Afghanistan: single women and widows are struggling to find their next meal under Taliban restrictions

Nitya Rao, University of East Anglia

Jamila*, a widow living in Herat, lost her husband in a suicide attack about eight years ago. She has an 18-year-old daughter who is blind and a 20-year-old son who lost both legs in a mine blast.

Jamila used to be a housemaid and bake bread for people in their homes. With this income she was able to feed her daughter and son, according to research carried out by Ahmad*, a former lecturer at the University of Herat and shared with me.

Since the Taliban gained control of the country, Afghanistan has been on the brink of universal hardship. As many as 97% of people are now estimated to be living in poverty, up from 72% in 2018.

The recent Taliban ban on women working in international and national organisations and women moving about public spaces has also affected women being able to find employment.

Because of the current situation Jamila has lost her clients and is now struggling to cope. She could not pay her rent and the landlord asked her to leave her home. She now lives in a small room that a kind family gave her in their yard. She has no source of income.

Previously about 10% of educated women in Afghanistan worked in national or international organisations to support their children. If less educated, they had a range of formal and informal jobs including working as housemaids, baking bread, washing clothes, cleaning bathrooms and babysitting, and in rural communities rearing small livestock and growing wheat, maize and vegetables.

Jamila said that previously under the former government her family received a monthly salary from the state ministry of martyrs and disabled affairs, which pays families of military veterans or those killed in the fighting, and that gave them enough money for bread.

The new government (the Taliban) has now stopped this salary … they don’t believe our lost ones are martyrs.

My son also had a job with the municipality office in a city parking lot, taking care of vehicles and collecting money from people parking their vehicles there. There were many handicapped people doing this kind of job. But now all of them, including my son, have lost their jobs.

The Taliban has appointed their own personnel in these parking areas. We have very few options left. A neighbour now drops my son near a bridge in the city where he begs people to help him with coins. He brings him back here in the evening. With the coins he brings, we can get only bread to survive until the next day.

Jamila is not an exception. She is one of thousands of women who have lost their jobs as a result of the new decrees. Many are acutely malnourished and don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Single women and widows have practically no way of earning money. On-the-ground reports reveal that many households are supported by women as male members of their family were either killed or injured in the ongoing conflict.

It is not just food, but also shelter, water, fuel and warmth that contribute to survival, especially in bitterly cold temperatures. Ahmad, the former lecturer in Afghanistan, said:

Since COVID-19, my wife and I have tried to raise funds from friends to help poor families (especially widows). Very cold weather has been forecast for the western zone of Afghanistan in February.

There has been snow and the temperature has dipped to -25℃ at night early in 2023. One of my friends, who is in the US, helped us with some money locally to buy charcoal to help poor widows like Jamila cook food and warm up their rooms. My wife is also very frustrated and helpless in the current situation.

But, the plight of women-headed households, lacking adult males, is especially dire. In the absence of any social connection, they are increasingly food insecure, with few options to feed and care for their children.

This follows Taliban decrees banning women from education at the secondary and university level and not allowing them to travel without a mahram (male close relative as chaperone). The Taliban also ordered the closure of all beauty salons, public bathrooms, and sports centres for women, important sectors of employment for women.

Overall, the dire situation in Afghanistan has increased the incidence of extreme hunger and malnutrition for both men and women, but women without husbands are being pushed into even more extreme poverty.

According to UN resident and humanitarian coordinator Ramiz Alakbarov, “a staggering 95% of Afghans are not getting enough to eat, with that number rising to almost 100% in female-headed households”.

The January 2023 high-level UN delegation led by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed called on the Taliban authorities to reverse the various decrees limiting women’s and girl’s rights for the sake of peace and sustainable development. While the backlash against women’s rights needs to be urgently addressed, the crisis of food and nutrition security facing single women, widows and separated women, is not being recognised by many outside the country.

According to the 2015 Demographic Health Survey, only 1.7% of Afghan households were headed by women. The January 2022 report from the UN World Food Programme places this at 4%.

As a former employee of the Afghanistan Central Statistical Organisation, responsible for population data collection in four districts of Bamiyan province, told us: “It is very difficult to collect accurate population data.” She said that previous data concerning women-headed households was now likely to be invalid.

While women’s rights are under attack in Afghanistan, the full effect of the ban on women’s work and mobility on single women, widows and separated women, is yet to be fully recognised. While appeals for help to the United Nations by teachers, professionals and civil society activists are rising by the day, negotiations are not progressing, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance is becoming increasingly challenging.

It’s difficult to estimate how long local communities, themselves struggling to survive, can keep women-led households and their families alive.

**All names in this article have been changed for security reasonsThe Conversation

Nitya Rao, Professor of Gender & Development, University of East Anglia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Saggio del venerdì: perché i soldati commettono crimini di guerra e cosa possiamo fare al riguardo

Friday essay: why soldiers commit war crimes – and what we can do about it

Mia Martin Hobbs, Deakin University

The following essay contains disturbing images and language.

In 2020, the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force released the Afghanistan Inquiry into Australian Defence Force Special Forces atrocities in Afghanistan. The report – commonly known as the Brereton Report – resulted in a flurry of analysis debating how and why Australian soldiers could have committed war crimes.

Some commentators focused on “high operational tempos” that increased soldiers’ dependence on their teams. Others emphasised how operational independence among “elite” forces allowed “charismatic leaders” to influence teams with a “warrior hero” culture. A common thread was that counterinsurgency warfare made it difficult to differentiate allies, civilians and enemies among the local population.

While these factors are important, analyses focusing on unit problems tend to treat culture as a static and internal problem, rather than an ongoing practice influenced by broader society. Similarly, the stress on counterinsurgency warfare negates the fact that similar crimes are also well documented in trench warfare and in occupations in conventional wars.

For policymakers, military leaders and the general public, a deeper understanding of the nature of war crimes is crucial if we want to prevent them from happening again.

War crimes reflect social prejudices. They are shaped around wartime laws and policies, and are facilitated by cultural veneration of the military. Historical comparisons between general infantry forces in Vietnam and special forces in Afghanistan show that atrocities have at least as much to do with broader social, political and cultural fabrics as they do with tempo, leadership and internal culture.

Continua a leggere “Saggio del venerdì: perché i soldati commettono crimini di guerra e cosa possiamo fare al riguardo”

Du sang contre des minéraux ? Les États-Unis retournent en Afghanistan à la poursuite de profits miniers



Autore dell’articolo  Shadi Khan Saif

An Afghan businessman checks lapis lazuli gemstones at his shop in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, in March 2016. The brilliant blue stone is a key part of the extensive mineral wealth that is seen as the best hope for funding development of one of the world’s poorest nations.

Le secteur minier de l’Afghanistan est en effervescence en raison de l’intérêt manifesté par le président américain Donald Trump pour les immenses richesses minières du pays. Mais dans quelle mesure cette richesse atteindra-t-elle le peuple afghan ; et à quel prix ?

Les discussions au sujet des minéraux afghans coïncident avec la décision de Trump d’envoyer des milliers de soldats supplémentaires pour soutenir un gouvernement qui a perdu le contrôle de plus de 40 pour cent de son territoire au profit de groupes d’insurgés qui retirent des millions de dollars de l’exploitation minière.

La province du Lôgar, située au sud-est de l’Afghanistan, où les talibans ont lancé une offensive en août, abrite l’un des plus grands gisements de cuivre au monde. Les responsables afghans sont optimistes : correctement exploités, les gisements de cuivre de Mes Aynak, situés à moins de 80 kilomètres de la capitale Kaboul, pourraient changer la destinée de ce pays meurtri par la guerre.

Mohammad Nazir Mushfiq est le directeur du pétrole et des mines de la région. Il déclare à Equal Times : « Nous accueillons chaleureusement tous ceux qui sont intéressés et désireux d’investir dans le secteur minier de notre pays. »

Il ajoute que les investissements américains dans ce secteur pourraient jouer un rôle clé pour extirper le pays à la pauvreté et relancer son économie. Le nouveau ministre des Mines et du Pétrole, Nargis Nehan, a également exprimé l’espoir que le gouvernement afghan puisse réformer et assainir le secteur.

Volte-face politique

S’écartant clairement de ses promesses électorales appelant au retrait des troupes, Trump annonçait en août dernier qu’il augmenterait le nombre de soldats américains sur le terrain.

Au terme d’un long examen approfondi de la politique actuellement en place, le président a accepté la proposition du Pentagone de déployer environ 4.000 soldats américains supplémentaires, qui viendront renforcer les 8.500 militaires américains actuellement présents en Afghanistan.

Cette décision intervient en dépit de l’opposition de l’opinion publique des États-Unis à la participation de ce pays à un conflit qui a coûté la vie à plus de 2000 militaires américains et plus de 150.000 Afghans depuis son déclenchement en 2001.

« Désormais, la victoire aura une définition claire : attaquer nos ennemis, anéantir Daesh, écraser Al-Qaïda, empêcher les talibans de prendre le contrôle du pays et empêcher les attaques terroristes de masse contre les Américains avant qu’elles n’émergent, » a déclaré Trump au cours d’un discours qu’il a prononcé à Arlington, en Virginie, le 22 août 2017.

Les minéraux enfouis dans le sol afghan, dont la valeur est estimée à 1000 milliards de dollars américains, sont considérés comme un facteur déterminant dans cette décision. Le président afghan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, économiste de formation, qui milite depuis longtemps en faveur du développement des gisements minéraux de son pays, aurait présenté l’idée à son homologue américain en février.

M. Ghani, ancien économiste à la Banque mondiale, a invité Trump à explorer les énormes réserves de minéraux qui permettraient de couvrir les coûts de la plus longue guerre de l’histoire des États-Unis et de stimuler la croissance économique des deux pays.

En Afghanistan, la Chine est également un concurrent dans l’exploitation de ces minéraux. Dans un complexe gouvernemental sous haute surveillance à Lôgar, Mushfiq informe Equal Times que l’insécurité et l’extraction illégale des mines demeurent des préoccupations majeures.

« Particulièrement dans les zones sous l’influence des rebelles armés [talibans et militants pro-Daesh] où le mandat du gouvernement est littéralement inexistant ; l’extraction illégale et effrénée [des minéraux] s’y déroule sans aucun professionnalisme, ce qui endommage par ailleurs les réserves, » déclare-t-il. Continua a leggere “Du sang contre des minéraux ? Les États-Unis retournent en Afghanistan à la poursuite de profits miniers”