The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan has raised concerns that gains made for women's rights will be erased. But an in-depth piece by Anand Gopal in the New Yorker illustrates just how complicated the picture can be. It's headlined "The Other Afghan Women," meaning those who live in the countryside. This is no small group, as Gopal notes that roughly 70% of Afghans do not live in cities. Throughout the summer, he traveled in rural Afghanistan speaking to women already living under the Taliban and found that the view of the militant group is different here than in, say, Kabul. In a way, life is better in the most basic sense: Going about everyday tasks was a "deadly gamble" when coalition forces and their Afghan allies were in control. "What the Taliban offered over their rivals was a simple bargain: Obey us, and we will not kill you," writes Gopal.
The story is told mostly through the view of a woman named Shakira. In her early 40s now, her life has encompassed all of Afghanistan's modern misery. The Soviet invasion, the rise of warring mujahideen warlords who sprang up when the Soviets left, the first Taliban takeover, 20 years of the American war, and now the return of the Taliban. The story recounts innumerable brutalities all throughout, particularly by a (non-Taliban) mujahideen commander named Amir Dado. A paragraph captures the gist:
- "When I asked Shakira and other women from the valley to reflect on Taliban rule, they were unwilling to judge the movement against some universal standard—only against what had come before," writes Gopal. "'They were softer,' Pazaro, the woman who lived in a neighboring village, said. 'They were dealing with us respectfully.' The women described their lives under the Taliban as identical to their lives under Dado and the mujahideen—minus the strangers barging through the doors at night, the deadly checkpoints."
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