Guess what? In a radical move, Afghan television broadcaster Tolo News aired an all-female panel in its studio with an audience of women to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, a rare broadcast since the Taliban took over and many female journalists left the profession or started working off-air.
- With surgical masks covering their faces, the panel of three women and one female moderator discussed the position of women in Islam.
- “A woman has rights from an Islamic point of view … it is her right to be able to work, to be educated,” journalist Asma Khogyani said, during the panel.
- A panellist and former university professor Zakira Nabil said that women will continue finding ways to work and learn.
Why it matters? A survey by Reporters Without Borders last year found that more than 75 percent of female journalists had lost their jobs since the Taliban took over as foreign forces withdrew in August 2021.
- Apart from the fear of working, the Taliban has put in place a mandatory face mask rule for women anchors on televisions as well.
- The Taliban last year restricted most girls from high school, women from university and stopped most Afghan female NGO workers.
- Due to growing restrictions as well as the country’s severe economic crisis, the International Labour Organisation said female employment had fallen 25% last year since mid-2021. It added that more women were turning to self-employed work such as tailoring at home.
Zoom out: This comes even as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) reiterated that women’s rights are synonymous with Islamic rights, and called on the Taliban to live up to the promises they made to respect women’s rights and rescind their decision banning women from secondary and college education.
- Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York during a day-long “Women in Islam” conference marking International Women’s Day, officials and heads of international organizations also urged Western media outlets to address negative stereotypes in their coverage of Muslim women.
- “The common thread in everyone’s message today covered the unfortunate situation in Afghanistan, and everyone expressed their displeasure and disappointment that women in Afghanistan have not only been deprived of their rights but the interim government has not yet lived up to its promises to allow access to education,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whose country currently holds the rotating chair of the OIC, said.
- It is especially disappointing that the Taliban uses Islam as a justification for their treatment of women, he added.
- The Yemeni deputy permanent representative to the UN, Marwan Ali Noman Aldobhany, compared the actions of the Taliban with those of the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, saying that both groups deny women their political, economic and social rights.
- He called on UN member states to denounce such practices, which have “no connection to Islam.”
- Apart from this, even the US State Department in a statement said that over the past year and a half, Afghanistan has seen one of the steepest declines globally in the respect for the human rights of women and girls. It stated that if Taliban’s policies are not reversed, the harmful effects of these reprehensible measures will be devastating and irreparable for Afghanistan’s economy and society.
- The statement urged the Taliban to respect all people of Afghanistan, deliver on their commitments to the Afghan people and the international community, and reverse all decisions and practices restricting women’s and girls’ exercise of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- Afghan women and girls have been denied access to secondary education, to higher education, to public and political spaces, and to employment opportunities.
- While calling attention to the situation in that country, it added that services for supporting victims of gender-based violence have been largely dismantled.
- The joint statement on the occasion of International Women’s Day had been issued on behalf of the from the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Türkiye, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States and the High Representative of the European Union.