Afghan women are being jailed by the Taliban for ‘immoral behaviour’ – including travelling in a taxi without a male relative or appearing in photographs with male classmates.
Scores have been imprisoned without being charged or tried in court in a shocking breach of the promises made to the outside world.
Footage taken by an undercover camera crew inside Herat’s central jail found all the women interviewed had been incarcerated for minor infringements of strict Islamic law.
Some claimed they had been tasered and beaten, while others told how they were being pressurised to marry members of the Taliban in exchange for their freedom.
The footage, filmed by British Iranian journalist Ramita Navai for an ITV documentary, revealed dozens of women huddling in courtyards and more than 50 others locked up in nearby cells.
British Iranian journalist Ramita Navai presents the documentary which uses undercover cameras to reveal the true conditions of Afghan women living under Taliban rule
The documentary called Afghanistan: No Country For Women found Afghan women locked up for minor infringements of strict Islamic law where many had been tasered and beaten
It comes despite promises that the Taliban had changed and its Afghan government would uphold the rights of girls and women.
The documentary, Afghanistan: No Country For Women, also uncovered stories of Taliban fighters abducting young girls off the street and forcing them into marriage.
One Taliban commander is said to have demanded that a father consent to his daughter’s marriage by putting a gun to his head.
The film crew found some women had committed suicide by setting themselves on fire or drinking bleach to escape domestic violence after the Taliban, which swept back into power in September last year, closed refuges and charities.
‘We’re entering a world where women are disappearing, where they’re jailed without trial, their fate unknown; where girls are abducted from their homes and forcibly married; where women live in hiding, hunted and in fear of their lives and those who speak out risk imprisonment,’ Navai said.
‘This is the Afghanistan the Taliban don’t want the world to see.’
She investigated the fate of Afghanistan’s women in November for ITV’s Exposure series.
She followed the story of one girl, ‘Maryam’, who dreamed of being a film director, but disappeared.
Navai found that she was incarcerated by the Esteghbaarat intelligence service in Herat’s jail. In a letter smuggled out of prison,
Maryam said her friends had been arrested for taking a taxi without a male relative. When she went to the police to help she was arrested.
Maryam wrote. ‘There were three people interrogating me. They kept tasering me.’ Describing how a Taliban official went through her mobile phone, she said: ‘He saw pictures of my classmates.
‘He started swearing, telling me I’m a whore. Why else would I have photos taken with boys? They tasered me two or three times.
They beat me with a gun, then held it to my head saying, “Tell the truth”.’
She and her friends were released after family members pulled strings. She then fled to a safe house.
‘I’m not sure what the future holds for me,’ she said. ‘Everything has been ruined. I don’t see much hope.
‘If I can’t leave Afghanistan, I’ll have to find a corner and stay there and then kind of fade away.
‘If the government remains as it is there isn’t a single ray of light here, just darkness.’
Bilal Karimi, the Taliban’s deputy chief spokesman, dismissed all the allegations as ‘lies’.
Exposure – Afghanistan: No Country For Women, will be screened on ITV at 10.15pm tonight.
So much for more freedom… hardliners make burkas obligatory in public again
The Taliban has ordered all Afghan women to wear the head-to-toe burka in public.
The move evokes similar restrictions imposed during the religious group’s previous hardline rule between 1996 and 2001.
The decree states that if a woman does not cover her face, her father or closest male relative could be visited by officials, imprisoned or even fired from government jobs.
It says that the ideal face covering is the blue burka, which shows only the eyes through a mesh.
Women should also stay at home if there is no important work to do outside, it adds. Khalid Hanafi, acting minister for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which replaced the previous women’s ministry, said: ‘We want our sisters to live with dignity and safety.
An Afghan burka-clad woman walks with a child in Kabul on April 28
‘Islamic principles and Islamic ideology are more important to us than anything else.’
The ministry’s Shir Mohammad added: ‘For all dignified Afghan women, wearing hajib is necessary and the best hajib is chadori [the head-to-toe burka] which is part of our tradition and is respectful.
‘Those women who are not too old or young must cover their face, except the eyes.’
Women’s rights in Afghanistan have been increasingly rolled back since the Taliban retook control last August, despite initially promising to respect such freedoms.
Women are no longer allowed to travel more than 45 miles without a male relative, are forbidden from appearing in movies and TV shows, and are not permitted to work with men or in government.
In March, the Taliban also backtracked on its promise to reopen schools to girls aged 11 and above.
The group was ousted in 2001 by a US-led coalition for harbouring Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, but returned to power after America’s chaotic departure from Afghanistan last year.
In the past few months, its leadership has fought internally as it struggles to transition from a war footing to government.
This unrest has pitted hardliners against more pragmatic group members – especially over the issue of women and education.
Although universities opened earlier this year across much of the country, lessons in many areas have been erratic.
Many Afghans have also been outraged at the decision by some younger Taliban to educate their daughters in Pakistan to get around the school closures.
Experts say the Taliban fears that enrolling girls over 11 years in schools could alienate its rural base.