A resurgent Taliban has taken control of huge swathes of Afghanistan, imposing a particularly harsh form of sharia (Islamic law) and forcing women and girls to marry Taliban fighters.
The Taliban gains are a result of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan – 95% of US troops have already left the country and the remainder will have departed by the end of the month.
The Islamist group has already started to re-introduce the repressive laws which it enforced while in power between 1996 and 2001, with disturbing consequences for many in Afghanistan, especially Christians.
In areas now controlled by the Taliban – which could be as much as 85% of the country – women are barred from going outside alone, girls are no longer permitted to attend school, and some are being forced into marriage.
The Islamists are making lists of unmarried women – including widows and young girls – who will be obligated to marry Taliban fighters.
“The Taliban asked to marry our daughters to them,” said Gulpari, a mother of two girls aged 15 and 13. “They said if a house had two daughters, at least one should be given in marriage to the Taliban.
“My girls were terrified when they heard this. They were scared and wouldn’t stop crying until we had fled the district.”
Rabia, another woman forced to flee her home, said, “In our district, they also put out an announcement in the mosque so that everyone can voluntarily list their daughters.
“Then they said they will start marrying our girls and women after Eid. We did not wait to find out if they did, we left soon after.” The major Islamic celebration of Eid al-Adha fell on 19-20 July this year.
Classical Islamic sharia is inherently discriminatory to women and non-Muslims. But the Taliban’s rule – based on a much stricter interpretation of sharia than that of classical Islam – is to be feared by all, especially Christians.
Afghan Christians, as converts from Islam, will be even more vulnerable under Taliban rule than under the Afghan government. The Taliban has publicly announced that Christians must convert, leave or be killed.