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The BBC's Rebecca Milligan
"These women face severe restrictions in every aspect of their lives"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 05:43 GMT
Afghanistan: Women under Taleban rule

Afghan women: Lead hidden and quiet lives Afghan women: Lead hidden, invisible lives

By BBC Newsnight's Rebecca Milligan

There was outrage in the West when, in 1996, the Taleban movement took control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, and imposed its radical brand of Islam on the men and particularly the women of that once cosmopolitan city.

Because the Taleban has outlawed television, and photographing animals or humans is strictly forbidden, the plight of Afghan women has received little media coverage in the West.

Much of our report was compiled using hidden equipment - if the women who helped us were identified by the authorities, the consequences for them would be very serious.

Educated women live as virtual prisoners in a tiny flat Women live as virtual prisoners in a tiny flat

In Taleban-controlled areas - about 90% of the country - women are not allowed to work; they may not leave their homes unless covered from head to toe in the burqa or chadary and accompanied by a close male relative; girls' schools have been closed.

Capital distress

The situation in Kabul is particularly bad. The Taleban is tougher on the cities which, it believes, have been contaminated by western values.

None of Kabul's women can move around the city freely - they are in despair.

I visited a family of middle class women who now live as virtual prisoners in their tiny flat

The younger girls cannot go to school. The older women - both teachers - have no work.

Filmed with hidden camera, female beggars seen all over Kabul Female beggars are seen all over Kabul

None of them can move around the city freely - they are in despair.

The economic consequences of the ban on women working is especially evident in the capital where female beggars can be seen everywhere.

Many of them are widows, left with children to support after years of war.

Rural benefits

The situation in rural areas is different. The Taleban's rules have had less of an impact on women who have always lived within a very conservative village culture.

Female doctor: Female doctor: Works in rural vaccination centre

In some ways, the security which the Taleban has brought, has improved the lives of these women, who endured the constant threat of rape and banditry during the years of civil war.

There are some slight signs of hope. At a local level, aid agencies have been able to negotiate informal agreements for women to work and study.

I met women doctors who are able to practice. This is particularly important because the Taleban will not allow male doctors to treat female patients.

Baby girl: What future does she face? Baby girl: What future does she face?

However, the agreements are informal and therefore extremely fragile. A local health official agreed to my request for an interview - the first time a member of the Taleban has been questioned on camera with a female journalist.

He repeated his movement's usual explanation: the restrictions on women are for their own protection.

Things will improve when the war ends. No-one can say when that will be.

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See also:
08 Jan 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Afghanistan: Through veiled eyes
03 Aug 98 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
08 Mar 99 |  South Asia
Women and the Taleban
06 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Albright warns Taleban on women
03 Aug 98 |  Analysis
Afghanistan: 20 years of bloodshed
16 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Woman publicly executed in Kabul

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