‘Afghanistan Undercover’ particulars the Taliban’s mistreatment of girls and ladies : NPR


A lady sits in entrance of a bakery within the crowd with Afghan girls ready to obtain bread in Kabul on Jan. 31, 2022.

Ali Khara/Reuters


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Ali Khara/Reuters


A lady sits in entrance of a bakery within the crowd with Afghan girls ready to obtain bread in Kabul on Jan. 31, 2022.

Ali Khara/Reuters

In August 2021, shortly after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid held a press convention during which he vowed that the insurgents would defend girls’s rights in keeping with Islamic legislation. Filmmaker Ramita Navai says it was an empty promise.

“[The Taliban] knew that the world was watching, is watching, and that girls’s rights for the world is a litmus take a look at of their governance and the way they method human rights,” Navai says of Mujahid’s press convention. “In fact, it did not take very lengthy for the world to appreciate that they weren’t as reform-minded as they have been making out.”

Navai chronicles the Taliban’s therapy of girls within the new PBS Frontline documentary, Afghanistan Undercover, which she began researching in early 2020.

“I began trying on the land [the Taliban] have been taking and what was taking place to girls within the territory they have been taking on. And it was horrifying,” Navai says. “I needed to make a documentary nearly as a warning: Pay attention, everyone, that is what’s taking place.”

The documentary was filmed outdoors the capital Kabul, in Afghanistan’s provinces, the place the crackdown on girls’s rights has been notably harsh. Since coming into energy, the Taliban have damaged their promise to permit ladies to proceed their education past sixth grade. With a number of exceptions, girls are now not allowed to work. When out on the street, they’re anticipated to be lined from head to toe with solely a gap for his or her eyes. Many women and girls are disappearing — arrested for violating the morality code or kidnapped and compelled to marry one of many Taliban.

Navai, who’s British, says the truth that she was born in Iran and might go as Afghan allowed her to mix in on the streets of Afghanistan and acquire entry to locations that may in any other case be off-limits. Being a lady additionally helped, she says.

“Being a lady could be a good factor in a patriarchal society with males just like the Taliban, as a result of I used to be completely ignored,” she says. “It isn’t usually I get enthusiastic about being invisible as a lady and ignored and underestimated. That was one among them.”

Navai filmed in Afghanistan in November 2021, and once more in March this yr, and observed that situations for ladies within the nation worsened between her two visits — a reality she attributes to a shift on the planet’s consideration from Afghanistan to Ukraine.

“So many ladies we spoke to mentioned precisely that to us, mentioned, ‘No one cares about Afghanistan anymore due to Ukraine. And we’re actually scared now greater than we ever have been as a result of there are not any checks and balances on these folks,’ ” she says.

Interview highlights

On what she realized when she spoke to the ladies and ladies in jail

[The women and girls are] in there for ethical crimes, for so-called ethical crimes, they usually had all been in jail because the Taliban took over. In fact, when the Taliban took over, by the way in which, they emptied all the prisons throughout the nation. So all of those girls have been in jail because the takeover. And the opposite factor we came upon — and we came upon this by means of the ladies and thru their households — was that their circumstances had not been formally recorded. So they’d simply been sucked into this black gap as a result of there was no official report of them, they’d simply gone lacking. Slowly, their households had came upon the place they have been and their households had began to all attempt negotiating launch. However in fact, there was simply completely no report as a result of the Taliban have been making an attempt to maintain these feminine imprisonments secret from the world — they usually nonetheless are.

On girls and ladies being kidnapped and compelled to marry Taliban fighters


Filmmaker Ramita Navai says being a lady was an asset when filming the documentary Afghanistan Undercover: “Being a lady could be a good factor in a patriarchal society with males just like the Taliban, as a result of I used to be completely ignored.”

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Filmmaker Ramita Navai says being a lady was an asset when filming the documentary Afghanistan Undercover: “Being a lady could be a good factor in a patriarchal society with males just like the Taliban, as a result of I used to be completely ignored.”

PBS

These compelled marriages are very totally different to the cultural phenomenon that occurs in Afghanistan of compelled marriages, and that is the place dad and mom give their daughters to households for marriage, and that is a standard apply. They get a bride value. And households …. work collectively, in settlement collectively, and the daughter often has no say in it.

However now what’s taking place is that the Taliban are abducting girls and ladies and taking them with out the household’s consent, with no bride value. And what often occurs, the sample that often follows, is {that a} Taliban fighter or perhaps a Taliban commander — as a result of we uncovered proof that this was taking place at excessive ranges throughout the Taliban — will see or hear of a lady they wish to marry. A whole lot of instances it is as a result of there is a actually fairly, enticing younger lady or lady that they’ve heard about or they’ve seen on the market, they usually method the household they usually attempt the official route first — ask for a hand in marriage.

When the household says no, that is after they abduct the lady. So they may flip up with reinforcements. Typically they flip up with a cleric in tow and get married, get the cleric to marry them on the spot. And sometimes the lady is taken and the household do not have entry to her. Usually the household is overwhelmed up within the course of as a result of, in fact, male family members will protest. And I believe, once more, each single case that I got here throughout, members of the family have been overwhelmed when the ladies have been taken. … It was nearly not possible speaking to any of those ladies as a result of they’re underneath lock and key.

On how some girls are rebelling in opposition to strict Taliban-enforced gown codes

I used to be fairly shocked, really, in Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan, girls there have been wearing a reasonably daring manner, and that actually shocked me. And I spoke to a few of these girls, took them apart and mentioned, “Look, you are sporting actually excessive heels. I can see your ankles. You are sporting a great deal of make-up. Your hair’s falling out of your scarf. How do you dare? Are you not scared?” They usually mentioned, “Yeah, we’re scared, however it is a type of riot.”

And it stroke a chord in my memory of Iran. In Iran, after I was reporting there 10, 15 years in the past, you could possibly get flogged for a nasty hijab. You would get flogged for sporting an excessive amount of make-up. And but everyone, all the ladies would exit with their hair exhibiting and their make-up exhibiting, and it was sort of the youth’s manner of rebelling. And the youth’s one-fingered salute to a system, an ideology they did not agree with. And it was actually humorous speaking to those younger Afghan girls and ladies on this province in northern Afghanistan, who’re pushing out the boundaries, who have been daring to go away the home uncovered, that jogged my memory of what was taking place in Iran and the youth in Iran.

On the women-led underground community of secure homes to assist Afghan girls

They’d get cellphone calls from determined girls and households across the nation. So it was an underground railway community nearly, they usually wanted shelter. So usually, households wanted to flee. The Taliban have been attempting to find them. And what was attention-grabbing was that these younger girls who have been working this community of secret secure homes, they have been additionally all on the run from the Taliban. So that they have been working underneath the radar and undercover on a regular basis, placing their very own lives in danger to assist households escaping the Taliban.

On the sharp rise in suicides amongst Afghan girls — and why they’re unreported

Afghanistan is without doubt one of the few nations the place charges of suicides amongst girls have been larger than males. It is one of many few nations on the planet the place that is true. However what we’re seeing now could be a very sharp rise in suicides throughout the nation. So we’re seeing the very actual results of Taliban rule. And there are individuals who say girls have been at all times compelled into marriage and many ladies weren’t allowed out of their houses. Nicely, a few of that is true. … Life for lots of girls in very rural areas hasn’t modified that a lot because the Taliban got here to energy. You already know what has modified is the lack of hope. …

I spoke to many ladies residing in rural villages, they knew that there was progress someplace far within the distance in Kabul, say, that there was progress, that there was hope, that issues have been altering, even when it was a snail’s tempo, that in the event that they did find yourself in jail, there was a judicial course of and that’s now gone. And to see the consequences of that on this one hospital, whereas I used to be there, to see circumstances of suicide day-after-day are available in. And by the way in which, medical doctors inform me that plenty of these circumstances usually are not being recorded as a result of the Taliban will not let the medical doctors report these circumstances, as a result of they do not need the world to know that suicide charges are rocketing.

The medical doctors additionally advised me that the place the victims are households of Talibs, the medical doctors are instructed to not report these circumstances. So not all circumstances are being recorded. So really, suicide charges are far larger than official data present. On high of that, many, many medical doctors advised me they have been frequently overwhelmed and threatened.

On why she needed to give attention to girls’s rights

When you could have entrenched patriarchy, you could have misogyny, and you’ve got excessive charges of violence and sexual violence in opposition to girls, and you’ve got absolute hypocrisy. And the place there are not any girls’s rights, there are not any human rights. Girls’s rights are human rights. And I get actually pissed off whenever you discuss girls’s rights, and males usually in positions of energy will dismiss girls’s rights. “Oh, there are extra essential issues to be worrying about. You’ve got received inside politics and also you’re fearful about girls’s rights!” We noticed this occur in Iran when the revolution occurred and a whole lot of 1000’s of girls took to the streets in opposition to the hijab. They have been advised even by liberals and the left wing and the secular, “Get again in your field. Shut up. There is a huge revolution happening right here, girls. Now isn’t the time to go on concerning the hijab and girls’s rights.”

And that is completely incorrect, as a result of girls’s rights is a litmus take a look at for human rights, is a litmus take a look at of excellent governance, of how a society is secure and runs itself. And that is what I discover deeply miserable, is that we’re advised that it is not attention-grabbing, that it is not essential, and it is important.

Amy Salit and Seth Kelley produced and edited the audio of this interview. Bridget Bentz and Molly Seavy-Nesper tailored it for the online.

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