The day she was flogged by members of the Taliban, Maryam was making her way to the local bazaar to shop for groceries – her face uncovered.
The 32-year-old housewife was born and raised in Afghanistan’s Sancharak district in Sar-i-pul – a northern province, where the Taliban shadow police has tried for some time to return to.
“I was on my way to the city [centre] when we saw the Taliban coming,” said Maryam, whose name has been changed to protect her identity. “Some people started to run, but I didn’t get the chance. One of them came up to me and three others and asked us: why aren’t you wearing a burqa?,” she recalled, referring to the long garment imposed by the Taliban, which covers women from head to toe.
As quickly as they appeared, the men issued their verdict – Maryam and three other women were to receive 30 lashes for stepping out in public without a burqa. “I was speechless. I am not sure how many times I was lashed, I lost count after a while. The pain was too unbearable,” she said. Meanwhile, a crowd gathered to witness the impromptu trial.
According to local reports, however, a group of men stepped forward to stop the Taliban. While Maryam was unable to corroborate this, Zabiullah Amany, the governor’s spokesman said that several male residents tried helping many of the women arrested by the Taliban.
“The Taliban wanted to lash the women, but people didn’t allowed them,” Mr Amany told The National. Unfortunately, Maryam and the three women were not among those who were rescued. According to him, they were accused of adultery and because of this, he implied, the local crowd was largely unsympathetic and did not help them like they did with the other women. Adultery is illegal in Afghanistan.
Maryam, however, insisted she was punished for not adhering to the strict Taliban dress code, which requires that women keep their faces covered at all times to preserve their modesty. “They lectured us about our duties. They told us you must cook food, you don’t have permission to go to the doctor without a mahram. I am so angry and upset at the way I was treated,” she said, using the Arabic term for a male guardian.
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