Fear is rising about the fate of women and girls as the Taliban sets to re-assert control of Afghanistan again. What is likely to happen to that category, if previous experience is anything to go by? This is the question international development activists are asking, fearful of what the Taliban’s gender regime might be as they retake the country from the United States whose 20 years of nation building and experiment in ‘democratic governance’ has finally crashed. It is crashing after gulping two trillion US dollars drain. The collapse of US rule in the country is being used to illustrate the claim that it shows the US can topple governments but cannot impose its will on determined adversaries in their own country.
Right now, no one has any clear ideas of what happens to suspected or perceived opponents and disadvantaged elements such as women and girls in a Taliban governed Afghanistan after a 20 year interruption by the US. “I fear for Afghan women and girls” is how a Western based development observer put it.
It is still not clear what the American failure to conquer and neutralize the Talibans may signify in the greatness of great powers. Is that failure unique to the USA as a great power or to all great powers that try to rely on ‘might is right’ or is it the case that the Talibans are so resilient? Is it the same resilience that made the Vietnamese to also absorb and overcome US decades ago? Or, is it the case that all determined elements can successfully resist a foreign power just as the Vietnamese and now the Talibans have done to the Americans?
These sorts of questions will continue to dominate discussions for quite sometimes to come as the world watches what follows this moment. No one might put the whole disaster better than American photographer and film maker, Nina Berman, also an authority on militarism, post violence trauma and resistance. She says in her blogpost that the whole thing “speaks to the failure of military solutions to transform society, especially one like Afghanistan that has been bombed to oblivion, generation after generation, and used as a kind of play thing by superpowers and ideologues, both Muslim and Christian”.
Nina Berman is the source of the cover picture of this story, the caption for which reads: Among them is the photograph of a young woman in a burqa and shadow falling transversely across her face. In her hands, she holds her diploma from a vocational school which has an ID photo attached to the certificate as evidence of who she was prior to the Taliban seizure of power. Under Taliban rule, her education and career goals stopped and she became faceless, hidden under the burqa, which she had not worn before.