Women fleeing abusive husbands persecuted by the Taliban

The Taliban have reportedly annulled thousands of women’s divorce cases in Afghanistan, putting many women at risk of imprisonment and violent reprisals from their ex-husbands.

Women in Afghanistan were able to obtain “one-sided” divorces to escape abusive or drug-addicted husbands over the two decades prior to the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021.

However, the Washington Post reports that the Taliban has deprived women of that power and has instead favored men, particularly those with ties with the group.

“The Taliban have created the perfect situation for men seeking revenge,” she said. “The courts have lost their effectiveness and instead we see on the news women receiving public lashings for adultery,” a female lawyer has told the Washington Post. 

According to the Post, women can no longer seek help from lawyers, leaving them trapped in abusive relationships. The lawyer cited by the Post states that many women are living in hiding, fearing the Taliban or their husbands.

Currently, many women have to live in hiding due to the fear of the Taliban and their ex-husbands and are forced to leave their second husbands to avoid being accused of adultery by the group.

According to the report, a 22-year-old woman from western Afghanistan said, “After getting a divorce and remarrying, I was living a new life and thought I was safe from my first husband; I didn’t think I would be hiding again.” Just weeks after the Taliban takeover, she began to receive threatening calls from her ex-husband, who told her that he had informed Taliban members in her home village about what she had done and that they were helping him find her and seek revenge.

Her second husband abandoned her last year, fearing that he could also be charged with adultery because their marriage was no longer considered valid. She was left behind with her two young daughters from her first marriage and four months pregnant with his child. “I never heard from him again,” she said.

Even under the previous government, securing a divorce was a challenging task for women in Afghanistan, especially in rural areas where it is uncommon for women to live outside of traditional family structures, given the country’s deeply conservative society.

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A 13-year-old girl sold by her addict stepfather into marriage, fought for years to escape an abusive husband, and eventually fled his home, secured a divorce and remarried. Now, under Taliban rule, she’s suddenly on the run again, at risk of imprisonment for adultery. 

According to the Post, local aid groups that provided shelter and counselling to women seeking to escape abusive relationships have also been closed under Taliban rule. The situation remains alarming for Afghan women, and their future remains uncertain.

The Taliban’s spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, refused to comment on the matter.