Statues of women have been covered or vandalized on shop windows around Kabul, a sign of the rapidly changing face of the Afghan capital in the days since the Taliban took charge.
The new regime’s terrorists took control of the city on Sunday after a lightning strike that toppled the former government’s provincial strongholds across the country like dominoes within days.
The advance was only surpassed by fears sweeping through areas yet to fall under their control from Afghans fearing a repeat of the notoriously harsh treatment of women during the last period of the Taliban rule.
In the two decades since the US-led invasion that ousted that government in 2001, hundreds of once-banned beauty salons have spread across Kabul.
They have traded in makeup and manicure, serving a clientele of women who had grown up forced to hide every inch of their bodies from the public.
But as Taliban forces approached the capital, at least one of these stores began whitewashing its exterior walls to obscure advertisements depicting the faces of smiling women in bridal regalia.
Another shuttered parlor, seen Tuesday when a Taliban fighter patrolled the street outside with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, had its walls daubed with black spray paint to hide the faces of its models.
‘They don’t want women to work’
During their 1996-2001 rule, the Taliban were notorious for expelling girls from school, preventing women from coming into contact with men, and stoning women accused of adultery in public.
The ultra-strict interpretation of Sharia law also established a religious police force for the suppression of “vices”.
Since returning to power, the group has pledged to respect women’s rights.
A spokesperson for the group in Qatar told Britain’s Sky News that women would not be required to wear the full-coverage burqa, although he did not say what clothing would be acceptable.
Suhail Shaheen also said the group would allow women to study in universities.
Another representative said the Taliban is “committed to making women work in accordance with the principles of Islam,” without giving details.
But Afghans and the international community were skeptical of these promises.
The Taliban’s advance was accompanied by reports of unmarried women and widows being forcibly married to terrorists – reports dismissed as “toxic propaganda” by a spokesman.
Demonstrations have been held in cities around the world in support of Afghan civilians, especially women and girls.
The United States, the European Union and other countries have said in a joint statement that they are “deeply concerned about Afghan women and girls” and have urged the new regime to ensure their safety.
A beauty salon owner in Kabul told AFP last month that she expected to be forced to close her business if the Taliban returned to power.
“If they come back, we will never have the freedom we have now,” said Farida, 27, who asked not to be further identified.
“They don’t want women to work.”
(This story was not edited by NewsMadura staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)