Famine, violence, backsliding on women's rights: One year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan

Famine, violence, backsliding on women's rights: one year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan

Famine, poverty, system of health in agony… “The scale of suffering in Afghanistan is almost unprecedented,” warns UNICEF.

A child receiving treatment for malnutrition is treated in a children's ward at Indira Gandhi Hospital, Kabul.

One year to the day after the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the country is sinking into an economic crisis coupled with a humanitarian catastrophe. Taliban authorities have imposed severe restrictions on the rights of women and girls who have been ostracized from society as famine grips the country.

When it regained power on August 15, 2021, the Taliban promised not to restrict the human rights of Afghans, especially women. A year later, it is clear that they have not kept their commitment.

The most recent manifestation of Taliban violence against women took place as recently as Saturday. About forty women risked their lives demonstrating in the streets of Kabul to loudly claim bread, work, freedom in front of the Ministry of Education, before a group of Taliban fighters dispersed them and shot them. #x27;air, some five minutes into the march.

Some demonstrators then took refuge in shops where they were chased and beaten with rifle butts.

Taliban fighters beat female protesters and fired into the air as they violently dispersed a rare gathering in the Afghan capital.

< p class="e-p">The protesters carried a banner that read August 15 is a black day, in reference to the date Kabul was taken over by the Taliban in 2021.

I think it& #x27;is a sad birthday for the majority of the inhabitants of my country, for the women who do not have enough food, who do not know what their tomorrow will be, summarizes Sima Samar in an interview with the Associated Press. The committed activist was also the first Minister responsible for the Status of Women in the entire history of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Now Chair of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Afghanistan, Dr. Samar left Kabul in July 2021 for the United States. She recalls the Taliban's previous rule in the late 1990s, when they largely confined women to their homes, banned television and music, and carried out public executions. Three decades later, the same scenario seems to be repeating itself.

For improving the lives of women and girls, Dr. Samar has won numerous accolades. She was on the short list of nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

Between the two regimes, Afghan women were able to enter schools and universities, they entered the labor market and politics, and became judges. It was after the eviction of the Taliban by the United States, a few months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, that Sima Samar was able to return to live in Afghanistan, where she had access to important positions in the field of women's rights and human rights.

However, she pointed out in a previous interview, given four months before August 15, 2021, that social gains remained fragile even before the return of the Taliban to power and that human rights defenders had many enemies in Afghanistan, that they are activists, military leaders or anyone hostile to criticism of the power in place.

As chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Sima Samar says she repeatedly faced criticism that she was trying to impose Western values ​​on Afghanistan.

“I have kept saying that human rights are not western values. As human beings, everyone should have shelter, access to education and health services, security.

— Dr. Sima Samar, Chairperson of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Afghanistan

The Taliban began restricting women's rights long before Saturday's protest, despite their initial promise of a looser regime than when they came to power between 1996 and 2001. Here are some notable examples. :

  • As of September 17, 2021, the Taliban will rename the Ministry of Women to name it the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue.
  • On March 23, 2022, they ban girls from secondary schools, just hours after their long-announced reopening.

In this photo taken on August 9, 2022, an Afghan woman walks with schoolgirls on their way to their primary school in Kabul.

  • In early May, the supreme leader of the Taliban ordered women to wear a full veil in public, preferably the burqa. Women are also excluded from many public jobs and prohibited from traveling alone outside their city.

Prohibitions continue to multiply and some also affect men: non-religious music, representation of human faces in advertisements and television broadcasting of films or series showing unveiled women are banned, among others. The fundamentalists ask men to wear traditional clothes and let their beards grow.

On May 17, the regime announces the dissolution of the Human Rights Commission ( AIHRC), an organization that notably monitored violence committed against the population. 0813-1500_01.jpeg” media=”(min-width: 0px) and (max-width: 99999px)”/>

It will be a year since Monday that Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan fell into the hands of the Taliban. A dark year for Afghan women; whose fundamental rights have been taken away from them. Despite the risks, some of them decide to demonstrate to make their anger heard. These are rare demonstrations of courage, heavily repressed by the Taliban. A report by Louis-Philippe Trozzo.

The economic, social and health balance sheet is disastrous. Between 2013 and 2020, Afghanistan's poverty rate had already increased from 40% to 55% of the population.

By summer 2021, 75% of Afghans were food insecure. A year later, according to Human Rights Watch, 90% of Afghan households have not had enough to eat. A large part of the population suffers from acute malnutrition.

The World Food Program estimates that Afghanistan is the country with the most widespread food insufficiency. More and more families have to resolve not to send a sick child to the hospital, in order to keep enough money to feed others.

UNICEF estimates that $2 billion is needed to meet the humanitarian needs of 15.3 million people in Afghanistan.

Some families still travel thousands of kilometers to reach the few hospitals still functional in the country, including the French Medical Institute in Kabul, which still receives patients from all over the country.< /p>

In 2022, in response to the serious food crisis affecting Afghanistan, a nutrition unit with 12 beds, including 2 resuscitation beds, opened within the hospital dedicated to gynecology, obstetrics and neonatology.

We are inundated with patients, children, women, we have increased our activity by 300% in three months, says Éric Cheysson, president of the humanitarian organization La Chaîne de l'Espoir and French vascular surgeon, interviewed on the program Désautels on Sunday. He travels regularly to Kabul to lead the teams there.

The Taliban regime has caused a skills drain, a serious wound that will be extremely difficult to fill, says Dr Cheysson, citing the example of the hospital he runs: We have 960 employees, we We have already lost 90 doctors in our hospital, and we also had 9 resuscitators that we had trained – the only resuscitation in Afghanistan. Already eight are gone.

“They leave because they have children who have no future. […] The economic crisis is appalling, famine is at the gates of all the provinces. »

— Éric Cheysson, president of the humanitarian organization La Chaîne de l’Espoir, head of the French Medical Institute for mothers and children

Éric Cheysson did everything to keep his employees, often the only ones able to intervene with patients. For us it is a red line. We would not accept to continue if the women, the nurses, the doctors who work in the hospital were prohibited from doing this, warns the vascular surgeon. He must also keep health services afloat despite power cuts, as he is being asked for unpaid bills.

The surgeon has spoken to the authorities local authorities in order to be able to continue treating the population. They are aware of the economic and humanitarian crisis. They want us to continue at all costs, he summarizes his long discussion with the Afghan Minister of Health, a neurologist.

I felt like I was talking to a colleague, but I'll tell you, I don't know where the decisions are made. […] There are 56 ministries. […] There is such a fragmentation, such a dilution of the decision-making pyramid that I don't really know if the interlocutors we have are able to apply what they say.

Dr. Cheysson is making an urgent appeal to Canadian physicians, surgeons and anesthesiologists interested in lending a hand in Afghanistan and training the next generation there.

More specifically, it calls on women gynecologists for missions of 15 days, 3 months at the French hospital in Kabul. They will be very well received to treat and train the young generation, because the waiting lists to consult a gynecologist are very long.

With information from Manon Globensky

With information from Agence France-Presse, and Associated Press

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