Last Tuesday, the Taliban’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice declared that women’s beauty salons would be closed throughout the country within a month. This is the latest action taken by the Taliban to restrict the rights and freedoms of women in Afghanistan. Previously, the Taliban had banned women from receiving an education and working in most fields. According to a report from the AFP news agency, the new decree from the Taliban Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was issued based on verbal instructions from Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzadah, the supreme leader of the Taliban. In response to the issuance of this decree, one of the women who manages a beauty salon in Kabul expressed in an interview with AFP, “It would be better if there were no women in this society at all. I wish I was never born. I wish nobody was born in Afghanistan, or I wish we were not from Afghanistan.”
Unfortunately, these words from the manager of a beauty salon in Kabul in response to the Taliban’s restrictions on women reflect the sentiments of almost everyone living in Afghanistan. These days, by walking in the streets and markets and listening carefully, you will hear similar sentiments from various segments of society. The harsh reality is that, except for a small number of people whose interests are somehow tied to the savagery and primitiveness of the Taliban government, the rest are all deeply dissatisfied with the current situation. If given the opportunity to leave Afghanistan, they would not hesitate for a moment.
According to a recent poll conducted by the Gallup Institute among Afghan citizens, more than 90 percent of people in the country feel miserable. Perhaps, the people of Afghanistan have never felt such helplessness and disillusionment with such intensity and depth at any other time in history. Why are people dissatisfied with the current situation and willing to undertake any laborious and dangerous work to escape the country?
Undoubtedly, the feeling of helplessness and misery among Afghans stems from the medieval-style governance of the Taliban. This group, with a narrow worldview, is unaware of the main duties and responsibilities of modern governments. They believe that the best way to rule the people is by treating citizens as serfs and lords, creating an atmosphere of intimidation in society. Since the Taliban view the people’s loyalty to their government as negative, they try to maintain a tight grip on the people, displaying their power.
Lacking familiarity with modern governance theories, they believe that the government has no choice but to impose restrictions on the rights and freedoms of the people, keeping citizens confined in a metaphorical cage to ensure security and suppress uprisings. The Taliban take pride in having established security throughout the country, but they never question the cost of achieving this security or the numerous human rights violations endured by citizens. In order to establish their desired order and security, the Taliban do not hesitate to commit any crimes and atrocities.
Afghanistan is one of the few countries in the world where millions of its citizens have sought refuge in various Eastern and Western countries. In the past few decades, a significant portion of the population has been forced to leave the country and live outside of Afghanistan, at least temporarily. Thanks to these migrations, the people of Afghanistan have had the opportunity to compare life in their own country with life in other nations. Twenty years of republican rule also introduced citizens to the advantages of modern living. For this reason, it is challenging for people to adjust to the Taliban’s lifestyle and wholeheartedly accept the violence and strictness imposed by the Taliban.
Now that people are aware of the high level of prosperity, comfort, and the blessings of life available in other countries, and experiencing the hardships of living under Taliban rule firsthand, they are actively seeking ways to escape and are willing to take great risks to rid themselves of the misery imposed by the Taliban. Some people choose the extreme route and contemplate suicide as a means of escaping their troubles. Since the establishment of the Taliban regime, the number of suicides among women and young people in the country has reached unprecedented levels.
During the twenty years of the republican system, people had a sense of a more humane life and enjoyed the benefits of living in the contemporary world. However, with the return of the Taliban, the people found themselves under the rule of leaders who hold dark and regressive views, determined to drag the country back centuries. These newly established rulers openly oppose progress and civilization, using religion as a pretext for their actions. Despite claiming to implement God’s law, their interpretation of religion contradicts the rationality and requirements of the modern world. Even the most conservative Islamic country is not prepared to accept such an approach. The Taliban’s implementation of Sharia law has not only failed to safeguard the rights of citizens but has also fostered an atmosphere of reluctance and suffocation in every aspect of life.
The most significant advantage of living in the modern world is that governments respect the freedoms of citizens and aim to minimize interference in their lives. These governments not only recognize religious and cultural diversity but also strive to promote it. In contrast, the Taliban do not believe in ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity within the country. They seek to homogenize society and are unwilling to compromise in this regard.
Those who claim a monopoly on religious and divine truths, while asserting that they are implementing God’s commands, go to such extremes that they leave no room for citizens to breathe. By meddling in the minutiae of people’s lives, they make individuals feel like caged birds. Many Afghans who flee the country believe that by escaping the clutches of the Taliban, they will be able to enjoy various freedoms in life. However, whether they will attain this dream or if their problems will worsen upon leaving the country remains uncertain.
The Taliban regime lacks a legal framework. People witness firsthand that citizens are devoid of basic human rights and mental security under Taliban rule. A Taliban soldier has the authority to act as he pleases without fearing the consequences of his actions. A Taliban soldier can simultaneously be a general, a judge, and an executioner. The Taliban are still reluctant to establish a constitution that clearly outlines what behaviors are lawful and what are not. The Taliban’s security apparatus, without any accountability to individuals or institutions, has the power to arrest and torture citizens, subjecting them to horrendous prisons for indefinite periods and releasing them at their whim. So far, countless crimes have been committed against citizens by Taliban soldiers, yet none of the perpetrators have been held accountable. Can living in such an environment be described as anything other than a slow death?
One of the factors that has caused people to grow weary of living in their homeland is the lack of prospects for the future in Afghanistan, stemming from several factors. It is no exaggeration to say that Afghanistan has become an island of terror. Contemporary education that empowers young people, both boys and girls, to confront the challenges of the modern world is undermined and nearly forgotten. The Taliban seek recruits by establishing hundreds of religious schools. Girls, who are prohibited from receiving an education, are left with two options: either stay at home and remain illiterate, or be lured into Taliban religious schools.
In a few years, it is conceivable that we will face an army of thousands of men and women who possess a Taliban worldview and will work tirelessly to sustain the Taliban emirate, making the current atmosphere even bleaker. The Taliban have the ability to reshape the cultural and social fabric of society to their advantage in order to maintain their power. Additionally, under Taliban rule, various terrorist groups, from Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Sipah-e Sahaba to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), operate freely. Naturally, these groups bring along their families and close associates, creating an environment conducive to their existence. With such circumstances, can we envision a positive and bright future for the country?
Multiple pieces of evidence indicate that unless an unexpected event occurs, the Afghan people will have to endure Taliban rule for a long time. The prolonged stay of the Taliban in power will have dire consequences and set the country back for decades. Western countries believe they can utilize this group to fulfill their geopolitical objectives. Consequently, they intend to find a way to engage with the Taliban government and ensure its survival. Currently, human rights and women’s rights are not a priority for Western countries. Afghan citizens are more or less aware of these circumstances, leading them to feel betrayed by the international community. Helplessness, anger, and frustration are palpable on the faces of many Afghan residents. Those fortunate enough to reach safer shores consider themselves liberated from a dreadful storm. However, the majority of people who confront the Taliban’s strictness on a daily basis are burdened with pain and are afraid to even voice their concerns. Nonetheless, in an atmosphere of suffocation and tyranny, “every man’s pain is his own.”