Marwa, who had been terrified for years by her toothless ex-husband, went into hiding with her eight children after Taliban commanders annulled her divorce and forced her back. ing.
Marwa is one of a small but growing number of women legally separated under the former US-backed government in patriarchal Afghanistan, where domestic violence is rampant.
However, when the Taliban returned to power in 2021, her husband claimed she was forced to accept a divorce, and new authorities ordered her to return with him.
“My daughters and I cried a lot that day.
The Taliban government adheres to a strict interpretation of Islam and imposes severe restrictions on women in what the United Nations calls “gender apartheid.”
Lawyers told AFP that many women were lured back into abusive marriages after their divorces were annulled.
For months, Marwa endured another beating and was confined to her home with broken hands and fingers.
“There were days when I was unconscious and my daughters fed me,” she recalls. “He pulled my hair so hard that I went bald. He hit me so hard that he broke all my teeth.”
She summoned up the courage to leave and flee to a relative’s house hundreds of miles away. Her six daughters and her two sons were all fictitious names.
“My kids say, ‘Mom, it’s okay to be hungry. “No one here knows us, not even our neighbors,” he adds.
“Islam allows divorce”
Nine out of 10 women in Afghanistan experience physical, sexual or psychological violence from their partners, according to the United Nations mission to the country.
However, divorce is often more taboo than abuse, and society remains merciless to women who have left their husbands.
Under the previous government, divorce rates were rising in some cities and progress in women’s rights was limited to education and employment.
The woman once blamed fate for what happened to her, a lawyer who has successfully handled hundreds of divorces for battered women and is now unable to practice under the Taliban. One Najifa says:
But then they realized that a divorce was possible.
“Even Islam allows divorce when the relationship between husband and wife is no longer harmonious,” Najifa said.
The lawyer explained that five of her clients are in the same situation as Marwa.
Another attorney, who requested anonymity, recently witnessed a hearing in which a woman was fighting against forced reunion with her ex-husband.
Lawyers explained that divorce under the Taliban is only permitted if the husband is classified as a drug addict or has left the country.
“But in the case of domestic violence or if the husband does not accept the divorce, the court will not guarantee it,” she told AFP.
The national network of shelters and services supporting women has almost completely collapsed, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Commission on Human Rights have disappeared.
Taliban knocking on the door
When Sana was 15, she married a cousin who was 10 years older than her.
“He hit me when our baby cried or the food wasn’t good,” she says while preparing tea on the gas stove in the house where she lives in secret.
“I used to say that women don’t have the right to speak.”
With the help of free legal services, she divorced her husband in court, but her relief ended when a Taliban commander knocked on her door.
Threatened with losing custody of her seven children, she returned to her ex-husband, who was already married to another woman. But she fled when he announced that he had entrusted her daughters to members of the Taliban.
“My daughters said, ‘Mom, we’re going to kill ourselves… how can we get on with our lives?'” Sana says.
He managed to earn some money and escape with his children. With the help of his relatives, he found a one-room house equipped only with a gas stove and some cushions to sleep on.
“Every time there is a knock on the door, I worry that he has found me and brought the children.”
“We hate the word husband”
A senior Taliban official told AFP that authorities would investigate cases of divorced women forced to return to their ex-husbands.
“If we receive such a complaint, we will investigate it according to the Shariah,” says Inayatullah, a spokesperson for the Taliban Supreme Court, whose Islamic law, like many Afghans, goes by only one name.
Asked whether the Taliban regime would recognize a divorce approved by the previous government, he declared, “It’s an important and complicated issue.”
“Dar al-Ifta is analyzing it. When it reaches a decision, we will see it,” he said, referring to the body associated with the courts that make verdicts under Sharia law. said.
For Marwa, who sews and sells clothes, and her daughters, the trauma has left a deep scar.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to get married,” Marwa said, looking at her daughters. “They tell me: ‘Mom, look how bad your life was, we hate the word her husband.’