Female Afghan journalists describe life under Taliban misogyny

Afghan beauticians close their beauty salon in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 24, 2023. [Reuters]

"The United States remains committed to supporting the fundamental right of freedom of expression, including for journalists and human rights defenders, and supports their ability to operate freely without fear of violence against them," said a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.

Taliban officials accuse media organizations from abroad that produce content for Afghans of spreading lies and propaganda, and they have targeted reporters and producers working for such outlets.

Parwiz Shamal, an Afghan journalist and founder of Chalawsaf, an Afghan media observer organization, said the Taliban have detained several reporters on charges that they worked for media entities that are not permitted to operate in Afghanistan.

"Nobody is there to defend those reporters because the Taliban consider these outlets illegal, and like in any other country, work for a disallowed organization bears legal responsibilities," Shamal said.

Information blackout

When the Taliban announced the closure of beauty salons for women in July, there was no public debate or critical media coverage about it.

"We are forced to comply with their misogynistic orders knowing well that those orders are against us," said Yagana Niekhandish, a female journalist in Herat province.

"If I refuse to comply, the Taliban's intelligence agency will throw me in jail overnight," she said.

The Taliban's intelligence agency has been accused of detaining, and in some cases torturing, about 50 journalists during the past two years, free press groups have reported.

In rural areas, the suppression of women's voices is even more severe, with local Taliban and religious leaders banning women from radio broadcasts, effectively silencing them from public conversations.

Human rights groups say the Taliban's anti-women policies are aimed at erasing women from all public spheres, but Taliban officials maintain they are committed to women's rights - as long as they are within the confines of Islamic Sharia and local traditions.

As Afghan women vanish from public life, access to credible information about their living conditions, from health to income to education, becomes increasingly unavailable.

The Taliban have dissolved the two state institutions - the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission - that monitored and reported on women's issues and proposed policies to empower them.

"I guess everybody knows what's happening in Afghanistan, it is an official femicide," Zarghona said.

"What pains me more is that I'm not able to report it to the world."