Of all the setbacks for women and workers in the world over the past year, this is among the worst. Imperialism has ensured that one of the most oppressive regimes against women ever, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan based on pure gender apartheid, is back.
Statement by Rosa International
Of all the setbacks for women and workers in the world over the past year, this is among the worst. Imperialism has ensured that one of the most oppressive regimes against women ever, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan based on pure gender apartheid, is back. As the Taliban are preparing to establish their new “emirate”, women, girls and sexual minorities are contemplating with dread what this will mean for their lives.
Many, inside the country and internationally, remember that the Taliban’ first rule between 1996 and 2001 unleashed a torrent of gruesome misogynistic abuses and systematic gender-based violence. But what is not the same as before is the women’s struggle. Against the background of the growing feminist consciousness and movements that have emerged globally, it has evolved over the years and it will raise more resistance this time. Unlike in 1996, there is now also broad knowledge about what people are up against.
ROSA stands with the greatest possible solidarity on the side of the Afghan women, young people, oppressed ethnic groups, workers and poor people in these dark days. We meet young people who have already fled Afghanistan during the war and who are now pale with concern for families, relatives and friends back home who they either can’t reach or who give frightening reports.
I remember the Taliban regime last time
“I am 32 years old so I remember the Taliban regime last time”, says Zahra Aqeli at a demonstration outside the Riksdag in Stockholm.
“When I was little, I was not allowed to go to school. So I was studying in a secret school in a cave in the mountains. I managed to read all the way up to high school in secret.
“My friends and relatives tell me that everyone is scared now. No one believes the Taliban when they say they should give women rights. No women or girls dare to go outdoors today. If the Taliban find out that someone is having an affair without being married, they will be killed.
“I am proud that my village in the Gazni province resisted for 40 days before the politicians and the military leadership sold out the resistance in the provincial capital, which thus ceased and without it my village could not resist.”
Ali tells of his family in the village of Pashi in Gazni that the Taliban smashed the mobile mast. That they have taken the upper floor of his family’s house and from there they attack everyone. They order girls over the age of 14 to marry them. Hamid in Kabul says that his brother was executed by the Taliban a month ago and that he is now responsible for his mother, his brother’s widow and four small children.
It is with disgust that we stand against our governments, which at this stage are not discussing how to help the victims of the war, but are concerned with defending their disastrous record in Afghanistan and about how to raise even higher refugee walls as quickly as possible, so that those who succeed in escaping the Taliban’s reign of terror do not find refuge in Europe or in the United States.
The right to asylum now!
We demand that all refugees who have already escaped from Afghanistan be granted immediate and permanent residence permits and are able to seek support for their families who may still be in Afghanistan. After that, safe escape routes need to be established for the new refugees who arrive and the right to asylum must be granted. There is no shortage of money. The billions used by the EU and the US to fight in Afghanistan — the US has spent $ 300 million a day on the war — can now be used to support refugees.
Peace and democracy can never be achieved by bombs. We socialists already demonstrated 20 years ago against imperialist intervention and warned that it would not create peace. Nor did we ever accept the lie that US imperialism invaded and occupied Afghanistan for the sake of rescuing or liberating Afghan women. The Bush administration and its international allies exploited the horribly oppressive treatment of Afghan women under the first Taliban regime to justify its so-called “war on terror”.
This propaganda passed over the fact that US foreign policy itself had been critical in nurturing the Taliban in the first place. Concerns for women’s rights did not weigh much in the balance indeed when all through the 1980’s, US forces and the CIA, along with the Saudi monarchy, Pakistan’s intelligence services and a number of other European governments generously funded and armed the forefathers of the Taliban, the fundamentalist Mujahudeen, in their crusade against the Soviet Union. Later, in order to overthrow the Taliban who had seized power in Kabul, the US propped up the “Northern Alliance” — a coalition of warlords and tribal leaders whose patriarchal attitudes towards women, in some instances, only marginally differ from those of the Taliban themselves.
But the “feminist” pretensions and liberatory myth of the US-led war on Afghanistan have also gone to crash against the reality experienced by the majority of women and girls under the 20 years of military occupation and successive US-backed forces and puppet governments. While it is true that following the collapse of the first Taliban regime in 2001, Afghan women recovered some of the rights lost during their brutal subjugation by that regime, the situation has been far from the “liberation” imperialism had promised. Gender violence and oppression have remained extremely widespread.
Furthermore, the war and occupation unleashed their own new trail of suffering for millions of Afghan women — killing, injuring, starving, displacing thousands of them. The course of this war has eventually brought the arch-reactionary Taliban back in power, threatening Afghan women and minorities with a new range of extreme attacks on even the limited gains and freedoms they could experience before.
Corruption in cooperation with Western imperialism
The corruption and poverty cultivated by Ashraf Ghani’s regime in cooperation with Western imperialism created mistrust and undermined opposition to the Taliban.
The proportion in Afghanistan living below the national poverty line — equivalent to 26.6 dollars per person per month — increased in 2020 from 54.5 percent of the population to 72 percent. Instead of food, opium cultivation has increased almost every year since 2000. This year, 40 percent of the grain harvest is destroyed by drought and 14 million are threatened by acute famine, while aid from the West, after declining in recent years, now disappears overnight. Only 4.6 percent of the population is vaccinated against covid19.
Afghanistan was already considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world before the Taliban took power. The proportion of women and children among civilian victims of the war increased to 43 percent last year and continued to rise sharply this year, according to the UN, including the bestial terrorist attack on a girls’ school in Kabul on May 8 with at least 68 dead and 150 injured. The Taliban were identified as responsible.
While US President Joe Biden has a hard time explaining how the longest war in modern times could end in this catastrophe, while Russia and China are negotiating to establish ties with the Taliban in order to promote their own oppressive regimes, enrich their trade and increase their influence — we socialist feminists are on the side of the oppressed masses. The major powers like to believe the Taliban when they say that women should be allowed to study and work (on certain selected jobs). It makes their legacy look better. But women, LGBTQ people and persecuted minorities like the Hazaras in Afghanistan obviously have no faith in this hypocrisy. The first job for us in the working class is to get the truth out, what reality looks like.
In July, the Taliban enacted Sharia Law in Balkh province with restrictions on women not being allowed to stay outside without the company of a man. In many other provinces, radio stations have been shut down and dress codes imposed. The situation in Afghanistan today is described as nightmare-like. Journalists and interpreters disappear and aid workers are hunted down. The Taliban go from house to house looking for people who are being abducted and killed. A 21-year-old woman in Mazar-e Sharif was killed last week because she was staying outside without male company.
The interpretation of the Sharia Law from the earlier Taliban era is based on gender apartheid where women are the property of men. This is why they have to hide their whole body under full veils. No one but their husband should see them. Control of women’s sexuality are mechanisms in the class society based gender power order that exist all over the world in a looser way, but under the Taliban in an extreme form.
But there is always resistance. For the past 20 years, women’s struggles in Afghanistan had slowly changed some of their conditions. Today, 40 percent of the students in schools are girls and half of the fully educated women started working as teachers themselves. This is a factor the Taliban are well aware of, and which in part motivates their current PR campaign around their supposed “respect for women’s rights”. It will be difficult for the Taliban to force women back into their homes and demonstrations, including of women in Kabul, have already taken place against the Taliban. On the other hand, Unicef reported in 2018 that fewer and fewer children in Afghanistan go to school due to war, poverty and discrimination (then 44 percent of the children did not go to school at all, and two thirds of the girls). War, violence, terrorism and reduced aid have tended to undermine the small progress made.
These days we are reminded of how Kurdish women fought against and together with others defeated an even more brutal Islamist regime, the so-called “Islamic State”, or Daesh, in Syria. Despite serious political limitations, a feminist orientation linked to social projects did strengthen their struggle. When ISIS captured Shangal, Rojava and Basur in 2014 and when an entire population of Yedizi women (Yazidis) were captured, raped and turned into sex slaves, the “international community” looked away while feminist groups started the underground organization to get these thousands of women liberated.
Popular resistance will grow against the Taliban. The resistance must be totally against the interference of imperialism, which always involves class divisions, corruption, oppression and division. When the resistance is based on the people’s need to build society together — food, care, vaccines, housing and education for all — it is then that the resistance gets a social base that makes it extremely strong.
Socialist feminists will do everything in our power to support the feminist struggle in Afghanistan. Our struggle is connected around the world. The victory for abortion rights in Argentina, healthcare workers striking for higher wages in the United States, the spread of feminism in China, Iran and Iraq, the rage against the victim blaming of rape victims in Australia, are all struggles that reinforce each other in the global wave of women’s struggles.
In the name of international solidarity
The developments of recent years, the way capitalism deals with the pandemic that is causing a tidal wave of setbacks for women, the accelerating pace of the climate crisis and now the return of the Taliban, reinforce the realization that the small steps forward are not enough. That they can be removed at any time and everything thrown back. This leads us to the conclusion that what is required is radical, revolutionary and total change.
ROSA fights for the abolition of the capitalist system with its blood-curdling pursuit of profit, imperialist crusades and shameless support for fanatical groups of all kinds — this system must be abolished. We are fighting for a socialist world where a common ownership of the economy and a democratic governance of society by the working class, poor and all oppressed provide the conditions for equality, freedom and peace for all. The way to win this is through the workers’ struggle, socialist feminism and international solidarity.