The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Afghanistan:
Women’s Struggle Continues

Sep 13, 2021

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

“Girls need to understand this is for their own good,” said Afghanistan’s new minister of higher education after passing notorious initial decrees against women.

What is good for girls, according to the Taliban?

In private universities, now female students must be buried in a loose black tunic covering them from head to toe and must cover themselves with a niqab, a veil covering their faces.

Mixed-gender classes are done. Women must attend class out of sight of men, in separate rooms. If there are only a few students, women may be in the same room as the men but divided by a hanging screen.

Young women and young men may not cross paths. So, the women must leave class five minutes before the men and wait in another room until these gentlemen have left the premises.

Finally—the height of stupidity, absurdity and ridiculousness—universities must hire female teachers for female students. If there are not enough female teachers, they may be men, but only if they are “elderly teachers whose morality has been vetted,” according to the decree!

Even before the decree was published, and for days since, reports from Kabul have showed demonstrations by several dozen women demanding respect for their rights. They were ready, as one demonstrator said, “to take risks, rather than die slowly.” With determination and courage, they showed up to shout their demands at the mullahs’ beards and were dispersed by the police. “We must be able to participate in decision-making, politics, education, and employment. Everyone here has rights. We cannot stay at home and be silent,” they said.

Prior to the withdrawal of western troops, the corporate media seized upon the issue of women’s rights to foster opposition to the pullout. It’s certainly true that over the past 20 years, teachers, students, intellectuals, artists, and women in the upper rungs of society have gained rights, freedoms and the beginning of equality. Some workers in western countries were understandably concerned about what the Taliban’s coming to power would bring.

But if that small minority of women has been able to see their conditions improved in the big cities and mostly in Kabul under the regimes put in place by the imperialist powers, it has been different elsewhere such as in the countryside. But this was no concern for any of the imperialist governments which intervened in Afghanistan, and which now spew out words like civilization, freedom, democracy, rights, equality.… The vast majority of Afghan women continued to suffer war, bombings, abuses, and poverty. Over the last 20 years, 7 million Afghans were forced from their homes and 200,000 people were killed, about half of them civilians including many women and children. One out of three Afghan children received no formal education, and 60% of them are girls. They saw nothing of the billions of dollars alleged to be lifting the country out of underdevelopment.

Now with the Taliban’s return, even those small gains limited to a minority of women are being called into question. All women will be subjected more and more to the backwards-facing laws of the barbarians and to their exactions and crimes.

Those who fight against this backlash incarnated by the Taliban’s return deserve the support of women and men around the world. But the so-called civilized governments will never offer any help. It is from the Afghan people themselves, including its most oppressed layers, that the forces capable of putting an end to backwardness and underdevelopment will emerge.