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Tags: afghanistan | oppression | women

Can Power of Public Opinion Save Afghanistan's Oppressed?

two women in burqas

Afghan burqa-clad women in Kabul. (AFP via Getty Images)

Susan Estrich By Tuesday, 06 September 2022 09:20 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Elaha is a medical student at Kabul University. On the video, widely shared on social media this week, she cries as she describes being forced to marry the Taliban's Interior Ministry spokesman six months ago.

"(He) beat me a lot. Every night he raped me."

She tried to escape and was turned back at the border and confined to an apartment by the Taliban.

"These may be my last words. He will kill me, but it is better to die once than to die every time."

On the video, she says she fears being stoned to death as an infidel and begs to be rescued.

On Wednesday, one day after the video surfaced, the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, which is controlled by the Taliban, announced that she had been arrested and would "soon be sentenced according to Sharia law.

No one is allowed to harm the name of Mujahideen or defame the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the 20 years of holy jihad." No mention of a trial.

The former Ministry spokesman, for his part, tweeted on Wednesday that he had divorced Elaha because she "has a problem in her faith." It is reported that he was transferred out of his public post as spokesman, but no reason has been given and no new posting has been announced.

It is hardly a secret that the Taliban has turned back the clock for women in Afghanistan. Since taking over, women have been barred from attending school and working, and required to literally cover all of themselves but their eyes when out in public.

There have been reports from Amnesty International and from activists of rising numbers of forced marriages and rapes. In a sense, there is nothing really new or unusual about Elaha's story.

But it is one thing to read reports and another to hear directly on Facebook or Twitter or WhatsApp from a real woman with a name and a terrible story to tell. The impact is simply greater than any report.

Social media has made Elaha a star, of a sort; an influencer, for sure; a celebrity, for 15 minutes. And a target. There is that, too.

Social media gets attention. But can it bring salvation? Can it save a rape victim from the Taliban?

What hope does she have?

Only us. Her only hope is that the same viral media that made her an international figure will save her life, that people like you and me who saw the video or heard about it, who are reading right now, will raise our voices.

And then what? Embarrass the Taliban? At least hold them accountable?

We can raise our voices and hope that they are heard. We can pressure our own government to stand up for her. This much we know: The Taliban reacted to social media within 24 hours. They were tweeting, too. To what end?

Elaha's plight poses the question in the starkest terms: Is social media capable of protecting those whose voice it amplifies?

We talk about the power of public opinion. People in Elaha's shoes dream of how they can command enough attention to translate into salvation. But sometimes attention brings the wrong kind of response. This one is scary. Pray for Elaha. And raise your voice.

Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.


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It is hardly a secret that the Taliban has turned back the clock for women in Afghanistan.
afghanistan, oppression, women
Tuesday, 06 September 2022 09:20 AM
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