KABUL, AFGHANISTAN —
When the Taliban seized energy, the operator of the one ladies’s shelter in a northern Afghan metropolis ran away. Left deserted had been 20 ladies who had fled a wide range of home horrors, some abused by husbands or household, others pressured into early marriages with older males.
Quickly after, the Taliban arrived on the shelter within the metropolis of Pul-e-Kumri.
They gave the ladies two choices: Return to their abusive households — a few of whom had threatened them with dying for leaving — or go along with the Taliban, recalled one of many ladies, Salima, who requested solely that her first title be used.
A lot of the ladies selected to return house, fearing the Taliban greater than their households. Salima mentioned she knew of at the least one who was since killed, seemingly by an offended member of the family.
However Salima determined to go away with the Taliban. She did not know what they might do, however she had nowhere else to go, having fled her abusive, drug-addicted husband months earlier. Now she finds herself housed in a jail — however protected and secure, she says.
Whether or not beneath Taliban rule or not, ladies in Afghanistan’s deeply conservative and infrequently tribal society are sometimes topic to archaic codes of habits that maintain them chargeable for the distinction of their households. They are often killed for merely marrying a person of their selection. They’re typically married at puberty. Fleeing even an abusive husband is taken into account shameful. Tons of of ladies are jailed for so-called “morality crimes,” together with adultery or operating away from house, though they aren’t formally crimes beneath the Afghan penal code.
Over the previous twenty years, activists arrange dozens of ladies’s shelters round Afghanistan. However even earlier than the Taliban takeover, conservative Afghans, together with authorities officers, seen them with suspicion, as locations that assist ladies and ladies defy their households or abet “ethical crimes.”
Girls’s shelters are simply one among a myriad of social modifications that grew to become extra prevalent up to now 20 years or did not even exist when the Taliban final took energy in 1996 — every part from social media and the web to businesswomen and ladies judges. Now since overrunning Kabul and sweeping into energy on Aug. 15, the hard-line militant group is wrestling with cope with the modifications, with the Taliban management at instances unsure and fighters on the bottom appearing on their very own.
Salima was taken to Kabul, together with one other lady, Razia, who had lived within the shelter practically a 12 months after fleeing a predatory brother-in-law.
With nowhere to place them, the Taliban put them within the deserted ladies’s part of Afghanistan’s important jail, known as Pul-e-Charkhi. The jail was empty as a result of when the Taliban took over Kabul, they freed all of the inmates, together with hundreds of males, 760 ladies and greater than 100 youngsters, in response to the jail’s new Taliban administrator, Mullah Abdullah Akhund.
The Related Press was given uncommon entry to the ladies within the jail. Now there are solely six ladies there, together with Salima and Razia.
An enormous metal gate results in the ladies’s jail. Rolls of barbed wire are strung atop the 20-foot-high partitions. Inside, the ladies transfer freely with their youngsters. Salima’s 5-year-old daughter Maria and son Mohammad, 6, spend most of their day in a important, giant, carpeted room. There isn’t any faculty and only a big purple teddy bear and some small toys for his or her amusement.
“We principally pray and skim the Quran all day,” mentioned Salima.
Salima mentioned that she has no thought what the long run holds, however for the current, with no cash and no household, she mentioned she feels secure right here.
However Mujdha, one other lady within the jail, mentioned she needs her freedom. She had been pregnant by a boyfriend however her household refused to let her marry him, and as an alternative pressured her to marry a relative. She ran away. “I instructed them I’d by no means stick with him” she mentioned. The household reported her to the Taliban, who arrested her and her boyfriend.
Mujdha gave delivery in jail to a child daughter 15 days in the past, quickly after her arrest. She hasn’t seen her boyfriend, jailed elsewhere within the jail, and he has but to satisfy his toddler daughter.
“I wish to depart, however they are saying I can not,” she mentioned.
Akhund mentioned a court docket will resolve whether or not to cost her, including, “It’s mistaken that she left her husband. She has no proper.”
Since taking energy, the Taliban’s response to ladies’s shelters has diversified. Within the western metropolis of Herat, a number of have been shut down, mentioned Suraya Pakzad, a ladies’s rights activist from Herat who opened a number of shelters.
Pakzad mentioned Friday in textual content messages from a spot in hiding that she faces threats from all sides — from the Taliban and from the households of the ladies who discovered refuge in her shelters.
For the previous a number of years, Pakzad and different ladies pressed for a voice within the negotiations between the U.S.-backed authorities of the time and the advancing Taliban. They hoped to make sure rights for ladies in any closing association. Now, in a single fell swoop, they’re scrambling for their very own security.
Pakzad shared an arrest warrant for her and 7 different activists and journalists from western Afghanistan, issued by the brand new Taliban police chief in Herat. The warrant accuses the eight of “spreading propaganda towards the Islamic Emirate” and accuses Pakzad of “involvement with Western nations to unfold prostitution.”
However Mahboba Suraj, who runs a shelter for 30 ladies in Kabul, mentioned the Taliban have come and investigated the shelter and let the ladies stay there unhurt. She mentioned she was visited by numerous departments of the brand new Taliban authorities, together with senior officers.
“The upper ups had been completely the perfect. They wish to shield us … and perceive that they’ve issues inside their very own individuals” who will not be as supportive of ladies’s shelters, she mentioned.
For now, “they wish to have safety for us,” she mentioned. “Thank God, I do consider that. I truthfully do.”