Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale
On Dec 19th the Taliban government announced that women would no longer be allowed to attend universities. On Dec 24th they announced that women would no longer be allowed to work for foreign funded NGOs. These are ugly developments.
As so often before, both the Taliban and the Western powers are playing with women’s lives for their own political ends. This note explains how and why.
First, there is an increasingly bitter debate going on inside the Taliban. Once the Americans were driven out, the Taliban divided over the question of women’s education.
The traditionalists were led by Haibatullah Akhundzada. The two previous leaders of the Taliban, both assassinated by the Americans, had been village mullahs who were grassroots leaders in the armed resistance to the Russian invasion. Akhundzada was a more highly educated cleric, a senior judge in the Taliban court system.
The government is in Kabul. Akhundzada remains in Kandahar, largely in hiding to foil assassination. He acts as the spiritual leader of the movement. In other words, his task it to look after religion. From the beginning, he was hostile women’s education.
The Taliban people who head the government in Kabul have different priorities. From Day One they were acutely aware that they faced a difficult economic situation. The withdrawal of foreign soldiers and foreign aid meant a collapse in employment and incomes. On top of that, the country was suffering from a bitter drought caused by climate change.
In this dire situation, the Taliban in government knew that they absolutely had to have large amounts of foreign aid, and foreign grain, from the United Nations, the United States and the western powers. They told Akhundzada in Kandahar that if he banned all education for women, the Western powers would cancel the aid.
Akhundzada and his supporters took heed. They waited for the Taliban in government to get the West to deliver.Continue reading