The Taliban government of Afghanistan has unfolded its orthodox misogynic fundamentalist face within a year of its takeover of the country for the second time. It has now announced banning women from universities. Under the first Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, girls were not allowed to get education, and female teachers were ordered to stay at home. Since taking over Afghanistan for a second time, the Taliban have permitted girls to go to school. But then in a cruel U-turn, the Taliban in March last blocked girls from returning to secondary schools on the morning they were supposed to reopen. Now with the prevention of girls from going to universities, the girls are totally excluded from the arena of education. This most tyrannical step has sparked international condemnation as well as wrath and despair among young Afghans, both male and female. There have been public protests against this despotic decision. Protesters from a dozen of Afghan women’s rights activists and girl students came out on the streets of Kabul and other cities to raise their voices against the closure of the girls’ universities. Male students boycotted exams after their female colleagues were not allowed to enter universities due to the ban on women’s university education. Dozens of teachers have resigned in protest against the Talibani edict. A professor from Kabul University in Afghanistan destroyed his diploma certificates on live TV in protest against the university ban on Afghan women. ‘‘From today I don’t need these diplomas anymore because this country has no place for education. If my sister and mother cannot study, then I do not accept this education,’’ he said while ripping apart the certificates.
Other anti-women steps of Talibani rule
This Taliban directive serves as a stark warning of what lies ahead and a harsh reminder of their brutal 1996-2001 regime during which women were subjected to persistent human rights violations, denied employment and education, forced to wear the burqa and forbidden from leaving home without a male ‘‘guardian’’ or mahram. Despite claiming that they have changed their stance on women’s rights, the Taliban’s actions and latest efforts to commit thousands of women to sexual slavery demonstrate quite the opposite. The authorities have also returned to public floggings and executions of men and women in recent weeks as they said they were implementing an extreme interpretation of Islamic sharia law. The Talibanis claim that they are adhering to an austere version of Islam, with the Taliban’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and his inner circle of Afghan clerics staunchly opposed to modern education, especially for girls and women. Women have also been pushed out of many government jobs—or are being paid a slashed salary to stay at home. They are also barred from travelling without a male relative and have to mandatorily cover themselves outside of the home, ideally with a burqa. In November 2021, they were prohibited from going to parks, funfairs, gyms and public baths. The Taliban government has even gone to the extent of ridiculing the girls with a veiled threat by pointing out that while they have been instructed to wear hijab, they, instead, were wearing dresses as if they were going to wedding parties. ‘‘Girls were studying agriculture and engineering in defiance of Afghan honour and Islam,’’ they added. This is how the Talibanis are seeking to justify their anti-women injunctions using religion as a cover.
Historical developments till Saur revolution
In Proletarian Era dated 01-09-2021, we had earlier dealt with in details the perspective in which the Talibanis who were once rejected by the Afghan people, could stage a comeback. Still, a recap is considered necessary to understand the present developments in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. In 1919 Afghanistan signed the Treaty of Rawalpindi, which ended the Third Anglo-Afghan War and marks Afghanistan’s official date of independence. Thereafter, following some twists and turn, Mohammad Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, began a 40-year reign in 1933. Though pretending a neutral stand after Second World War, Shah is reported to have enjoyed tacit support of US imperialism. But, when a inner-conflict among the Pashtun tribes caused tension with the then US-backed neighbouring state of Pakistan in 1948, Afghanistan started shifting towards the Soviet Union. In 1963 Shah dismissed Mohammad Daoud, his cousin, from prime ministership because of Daoud’s anti-Pakistan policy meaning anti-US stand. A new constitution, ratified in 1964, somewhat liberalized the constitutional monarchy. Soon after that, on 1 January 1965, party named People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was established in Afghanistan at the instance of Soviet Union. However, PDPA did not describe itself as ‘‘communist’’, instead using labels such as ‘‘national democratic’’ and ‘‘socialist’’ and it also it did not evolve as a communist party fulfilling all necessary conditions. However, people of Afghanistan gradually felt attraction towards Marxism-Leninism and developed a pro-revolution mindset. PDPA instead of directing people along right track, was itself ridden with factional feud between the Khalq and Parcham factions. Finally PDPA declared itself a nationalist force. In the meanwhile, in 1973, Daoud overthrew Shah by a coup and established a republic. Initially the PDPA was highly represented in Daoud government’s cabinet, but many PDPA officials were later dismissed as relations between the party and President Daoud Khan worsened. But by then, revisionist Khrushchevites had firmed up their grip in Soviet Union, began denigrating great Stalin and rolling out the process of counter-revolution albeit covertly. As a part of that, the Revisionist Brezhnev, then head of Soviet Union, had started pursuing a policy of creating its own sphere of influence by installing its, so to say, pliant regimes in various countries through coups and counter-coups. This was out and out an anti-Marxist step. As a sequel to this, the PDPA, led by Nur Muhammad Taraki, with the backing of Soviet Union, seized power from Daoud Khan through another counter-coup in April. This became known as the Saur Revolution and consequently a Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was set up. This republic also did not come through the process of any democratic upheaval and hence lacked democratic content in many ways. It lasted till 1987. As this was a transfer of power through a coup with the help of a foreign power, for obvious reasons, it obstructed the normal process of fulfilling the national aspiration of the Afghan people for establishing democracy, which was manifested in that country decades earlier. Though a support for Marxism-Leninism was crystallizing in Afghanistan in the 1960s, continuous interferences in the internal affairs of that country by the revisionist Soviet leadership gave birth to resentment against the Soviet Union among the Afghan people. The oppressive rule by the new Tarakki government also created a sense of deep resentment and strong anti-Soviet reaction among the freedom loving democratic minded people who, instead of being more and more allegiant towards Marxism-Leninism, turned against it. As days passed on, Afghan rebels like Mujahideen, an Islamic revivalist outfit armed by the US and Britain, swelled more and more in number and within a short time, a civil war engulfed most of the provinces of the country. Amongst this turmoil, Hafizullah Amin, who was deputy to Tarakki, seized power in a palace coup in September 1979. In the meanwhile, taking advantage of the flawed policies of the Soviet-backed Tarakki regime, fundamentalist reactionary forces started raising their ugly heads and misleading people with a vile propaganda that Afghanistan’s traditional Islamic culture was in danger.
Naked Soviet intervention made the situation further worse
Finding that the government of its choice being overthrown, revisionist leadership of the Soviet Union nakedly intervened militarily in Afghanistan, dethroned and executed President Hafizullah Amin and installed one Babrak Karmel in the Presidential chair. This further accentuated anti-Soviet reaction among the freedom loving democratic minded people of Afghanistan. Worst was the fact that because of such a highly flawed step by the Brezhnev-led Soviet leadership, the forces of reaction, religious fanatics, the outmoded conservative elements, i.e., all those who hindered social progress and people’s emancipation from decades long feudal bondage and hitherto were suppressed because of being rejected by the people, got a distinct upper hand to take the country back to regressive path. Incidentally, it is one thing to smash counter-revolutionary upsurge in a socialist country by extending all kinds of help including military help to the revolutionary leadership there. But, invading a country by moving 80,000 troops only because a favoured bourgeois regime there was facing danger of reported tribal insurgency, is totally different and outright non-Marxist. It was akin to military intervention in other countries by imperialist powers as a part of their expansionist policy. Pertinent to mention that when Yugoslavia turned revisionist and the process of socialism was reversed there, great Stalin did not opt for military intervention. Yugoslavia took independent decision of discarding socialism. Though this decision did harm international communist movement, Soviet Union led by Stalin never thought of using force to prevent deviation of Yugoslavia as that would have created a negative sentiment against the striding Soviet socialism which would have been immensely damaging.
Rise of Islamic fundamentalist groups like Taliban
This misadventure and downright flawed policy of revisionist Soviet leadership paved way for imperialist US to creep in and strengthen its stronghold on that country. US always had a hawk’s eye on Afghanistan, rich in mineral deposits including gold, copper, lithium, high quality gemstones as well as natural gas and petroleum and, above all, the largest grower of opium and other toxicants.
Its strategic geopolitical location from where military surveillance on the entire Asia including Middle-East was also of attraction to US imperialist rulers. As admitted in the CIA’s own documents, secret US aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul was initiated in 1979. In 1988 was created the Al Qaeda, another conglomerate of rabid Islamic fundamentalists, with full backing of US imperialism. By 1989, the revisionist leadership of the Soviet Union was compelled to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan and a new government was formed with the support of the Mujahedeen. But terrible power struggle among the warlords continued with armed conflicts in various places. In this pathetic murky situation, emerged the Taliban militia in 1994, once more with the blessings, patronage and support of the US imperialists as well as of the Pakistani capitalist rulers, then an ally of US. Taliban rule was marked by resurgence of obscurantist feudal culture and religious revivalism and hence became progressively unpopular. In absence of any left and democratic force, the Taliban rapidly spread its influence and finally with the aid of the Pakistani army captured power in 1996.
When a stated terrorist attack pulverized the twin tower building in New York on 11 September 2001, the US government pretending to be a crusader against terrorism particularly Islamic terrorism, held the Al Qaeda responsible for it and declared war on Afghanistan, which was then ruled by the Taliban, ally of the Al Qaeda. From 2001 to 2021, Afghanistan had one after another client regimes of US imperialism, limitlessly oppressive and utterly corrupt. Rage and discontent among Afghan people against US invasion were already mounting. It also gave birth to deep sense of national humiliation in the minds of the freedom-loving people of that country. Because of the weakness or rather in absence of any powerful secular democratic force, the dreaded Taliban whom the Afghans once rejected had been usurping the rising wave of hatred towards the invaders-cum-occupiers and of a common cause of anti-US imperialist nationalist sentiment. Also, in absence of a resistance movement involving the entire nation led by enlightened democratic forces, the dislodged Taliban began to regroup.
As soon as the US imperialist rulers could sense that aggravation of military assault could be counter-productive because public mood, both in Afghanistan as well as in their own country, was glaringly hostile against their puppet government, and the Taliban was gaining strength very fast, they switched over to a new strategy to serve the heinous class interest of US imperialism in Afghanistan. So former US President Trump initiated a talk with the Taliban representatives and following a secret agreement between the two, the US military was withdrawn and allowed a second Talibani government to rule the country.
Tragedy is that a country which sought to break open its age-old shackles of religious bigotry and even made progress towards being led by the higher ideology of Marxism-Leninism, became once again captive in the hands of forces of reaction and medieval despotism because of an utterly ruinous step of Khrushchevite revisionists, responsible for collapse of Soviet socialism as well as mighty Socialist camp which worked as a bulwark against all heinous conspiracies and machinations of imperialist sharks and their hirelings of different shades and colours.
Talibani despotism has been laid bare in no time
Immediately after assuming power, they were displaying a civilized face with promise of safety to all, preservation of women’s rights, media freedom, a forgiveness to all who fought against them, amnesty for erstwhile government officials and assurance that Afghanistan would no more be a haven for terrorists. They also sought to portray themselves in media glare as more moderate in contrast to their previous Islamic fundamentalist despotic rule. But that all these have been publicity blitz aimed at reassuring world powers and a fearful population, are now glaringly exposed. Now, the ban of education to women has added dimension to Talibani despotism, a vile face of Islamic fundamentalism.
Religion and fundamentalism are different
One more point needs to be understood in this regard. Religion and fundamentalism are not one and the same. When religion is used as a tool by the vested interest to gain and sustain political power by intoxicating people with religious fanaticism and orthodoxy, non-observance of certain religious customs, practices and codes that were prescribed hundreds of year back in the then condition, is held as blasphemy or sacrilege, it is fundamentalism. No religion has preached to hate other religions, nor have they encouraged forcible imposition of one religion on another religious group. All preachers of religion, whether Christ, Chaitanya or Hazarat Mohammed, were great men of their respective times. They wanted civility, etiquette, fraternal feelings, amiable behaviour, discipline, sense of right or wrong, respect for each other and such human qualities to germinate among people and be mode of their life. Rejecting some fundamentalist injunctions or edits does not tantamount to an affront of religion. The fundamentalists, no matter whether they belong to Hindutva or Islam or Christianity, belong to the same genre and are thriving with the backing of the ruling bourgeoise in different countries, whether India or Afghanistan or Iran.
Patriarchal domination and subjugation of women
As we know, patriarchal domination and subjugation of women have been hallmark of feudal obduracy anchored on religious obscurantism and bigotry. The so called priests and clergies drew their power from the grace and benignancy of the monarchy or feudal lords. More they could keep people sunk in obsolete religious creeds, scriptural credos and blind faith, more lease of life was guaranteed to the feudal autocracy who projected themselves as representatives of God and hence omnipotent and sacrosanct. Since the fundamentalists have their mooring in revivalism, religious fanaticism, blindness and orthodoxy, they have been prescribing all kinds of cruel injunctions that would prevent any right, enlightenment or freedom to women. If they cannot brainwash the women by preaching religious creeds and make them reconcile with a life of perennial capitulation and deprivation, they do not hesitate to wield brute power including physical assault to doom them to obscurity and submission. The Talibani torture on Afghan women are to be understood in this backdrop.
People need to rise based on correct ideology
But, in history, the oppressors and repressors have never pronounced the last word. With onslaughts mounting beyond endurance level, people are bursting forth in protest against fundamentalist buccaneering as well. The latest fearless protests of people particularly women in Afghanistan and Iran bear eloquent testimony to it. But these protests cannot beget the desired result unless they are led along right direction based on correct ideology, consciousness and leadership and cemented by rock-like unity.
Unless waves of democratic mass movement involving the suffering Afghan people sweep the length and breadth of that country, people cannot be freed from the clutches of immensely tortuous fundamentalism and clergy domination and higher ideal, ethics, social and cultural thoughts would elude them.
The sooner the overwhelming toiling people of that country would be able to create the desired gushes of democratic mass movement over the burning demands of their life based on the edifice of higher ethics and morality, faster would be the process of establishing a social environment congenial to developing an appropriate social movement to remove all the aberrations and preventing imposition of such draconian edicts inimical to their growth, progress and emancipation.
The immediate task is to raise a chorus in demand of immediate withdrawal of the barbaric inhuman fatwa of banning education to women and keep them away from enlightenment. We call upon all democratic minded people of Afghanistan and the world to shoulder this essential responsibility.