Karachi, Pakistan – In the same week that the Pakistani Taliban secured their demand for Islamic law in the Swat Valley, they moved into a neighboring district and won the right to preach in mosques there. This success in Buner came with little fighting – unlike in Swat, where they’d battled government forces on and off since 2007.
The move suggests that the Taliban, having gained a foothold in Swat, intend to spread their influence more broadly in Pakistan – and may face little resistance in some areas.
This is bad new for the women and girls who live there. Here’s a quick review of what life is like for women and girls under the Taliban.
- The Taliban forces women to wear the burqa outside the home and to be accompanied by a male blood relative. The burqa is a garment that completely covers the body, including the face. They say the face of a women is a source of corruption for men not related to them. Women who cannot afford a burqa or do not have a male relative either stay imprisoned in their homes or risk punishment by going out.
- The Taliban requires that all ground and first floor residential windows should be painted over or screened to prevent women being visible from the street.
- Women are forbidden to speak loudly or laugh as no stranger should hear a woman’s voice.
- The Taliban does not allow girls to go to school.
- Boys may attend special religious schools where they are indoctrinated by the Taliban and trained as warriors to fight the West.
- The Taliban does not allow women to work.
- The Taliban does not allow women to be treated by male doctors, and since female doctors are not allowed to work, women under the Taliban have little or no access to medical care.
- Women face harsh physical punishment for breaking any of these rules.
The government of Pakistan seems unable to stop the spread of the Taliban and justify compromising with them by claiming that the local populations want the Taliban to impose their fanatical brand of Sharia. In reality, the local population is terrified of opposing the Taliban because they know that their government can’t protect them. The Taliban hunts down and brutally kills anyone who opposes them. Vicious reprisals against members of the local tribal militia that tried to protect Buner are already underway.
Swat and neighboring Buner are about sixty miles from the capital, Islamabad. Pakistan, which possesses nuclear weapons, is in danger of falling completely to the Taliban. The United States is responding to this threat by intensifying predator drone attacks inside Pakistan. The only visable effect these attacks seem to be having, is to aid Taliban recruitment efforts. It’s hard to know what the answer is.