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Anxiety and fear for women in Taliban stronghold

Afghan student Fauzia used to make ends meet voicing ads on a radio station in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar, but that came to an abrupt end when the Islamists swept to power in August.

Their order was clear: no female voices on the air. Afghanistan’s new rulers have promised more moderate governance than their last stint in power, when women were all but barred from work and education, and prohibited from leaving the house unchaperoned.

But there is widespread mistrust in their women’s rights pledge. Most girls around the country have been barred from attending secondary school, and most women have been unable to return to work.

When AFP visited Kandahar last month, only a few women were visible in the dusty shopping streets of the southern city, hastily lugging bags from store to store while wearing the head-to-toe burqa. The Taliban “posted messages on Facebook saying they did not want to hear any more music or female (voices) on air,” said Fauzia, who asked not to use her real name.

The 20-year-old medical student’s situation has become increasingly desperate after losing her income from radio ads — Fauzia and her four younger siblings are orphans, and she is struggling to put food on the table.

Despite Taliban promises of a softer rule this time around, women remain depressed and unclear about their place in society, while businesses that once employed them are wary of upsetting the Islamists. Fauzia’s former boss said the radio station felt forced to stop airing ads with women’s voices. She has been handing out our resumes all over Kandahar, without any luck. The Taliban have promised all Afghans security and peace, including women.

But for Fauzia, the mere presence of the Islamists puts social pressure on women to stay away. Except (for) groceries, we don’t go anywhere else,” she said, and even then, women “come back home very quickly”. Even my little brother tells me to cover my face, to not see friends anymore, and not to go anywhere except classes,” Fauzia said.

It is a jarring change for many young Afghan women, who benefited from the previous government’s push for girls’ education. We want freedom,” said a 12-year-old girl in the yard of Nazari’s school. But she added that with the Taliban now in power, girls and women will have to do “whatever they say.

Source: Reuters

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