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Younger girls, grown up with out Taliban, dread their return

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Inside Ms. Sadat’s Magnificence Salon in Afghanistan’s capital, Sultana Karimi leans intently over a buyer, meticulously shaping her eyebrows. Make-up and hair styling is the 24-year-old’s ardour, and she or he found it, together with a newfound confidence, right here within the salon.

She and the opposite younger girls working or apprenticing within the salon by no means skilled the rule of the Taliban over Afghanistan.

However all of them fear that their goals will come to an finish if the hard-line militants regain any energy, even when peacefully as a part of a brand new authorities.

“With the return of Taliban, society might be reworked and ruined,” Karimi stated. “Ladies might be despatched into hiding, they’ll be pressured to put on the burqa to exit of their houses.”

She wore a vibrant yellow shirt that draped off her shoulders as she labored, a method that’s a bit daring even within the all-women area of the salon. It could have been completely out of the query underneath the Taliban, who dominated till the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Actually, the Taliban banned magnificence salons usually, a part of a notoriously harsh ideology that usually hit girls and ladies the toughest, together with forbidding them training and the precise to work and even to journey exterior their residence unaccompanied by a male family member.

With U.S. troops dedicated to leaving Afghanistan utterly by Sept. 11, girls are carefully watching the stalemated peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan authorities over the post-withdrawal future, stated Mahbouba Seraj, a girls’s rights activist.

The U.S. is urgent for a power-sharing authorities that features the Taliban. Seraj stated girls need written ensures from the Taliban that they received’t reverse the positive factors made by girls up to now 20 years, and so they need the worldwide group to carry the rebel motion to its commitments.

“I’m not annoyed that the People are leaving … the time was coming that the People would go residence,” stated Seraj, the chief director of Afghan Ladies’s Ability Improvement.

However she had a message for the U.S. and NATO: “We hold yelling and screaming and saying, for God’s sake, no less than do one thing with the Taliban, take some sort of assurance from them … a mechanism to be put in place” that ensures girls’s rights.

Final week the Taliban in an announcement outlined the kind of authorities they search.

It promised that girls “can serve their society within the training, enterprise, well being and social fields whereas sustaining right Islamic hijab.” It promised ladies would have the precise to decide on their very own husbands, thought-about deeply unacceptable in lots of conventional and tribal houses in Afghanistan, the place husbands are chosen by their dad and mom.

However the assertion provided few particulars, nor did it assure girls may take part in politics or have freedom to maneuver unaccompanied by a male family member.

Many fear that the obscure phrases the Taliban use of their guarantees, like “right hijab” or guaranteeing rights “supplied underneath Islamic legislation” give them vast margin to impose hard-line interpretations.

On the magnificence salon, the proprietor Ms. Sadat instructed how she was born in Iran to refugee dad and mom. She was forbidden to personal a enterprise there, so she returned to a homeland she’d by no means seen to start out her salon 10 years in the past.

She requested to not be recognized by her full identify, fearing that focus may make her a goal. She has grow to be extra cautious as violence and random bombings have elevated in Kabul the previous 12 months — an augur of chaos when the People totally go away, many worry. She used to drive her personal automobile. Not anymore.

The ladies constructing a future working or apprenticing within the salon all dreaded a restored Taliban — “Simply the identify of the Taliban horrifies us,” stated one.

They’re left gaming out how a lot compromise of their rights they will endure. Tamila Pazhman stated she doesn’t need “the previous Afghanistan again,” however she does need peace.

“If we all know we could have peace, we’ll put on the hijab whereas we work and examine,” she stated. “However there should be peace.”

Of their early 20s, all of them grew up amid the incremental, however essential positive factors made by girls for the reason that Taliban’s ouster. Women are actually at school, and ladies are in Parliament, authorities and enterprise.

Additionally they understand how reversible these positive factors are in an overwhelmingly male-dominated, deeply conservative society.

“Ladies in Afghanistan who elevate their voices have been oppressed and ignored,” Karimi stated. “The vast majority of Afghan girls might be silent. They know they’ll ever obtain any help.”

Afghanistan stays one of many worst nations on the earth for girls, after solely Yemen and Syria, in accordance with an index stored by Georgetown College’s Institute for Ladies, Peace and Safety.

In most rural areas, life has modified little in centuries. Ladies wake at daybreak, do a lot of the heavy labor within the residence and within the fields. They put on the standard coverings that conceal them from head to toe. One in three ladies is married earlier than 18, most frequently in pressured marriages, in accordance with U.N. estimates.

Non secular conservatives who dominate Parliament have prevented passage of a Safety of Ladies invoice.

Afghanistan’s broader statistics are additionally grim, with 54% of its 36 million folks residing beneath the poverty degree of $1.90 a day. Runaway authorities corruption has swallowed up lots of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars}, rights staff and watchdogs say.

At a bakery in Kabul’s Karte Sakhi neighborhood, 60-year-old Kobra squats in a brick shack blackened by soot in entrance of a clay oven dug into the ground.

The work is backbreaking, smoke fills her lungs, flames scorch her. She makes about 100 Afghanis a day, the equal of $1.30, after paying for firewood. She is the one wage earner for her sick husband and 5 kids.

Her 13-year-old daughter Zarmeena works by her facet, serving to bake and sweeping the soot-coated flooring. Neighborhood girls convey their dough to be baked, and Zarmeena kneads it and places it into the oven. They yell insults at her if she by chance drops it into the hearth.

Zameena has by no means been to high school as a result of her mom wants her within the bakery, although her youthful brother, at 7, is at school. “If I may go … I’d be a physician,” she stated.

Practically 3.7 million Afghan kids between 7 and 17 are out of college, most of them ladies, in accordance with the United Nations Youngsters Schooling Fund.

Kobra isn’t wanting ahead to a Taliban return. She’s Hazara, an largely Shiite ethnic minority that has confronted violence from the Taliban and different Sunni teams.

However she additionally rails in opposition to the present authorities, accusing them of “consuming all the cash” despatched for Afghanistan’s poor to feed their very own corruption. For months, she has tried to gather a stipend for the poor value about $77 however every time she is instructed her identify just isn’t on the record.

“Who took my identify?” she stated. “You must know somebody, have a contact within the authorities or you’ll by no means obtain something.”

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Related Press Author Tameem Akhgar contributed to this report.

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