With most of the international media attention still focused on Ukraine and/or China and Taiwan, not as much coverage of the ongoing disaster in Afghanistan makes it into the headlines. But that doesn’t mean that the situation has been improving or that the country is returning to any sense of normalcy. There is still an ongoing food crisis there, with large portions of the country going hungry on a regular basis. (Unless you’re a member of the Taliban, of course, in which case you are eating like a king.) But starvation isn’t the only problem that the people of Afghanistan are facing. The Taliban have continued their brutal crackdown on fundamental human rights, most particularly for women and girls. Most schools for girls beyond 7th grade remain closed and women are still prevented from leaving their homes unless fully covered in conservative Islamic dress and accompanied by a male family member. And young girls are still being sold off into marriage, frequently to Taliban fighters or officials, by starving families. It’s a complete humanitarian crisis and it’s being caused by the Taliban. (Associated Press)

The lives of Afghan women and girls are being destroyed by a “suffocating” crackdown by the Taliban since they took power nearly a year ago, Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday.

After they captured the capital, Kabul, in August 2021 and ousted the internationally backed government, the Taliban presented themselves as having moderated since their first time in power, in the 1990s. Initially, Taliban officials spoke of allowing women to continue to work and girls to continue their education.

Instead, they formed an all-male government stacked with veterans of their hard-line rule that has banned girls from attending school from seventh grade, imposed all-covering dress that leaves only the eyes visible and restricted women’s access to work.

The few women who have dared to go out in public and protest this treatment are routinely arrested, tortured and abused. Women told representatives of Amnesty Internation how they were beaten on their breasts and genitals. Others described receiving electrical shocks and threats of being killed, with their bodies to be dumped where no one would find them.

The “market” for young girls to be sold off into marriage is surging under the rule of the Taliban. Families recounted selling their daughters as young as 13 or even 10 to Taliban members for “marriage.” One family was paid the equivalent of $670 in American money for their 12-year-od daughter. Those girls are almost never allowed to return to school, nor are they allowed to seek jobs after reaching adulthood.

Amazingly, all of this is happening as the US negotiates unfreezing almost ten billion dollars in frozen Taliban assets.

The US and the Taliban are negotiating the release of $3.5 billion in Afghanistan’s reserves that were frozen when the Taliban retook control of the country, Reuters reported.

Three unnamed sources told Reuters that officials have exchanged proposals for how the release could be done…

The US froze Afghanistan’s $9.5 billion in reserves — some which is held in New York City — after the Taliban took over in August 2021. The Taliban have repeatedly asked for it back, citing the country’s economic crisis after the takeover.

Some of us have had a bad feeling about how this situation would play out as soon as the disastrous American pullout from Afghanistan began last summer. Now the Taliban are back in charge and that’s unlikely to change barring someone invading the country again. So will the world simply accept this as the “new normal” and give the Taliban a seat at the international table as if they were any other functional government? It’s certainly looking more and more as if that’s what will happen. And biggest losers in all of this will be the girls and women of Afghanistan.

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