Taliban officials in Afghanistan’s most progressive city have urged driving instructors not to issue licenses to women, according to industry insiders.
While Afghanistan is a profoundly conservative and patriarchal society, women driving is widespread in major towns, particularly Herat in the northwest, which has long been considered liberal by Afghan standards.
Jan Agha Achakzai, the chairman of Herat’s Traffic Management Institute, which regulates driving schools, said, “We have been orally instructed to cease granting licenses to women drivers… but not to ban women from driving in the city.”
The Taliban, according to Adila Adeel, a 29-year-old women driving instructor and owner of a training facility, want to ensure that the next generation does not have the same possibilities as their mothers.
“We were advised not to give driving lessons or issue driver’s licenses,” she explained.
In August of last year, the insurgents-turned-rulers regained control of the country, pledging a kinder rule than their previous reign of terror, which lasted from 1996 to 2001 and was marked by human rights violations.
However, they are gradually restricting Afghans’ rights, particularly the rights of girls and women, who are barred from returning to secondary school and many government posts.
“I told a Taliban (guard) that it’s more convenient for me to travel in my car than to sit next to a taxi driver,” Shaima Wafa remarked as she went to a local market to buy Eid Al-Fitr gifts for her family.
“I need to be able to take my family to the doctor without having to wait for my brother or spouse,” she explained.
No official order had been issued, according to Naim Al-Haq Haqqani, the chairman of the province communications and cultural department.
The Taliban have mostly avoided releasing national, written decrees, preferring instead to let local officials to issue their own, sometimes verbal, edicts.
“It is not stated on any car that it belongs only to men,” Fereshteh Yaqoobi, a long-time driver, explained.
“In reality, a woman driving her own car is safer.”
Zainab Mohseni, 26, recently sought for a driver’s license, claiming that she feels safer in her own car than in cabs driven by men.
According to Mohseni, the newest judgment is just another proof that the new leadership will stop at nothing to deny Afghan women their few remaining rights.
“Slowly, steadily, the Taliban aim to tighten women’s limitations,” she stated.