It is 13 years since the fall of the Taliban, but women in Afghanistan continue to suffer oppression and abuse.
Research by Global Rights estimates that almost nine out of 10 Afghan women face physical, sexual or psychological violence, or are forced into marriage. Sadly, in the majority of cases, the abuse is committed by the people they love and trust the most – their families.
Mariam’ was seven months pregnant the last time her husband almost killed her. She doesn’t remember what triggered the attack. What she remembers is being slammed to the floor, and her husband’s foot crushing her neck.
“I started bleeding,” she said. “All the cushions on the floor were wet with my blood.”
Mariam, which is not her real name, has been hiding in a secret women’s shelter in Kabul for the past two months. She lives with around 20 women who have travelled here from across Afghanistan, each with their own horrific story of abuse.
Some have left violent husbands. Others have been raped or are fleeing forced marriages arranged by their parents. All of them are terrified that they will be killed by their families.
Under the Taliban women were banned from going to school and working. They were not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative or be seen in public without a burqa. For defying the regime’s repressive laws, women were openly flogged and executed.
Since then, and despite the influx of billions of dollars in development aid, Afghan women are still living in terror, with a survey by the Thompson Reuters Foundation, ranking Afghanistan as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be born a woman.
“It’s a question of control and power,” said Sima Samar, a prominent women’s rights activist and chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. “You use religion, you use culture, you use tradition, you use gender to keep the power, to keep control.”
Back at the shelter, Mariam is torn between standing up for her rights and securing a future for her children. Her one-year-old son still lives with her husband and she is now nine months pregnant with her second child. Her parents have refused to take her in, and she has no other options.
It is a problem that almost all the women at the shelter face. They may have had the courage to leave their abusive families, but where will they go now?
For Mariam, it is a grim realisation that is only now sinking in. “I have never lived a good life here,” she said. “Not as a girl, not as a woman, not even as a mother.”
- Pray for women and girls living in Afghanistan. Pray for an end to violence and abuse against them and for protection for them and their children.
- Pray for attitudes in government towards women to soften, to see them as equal citizens with equal rights to protection and life, and for the government to act on laws to protect women from abuse.
- Pray for those who have sought safety in shelters, for long term solutions that will provide safe places for them and their families.
- Pray for women in Afghanistan to come to see their worth as daughters of the King of Kings, as precious treasure and loved by their heavenly Father.
- Pray for Afghanistan, for healing for this nation, for peace in the streets and homes and hearts of her people, and for many to come encounter the living Christ Jesus in life transforming ways.
Isaiah 1 vs 17: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”