their interpretation of Islam, which is “not shared by any other Muslim country around the world”, according to Ms Nasimi.

“Even Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, does not restrict women from education or work.”

Ms Nasimi says the restrictions imposed by the Taliban are not based on a mainstream interpretation of Islamic law, but the group’s own ultra-conservative and rigid views.

“These views were enforced through violence and intimidation.”

She is calling on other Muslim countries to come together and advocate for women’s rights. 

“[The Taliban’s] policies towards women must be heavily criticised by Muslim scholars and leaders, as well as human rights organisations.”

The Taliban first took power in 1996 and enforced strict dress codes for men and women, mostly barred women from work and education and banned cinema, television and non-religious music.

Many of these restrictions were already widely practised as part of Afghan tradition, culture and beliefs, particularly in rural areas.

After the Taliban rule ended in 2001, women slowly gained some rights in Afghan society.

Upon returning to power in 2021, the Taliban said a board of religious scholars would determine the laws they would enforce.

“Some legislation made by man can be changed, but not the rules made by God,” Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, told the ABC at the time.

“No-one in the Islamic world, anyone calling himself Muslim, can change the Islamic rules.”

The Taliban were contacted for comment. 

‘Killed at any moment’

Thirteen-year-old Mahnor, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is one of many secondary school girls unable to attend school.

Instead, she spends her day doing housework, and feeding and caring for the family’s livestock.

Going to school for Mahnor would have been a way to help her family. 

Her four older brothers are battling drug addictions and her father suffers from health issues, making it difficult to work.

Her reality is shared by many girls her age, given the recent changes.

Hundreds of thousands of girls like Mahnor now spend their days working rather than studying, some out of boredom, others out of necessity. 

But hope remains in some. While things are gloomy, the Nazari family is optimistic. 

Ms Nazari says she gets by day-to-day and focuses on finding “peace” despite the insecurity that her family could be “killed at any moment”.

“Although our future is in the dark, making decisions is the hardest thing in Afghanistan,” she says.

She hopes her husband will finish his studies one day and find employment.

She hopes that one day they will be able to leave Afghanistan and settle in a more secure place.

Source: ABC