A moderate Taliban for you

There is a new mission in Afghanistan to engage with and normalize the Taliban and push them to be moderate. A Taliban spokesperson told last week that women should stay at home as a ‘temporary measure’ because their security forces are not trained ‘how to deal with women.’ This calls to mind the historic normalization of repressive theocratic states, despite their treatment of women.

There is a new mission in Afghanistan: engage with the Taliban, normalize and keep them in the loop, and push them to be moderate. This is not the first time the civil world recognizes and works with an archaic, inhumane regime. It happened in Iran and Saudi Arabia. A repressive theocratic state is normalized. Even the Biden administration cannot wait to sit down with them. The world seems to think it is better to keep these regimes in the loop than keeping them out, to have leverage on them. We will see the outcome.
A photo of one Taliban member with a hipster appearance has gone viral on social media with the meme saying, “steal his looks.” The Turkish State channel TRT World, which broadcasts in English has been beating the drums of Taliban, they covered a story on the ‘modern’ outlook of the Taliban special forces.
Taliban seems eager to be in the loop. The spokesperson talks to the world press. He is trying to promote this new, more moderate, Taliban. Theocracy in moderation? I am doubtful it exists.
Taliban Spokesperson Zabinullah Mujahid spoke to journalists recently and told them, “Working women in Afghanistan must stay at home until proper systems are in place to ensure their safety […] It is a temporary procedure.” He then said, “Our security forces are not trained in how to deal with women or how to speak to women for some of them. Until we have full security in place, we ask women to stay home.”
A couple of days later Mujahid told the New York Times that women would be able to work and they would be able to travel, however, for trips longer than two days they would need a male guardian. Of course, music will be banned, he added, because music is anti-Islamic.
Mujahid’s remarks sound unacceptable to some. However, this is how some of the Muslim world operates. Iranian woman cannot travel without the permission of a male guardian. No need to mention the compulsory hijab. Not only the law on paper but unwritten social laws restrict women. Society pressures women to be invisible. When a woman is visible she is subject to harassment. This is how it works.
The Iranian regime’s discourse is also built on this idea; Women should cover themselves, to protect themselves from men. Because otherwise, men would stare and not be able to help themselves but touch women. In the early years of the Islamic Revolution, when the Islamist regime was trying settle in, it was a common ‘punishments’ by men towards women who were not covering themselves. They would stare at women and masturbate.
Even in secular Turkey, public debate about a rape incident can turn into a discussion of what the victim was wearing and whether it was too provocative.
I will never forget an interview I watched in a documentary about sexual harassment in Egyptian society. Young men were telling a journalist that they were physically harassing women who were just passing by because they thought if a woman was out walking around, she deserves to be harassed.
The Muslim world has issues with its’ women. There is no ‘moderation’ without the liberation of women. It all comes down to general perceptions in the Muslim world that ‘man’ is the norm and ‘woman’ is the outlier. She is on this earth as a punishment for herself. She is needed for reproduction, nothing else. She needs to be hidden, kept behind closed doors. She doesn’t belong in the city, she belongs at home. The city is for men. This is for her own good! She should stay indoors and covered, otherwise it is men’s right to attack her. Society does not tell men to behave themselves and control their actions. Because ‘boys will be boys,’ in a traditional Muslim society while women should behave.
Iraqi activist Zainab Salbi said it best: If you want to understand a country, look at how they treat their women.