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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Heavy Hand of Taliban Falls on Afghan Women


KABUL -- While the women of Kabul languish at home, virtually kept prisoner by the Islamic zealotry of the Taliban militia who have conquered most of Afghanistan, those still outside the warriors' reach cast angry eyes at foreign powers whose intervention, they say, has turned the country into a killing field.

In the once-cosmopolitan capital city, Zaigull Hayan looked at her three daughters, their two female cousins and a woman friend from down the street and wept.

Many ordinary people are delighted that the purist Islamic Taliban movement has taken over Kabul and brought peace after years of war and terror. The ability to go out and be certain of coming home is a joy to many.

But Zaigull, 55, is not among them. She cannot go out.

"It's better to die than stay alive in the house. We are like birds in a cage," she said in her comfortable suburban home a week after the Taliban took the Afghan capital and told women to stay at home until a proper Moslem way was found for them to work and be educated.

"Everything I see around me makes me cry."

Zaigull never went to school but was determined her daughters would have the same opportunity in education as her son, now working in Germany.

She was well on the way to success. Nadia, 26, is a lawyer. Liva, 19, was studying language and literature at Kabul University, and 13-year-old Wasima was doing well at school when the Taliban took Kabul and ousted a less purist government.

Cousin Shiwa, 21, was in the second year of her medical studies and wanted to be a doctor. Her sister, Sina, 23, was studying pharmacology and the friend from down the street, Soraya, 22, won a technical diploma and was working as a telephone engineer.

None of them expects to study or work again, as Taliban has imposed an Islamic rule of life so strict that even the conservative leaders of Iran have criticized it.

Women were told to stay at home and that they could go out only if wearing the head-to-foot covering called a burqa, with a mesh over the eyes, and only if accompanied by a very close male relative like a father or a brother.

Taliban officials defended their policies Tuesday. "Afghan society is different from Western society," said Taliban official Maulvi Wakil. "In Afghan society, it is impossible for women to live as they do in the West. We are working on women's rights in the light of Afghan society and Islam."

But there is little cheer in this for the Hayan women, who have no close male relative living with them, and thus have been stranded inside their house since Sept. 27, when the black-turbaned Taliban warriors swept into the city after a lightning attack.

The Hayan women rely on Zaigull's nephews to go to the bazaar to buy food. They spend all day in the house or the small, dusty garden in front of it behind the high wall of the compound typical of Afghan housing.

Meanwhile, north of the capital, in the Uzbek stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif, university students gathered Tuesday to decry the collapse of their country.

"Don't ask us about politics, don't ask us about Taliban. We are interested in life and education, not death and war," 24-year-old student Nasir Bessed spat out at reporters.

"Everyone wants to know what we think about the Taliban, but they are not an Afghan creation. They were created by Pakistan and the United States. Russia, Iran, Pakistan, America -- they say they want to help Afghanistan but all they do is help Afghans make war."

Nasir spoke at the University of Mazar-i-Sharif, one of five institutions of higher education still operating in Afghanistan.

He and his fellow students -- some of them women -- did little to hide their annoyance at Western fascination with the Taliban forces who captured Kabul 10 days ago and imposed rigid Islamic law on the city.

"It's true I am not political since I am a student, but my education will be wasted if the Taliban come to Mazar-i-Sharif," said 21-year-old Maria, who fled Kabul with her family in 1992.

"I want to be a teacher. Most of us women in this class do. But under the Taliban that would not be possible. I had hoped to return to Kabul but I would never go back now unless things change. Life is hard in Afghanistan for an educated person, especially a woman."

The talk among shopkeepers and taxi-drivers in this city's dusty bazaars is that Uzbeks and Tajiks in the north will join forces to halt the Pashtun-dominated Taliban from advancing. But some university students bristled at the notion of ethnic politics.

"Uzbek, Tajik, Pashtun -- these are labels which mean nothing. We are all Afghans and we could live in peace if outside countries would stop raising these racial and tribal and lingual differences which keep us at war," said Nasir Bessed.

"We get such big promises from outside countries. But they write their promises on ice and then set them in the sun." ()