The Invasive “Virginity Tests” of Afghanistan
Despite its condemnation by international medical experts as scientifically unsound and official promises to ban the procedure, healthcare and judicial systems in Afghanistan have continued to rely on abusive assessments of sexual activity in women accused or suspected of extramarital sex. The potential social catastrophe that could result from a positive result has led to the development of a black market of so-called hymen reconstruction, which has led to further health insecurity for women who undergo the procedure. Even the administration of the test can bring social shame to those subjected to it, leading to poor outcomes in education and employment as well as a contracting social network. Afghanistan is far from the only country in which the tests continues, and globalized efforts to end the gender-discriminatory practice have encountered mixed success in changing deeply rooted cultural norms.
“The shame of Afghanistan’s virginity tests” (BBC News | December 2017)
“Despite Ban, Invasive Virginity Tests Remain Prevalent in Afghanistan” (The New York Times | January 2017)
“Here’s Everything You Need To Know About ‘Virginity Tests’” (BuzzFeed News | November 2017)
Suicide bombing attack on Shia cultural center in Kabul kills dozens
- A single suicide bomber infiltrated the Tabian Social and Culture Centre in Kabul’s Dasht-e Barchi neighborhood, leaving more than 40 dead and at least 80 injured.
- The attack took place as a crowd of more than 100 gathered to mark the 38th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
- The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a series of more than a dozen since 2016 targeting Shiites that have left more than 700 dead.
“Suicide bombers kill dozens at Shi’ite center in Afghan capital” (Reuters | December 2017)
“ISIS suicide bombing in Kabul kills dozens” (CNN | December 2017)
“Why is ‘Islamic State’ targeting Shiites in Afghanistan?” (Deutsche Welle | December 2017)
Religious scholars in Afghanistan one of Taliban’s most frequent targets
- Over the last 16 years of war in the country, hundreds and perhaps thousands of ulema have been killed, although official numbers are difficult to track.
- Taliban members surveil sermons to monitor adherence to Taliban interpretations of sharia, both courting and threatening scholars to buttress their power across the nation’s provinces.
- Religious leaders note that the targeting of scholars is driven by anxiety over scholars’ influence on communities, a desire for ideological control, and the suppression of criticism.
“Taliban Target: Scholars of Islam” (The New York Times | May 2017)
“Religious scholar shot dead in eastern Afghanistan” (Andalou Agency | May 2017)
(Image Credit: Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)
Attack on Shiite mosque in Kabul kills more than 30, injures dozens more
- A suicide attacker entered the Baqir-ul-Olum mosque during a gathering for Arbaeen, a devotional ritual.
- Among the dead were a number of children, and reports put the number of injured at at least 35.
- The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a series targeting Shiite Muslims in the Sunni-majority country.
“IS claims attack that kills dozens at Shi’ite mosque in Kabul” (Reuters)
“Afghanistan Kabul mosque suicide attack kills dozens” (BBC)
“Afghanistan mosque attack: 30 dead, ISIS claims responsibility” (CNN)
(Image Credit: Reuters, via BBC)
Bombing during protest in Kabul devastates Afghanistan’s Hazara community
- A triple suicide attack left at least 80 dead and 231 wounded at a protest in the Afghan capital, with the Islamic State claiming responsibility for one of the deadliest attacks in the country since 2001.
- The demonstration had been organized to protest an electricity route in the country and the perceived abandonment of the Hazara community by political leaders.
- Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazaras have long been targeted in the country, including in recent decades by the Taliban and now the Islamic State.
“Kabul Bombing Adds New Layers of Agony for Afghanistan’s Hazaras” (The New York Times)
“ISIS Claims Suicide Attack On Kabul Protest By Hazara Minority, Dozens Killed” (The Huffington Post)
“Kabul explosion: Islamic State ‘admits attack on Hazara protest’” (BBC)
(Image Credit: Adam Ferguson/The New York Times)
Hazara communities in Afghanistan protest changes to new electricity line route
- Thousands from Hazara communities in the country are expected to protest after officials outlined a new route away from provinces with large Hazara populations for what they argue are technical and economic reasons.
- The electricity project is a part of the Asian Development Bank’s plan to connect energy-rich Central Asia with the energy-deprived countries of the western subcontinent.
- The resource row comes as the government has pledged increased protection for the Shiite Hazara minority, who have faced kidnapping and murder at the hands of militants in the Sunni-majority country.
“Afghan minority Hazaras plan protest over power line route” (Reuters)
“Afghan Kidnappers Prey on Hazaras” (The New York Times, November 2015)
“Hazara killings: Thousands protest in Afghanistan blaming militants for murder of seven villagers” (AFP/Reuters, via ABC, November 2015)
The Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan
Afghanistan has seen millions uprooted as local communities have found themselves caught in the middle of the conflict between the Taliban and a coalition of Afghan and U.S. forces. After the Taliban took control of the country in the mid-1990s, two of the country’s religious minorities–Hindus and Sikhs–saw their insecurity skyrocket, with land seizures, open harassment, and economic exclusion causing most of the tens of thousands in their ranks to flee for asylum elsewhere. Anadolu Agency, a state-run media outlet in Turkey, provides a glimpse of the outlook Afghan Hindus and Sikhs have on their prospects today.
“Afghan Sikhs, Hindus fear violence but long for home” (Anadolu Agency)
“Feeling alienated, Sikhs choose to leave Afghanistan” (The Hindu)
“Oppressed by Taliban, Afghan Sikh families seek help from DSGMC” (The Times of India)
“Facing Intolerance, Many Sikhs and Hindus Leave Afghanistan” (Wall Street Journal)
(Image Credit: via Anadolu Agency)