FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 23, 2021
Summarize the situation described in a dispatch from Afghanistan.
Share a quote from a woman or girl there and tell how it makes you feel.
Now read an opinion column or editorial about the U.S. pullout and explain why you agree or disagree.
A shaky new era began last week in Afghanistan, a war-torn country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. A pullout of most U.S. military forces after 20 years brought a hasty exit by the Islamic republic's president and a takeover by Taliban militants who had been fighting American and Afghan troops. The religious-political movement is labeled a terrorist group by the United States, other governments and global organizations. Chaos has gripped the international airport in Kabul, the capital, as masses of people try to flee.
The Taliban are known for brutal treatment of women and strict religious interpretations known as Sharia law (pronounced SHAH-ree-ahh). Hundreds of women journalists, activists and judges have been assassinated in recent years. When the Taliban last held power from 1996 to 2001, women were denied education and jobs. Girls couldn't attend school and women couldn't work outside their homes and could be seen in public only with a male escort and their bodies fully covered. Disobedience could bring whippings or even execution. Unmarried women and men seen together also faced punishment.
Since 2001, women's rights have increased in Afghanistan. Girls and women have been educated freely, joined the military and police forces, held political office, competed in the Olympics and trained for engineering careers on robotics teams. That progress could erode or disappear. "I am from the generation that had a lot of opportunities after the fall of the Taliban 20 years ago," Aliya Kazimy, a 27-year-old university professor, tells The New York Times. "I was able to achieve my goals of studying, and for a year I've been a university professor. Now my future is dark and uncertain. All these years of working hard and dreaming were for nothing. And the little girls who are just starting out, what future awaits them?"
For now, Taliban leaders are presenting a more moderate face to the world and trying to ease fear gripping the country since they seized the capital Aug. 15. At a news conference last week, a spokesman said those who helped the previous government or military would be "pardoned" and added: "We assure that there will be no violence against women. No prejudice against women will be allowed, but the Islamic values are our framework." How the new regime will interpret and enforce religious law remains to be seen. Already, the Taliban has banned female anchors from working for state TV. And in the northern city of Kunduz this month, new leaders ordered women who had worked for the government to leave their jobs. "It will take years and years for Afghan people to recover from this," predicts 24-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a globally known crusader who suffered under the Pakistani Taliban. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens writes: "There are roughly 18 million women and girls in Afghanistan. They will now be subject to laws from the seventh century."
UN leader says: "I am particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan." – Secretary General António Guterres
Rights activist tweets: "The Taliban should permit groups that monitor and promote human rights to function freely and to monitor their treatment of women across the entire country." – Heather Barr, Human Rights Watch associate director, based in Pakistan
Young author tweets: "I am deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates." -- Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner from Pakistan