By Phyllis Chesler
January 7, 2022
The new year is just a week old, but each day brings new horrors for people living under Taliban domination in Afghanistan. I am in touch with a number of Afghan women who are trapped and cannot escape the brutal new reality. What they tell me is that life there again is as bad as we feared it would be.
Jan. 4, 2022: The Taliban are beating rickshaw drivers who are driving girls and women to school without a male minder present.
The Office for Promoting Virtue and Prohibiting Vice in the province of Herat has announced that playing music in coffee shops and in the presence of women and girls without their Muharram (male minder) is prohibited.
The Afghan women say: “I feel sorry for every single woman in this country, who face a dark and violent future.”
One of the trapped Afghan women sent me a cartoon of a woman being dragged by her hijab/chador by a cave man back to the “dark past.” The world looks startled but America, arms akimbo, has walked away.
Jan. 5, 2022: The Afghan women tell me that the garbage-bag smothered female mannequin heads in the store window have also “had their plastic heads cut from their plastic bodies.”
Also, a Talib, with long hair to his shoulders, cut the beautiful hair of a young man in a terrible and cruel way.
They are also dumping tanks of alcohol into the Kabul river.
Another woman said: “And we still expect them to let the women work, open the schools and universities to girls, when they are provoked even by plastic mannequins? Women and girls are not safe here.”
Jan. 6, 2022: The Afghan women tell me: “After 20 years of war, the Taliban now claim the defeat of 42 countries and the formation of a government. In reality, they have abandoned everything except defacing plastic mannequins. They are returning to the 1990s. It is getting tough daily.”
Jan. 6, 2022: One of the Afghan women in hiding congratulates me on one of my articles. She writes: “It is so sad news about our beautiful country that has become the worst place to live for us. I cried when I read about that woman who was going to be rescued but who disappeared and was found murdered. There are a lot of cases like this which do not reach the media.”
Jan. 6, 2022: An Afghan women tells me: “The T are taking the lives of thousands of young people in the same way they have treated the mannequins. We have received news that the Taliban are considering a section of suicide bombers. Although suicide is forbidden in Islam, they call themselves defenders of Islam, but they are acting against the Afghan culture and against Islam.”
For one desperate moment, we had hoped that Pakistan might be a viable, temporary option for Afghans who can only apply for refugee status in America from a country outside of Afghanistan. Apparently, this is not an option. There are far too many Afghan refugees already in Pakistan. One Afghan woman who was able to escape tells me that after paying those who brought her, she has had to sell her jewelry in order to pay for her safe house in Islamabad. But her jewelry is running out, and Afghans cannot obtain work permits without paying a huge amount of money to fixers and government officials, and that there very few jobs available.
Pakistan might have been an option, but only if America was willing to process the 30,000+ applications for humanitarian parole it had received as of mid-December. But only 100 applications have been approved. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has accepted approximately $17 million from the applicants, while making the eligibility requirements for humanitarian parole even more stringent. Canada also has pledged to accept a large number of Afghan refugees and is said to be involved in trying to launch a global initiative on behalf of these refugees.
Thus far, Canada and the United States seem to lack the political will to accomplish such goals. But they have announced that they will accept Afghans from a country outside of Afghanistan if they already have civilian sponsors and enough funds to survive until they find employment.
Both countries are outsourcing their obligations. Civilians (former army veterans, businesspeople, Jewish and Christian groups, NGOs, grassroots feminists, etc.) are already doing the heavy lifting of evacuation, providing safe houses, and delivering food.
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the City University of New York (CUNY), and the author of 20 books, including Women and Madness, and A Family Conspiracy: Honor Killings. She is a Senior IPT Fellow, and a Fellow at MEF and ISGAP.