Shailesh Bagauli, a state official, said the timing of the festival had been determined by “optimal astrological conditions” and that the government had implemented measures like mask wearing and social distancing.

On Wednesday, news of the hospital oxygen leak quickly spread around the country, raising fears that the health care system here, which is chronically underfunded, was about to collapse.

Indian news channels showed images of the oxygen leak at Zakir Hussain Hospital in the city of Nashik.

“When we reached the spot, it was all foggy,” said S.K. Bairagi, a fire chief in the city. He said it took about 30 minutes to repair the tank.

The dwindling oxygen supply is becoming one of the most alarming aspects of India’s second wave. To expedite its delivery to hospitals, India’s railway service has begun running what it calls “oxygen express” trains across the country.

India’s health ministry has said that the daily demand for oxygen at hospitals has reached about 60 percent of the country’s daily production capacity of just over 7,000 metric tons. Government officials countered news reports this week that said India had increased oxygen exports as the second wave of infections was approaching, saying those exports amounted to less than 1 percent of daily production capacity.

But the health ministry also said that it was looking to import 50,000 metric tons of medical oxygen from abroad, a sign that India’s government may be concerned about the domestic supply.

On Tuesday night, more than a dozen hospitals in New Delhi, the capital, put out an alert saying they were hours away from running out of oxygen.

In Lucknow, another major city in northern India, the Mayo Medical Center warned on Wednesday that it was down to a 15-minute backup supply and that “oxygen is not available anywhere in Lucknow.”

Later in the day, hospital officials said they had received 40 oxygen cylinders. But medical experts said that with so many people falling sick, it was a dangerous time to be running low.

“There is definitely an oxygen shortage across the country,” said Shashank Joshi, an endocrinologist and member of the Covid task force in Maharashtra. “The situation is grim.”

Mujib Mashal contributed reporting from New Delhi, andBhadra Sharma from Kathmandu, Nepal.

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Europe Proposes Strict Rules for Artificial Intelligence: Live Updates

“The E.U. is spearheading the development of new global norms to make sure A.I. can be trusted,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission executive vice president who oversees digital policy.
Credit…Yves Herman/Reuters

The European Union on Wednesday unveiled strict regulations to govern the use of artificial intelligence, a first-of-its-kind policy that outlines how companies and governments can use a technology seen as one of the most significant, but ethically fraught, scientific breakthroughs in recent memory.

Presented at a news briefing in Brussels, the draft rules would set limits around the use of artificial intelligence in a range of activities, from self-driving cars to hiring decisions, school enrollment selections and the scoring of exams. It would also cover the use of artificial intelligence by law enforcement and court systems — areas considered “high risk” because they could threaten people’s safety or fundamental rights.

Some uses would be banned altogether, including live facial recognition in public spaces, though there would be some exemptions for national security and other purposes.

The rules have far-reaching implications for major technology companies including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft that have poured resources into developing artificial intelligence, but also scores of other companies that use the technology in health care, insurance and finance. Governments have used versions of the technology in criminal justice and allocating public services.

Companies that violate the new regulations, which are expected to take several years to debate and implement, could face fines of up to 6 percent of global sales.

Artificial intelligence — where machines are trained to learn how to perform jobs on their own by studying huge volumes of data — is seen by technologists, business leaders and government officials as one of the world’s most transformative technologies.

But as the systems become more sophisticated it can be harder to determine why the technology is making a decision, a problem that could get worse as computers become more powerful. Researchers have raised ethical questions about its use, suggesting that it could perpetuate existing biases in society, invade privacy, or result in more jobs being automated.

“On artificial intelligence, trust is a must, not a nice to have,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission executive vice president who oversees digital policy for the 27-nation bloc, said in a statement. “With these landmark rules, the E.U. is spearheading the development of new global norms to make sure A.I. can be trusted.”

In introducing the draft rules, the European Union is attempting to further establish itself as the world’s most aggressive watchdog of the technology industry. The bloc has already enacted the world’s most far-reaching data-privacy regulations, and is also debating additional antitrust and content-moderation laws.

In Washington, the risks of artificial intelligence are also being considered. This week, the Federal Trade Commission warned against the sale of artificial intelligence systems that use racially-biased algorithms, or ones that could “deny people employment, housing, credit, insurance, or other benefits.”

The company that began as Krystle Mobayeni's side project, BentoBox, scaled up significantly in the pandemic to help restaurants.
Credit…Gili Benita for The New York Times

The past year has crushed independent restaurants across the country and brought a reality to their doors: Many were unprepared for a digital world.

Unlike other small retailers, restaurateurs could keep the tech low, with basic websites and maybe Instagram accounts with tantalizing, well-lit photos of their food. It meant businesses like BentoBox, which aims to help restaurants build more robust websites with e-commerce abilities, were a hard sell, Amy Haimerl reports for The New York Times.

For many, BentoBox’s services were a “nice to have,” not a necessity, the company’s founder, Krystle Mobayeni, said.

But the pandemic sent chefs and owners flocking to the firm as they suddenly needed to add to-go ordering, delivery scheduling, gift card sales and more to their websites. Before the pandemic the company, based in New York City, had about 4,800 clients, including the high-profile Manhattan restaurant Gramercy Tavern; today it has more than 7,000 restaurants on board and recently received a $28.8 million investment led by Goldman Sachs.

The moment opened a well of opportunity for other companies like it. Dozens of firms have either started or scaled up sharply as they found their services in urgent demand. Meanwhile, investors and venture capitalists have been sourcing deals in the “restaurant tech” sector — particularly seeking companies that bring the big chains’ advantages to independent restaurants.

A growing number of retirees and those approaching retirement are in debt.

The share of households headed by someone 55 or older with debt — from credit cards, mortgages, medical bills and student loans — increased to 68.4 percent in 2019, from 53.8 percent in 1992, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. A survey at the end of 2020 by Clever, an online real estate service, found that on average, retirees had doubled their nonmortgage debt in 2020 — to $19,200.

Susan B. Garland reports for The New York Times on what to do if you’re in this position:

  • Consult a nonprofit credit counseling agency, which will review a client’s expenses and income sources and create a custom action plan. The initial budgeting session is often free, said Bruce McClary, senior vice president for communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. An action plan could include cutting unnecessary spending, such as selling a rarely used car and banking some proceeds for taxi fare.

  • Tap into senior-oriented government benefits, such as property tax relief, utility assistance and Medicare premium subsidies. The National Council on Aging operates a clearinghouse website for them, BenefitsCheckUp.org. “The average individual 65-plus on a fixed income is leaving $7,000 annually on the table” in unused benefits, said Ramsey Alwin, the council’s president.

  • Avoid using high-interest credit cards to fill income gaps. Medical bills typically charge little or no interest but turn into high-interest costs if placed on credit cards, said Melinda Opperman, president of Credit.org. Instead, she said, patients should call hospitals or other providers directly to work out an arrangement.

  • Avoid taking out home-equity loans or lines of credit to pay off credit cards or medical bills, said Rose Perkins, quality assurance manager for CCCSMD, a credit counseling service. Though tapping home equity carries a lower interest rate than a credit card, a homeowner could put a home at risk if a job loss, the death of a spouse or illness made it difficult to pay off the lender, she said.

Fans of Chelsea Football Club were among many who protested the European soccer Super League before it unraveled Tuesday. The share price of publicly traded teams tumbled.
Credit…Neil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock

European stocks rose slightly on Wednesday, reversing some of the previous day’s drop, while U.S. stock futures indicated the S&P 500 would open lower. The sentiment in stock markets this week has shifted away from the optimism that recently set record highs amid growing concerns about coronavirus variants that are leading to new outbreaks.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.3 percent after plunging 1.9 percent on Tuesday. That was the biggest one-day decline since December. The S&P 500 fell 0.7 percent on Tuesday.

Oil prices fell, with futures on West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, declining 1.2 percent to just below $62 a barrel.

  • Netflix shares dropped nearly 8 percent in premarket trading after its latest earnings report. For the first quarter of 2021, Netflix said it added four million new customers, less than the six million it had forecast. It’s another sign that, although Netflix still dominates streaming, its rivals are starting to catch up.

  • As plans for a European Super League for soccer rapidly fell apart on Tuesday, shares in publicly traded football clubs that had joined the group dropped. Manchester United shares fell in premarket trading in New York, extending a 6 percent drop from the previous day. Shares in Juventus, an Italian club, plummeted nearly 13 percent.

  • Inflation in Britain rose less in March than economists predicted. The annual rate of price increases was 0.7 percent, data published Wednesday showed, up from 0.4 percent in February. The jump is notable, but it is less than the 0.8 percent analysts had predicted. As in the United States, policymakers and economists expect some of the increase to be temporary and explained by transitionary factors such as the steep drop in oil prices this time last year. Therefore, bets are that the central bank won’t reduce its monetary stimulus yet.

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J. & J. to Resume E.U. Vaccine Rollout, With Warning of Rare Side Effect

BRUSSELS — Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that it would resume the rollout of its coronavirus vaccine in Europe after the European Union’s drug regulator said that a warning should be added to the product indicating a possible link to rare blood clots, but that the shot’s benefits outweigh the risks.

The company decided to delay distribution in the bloc’s 27 member states last week, after regulators in the United States suspended use of the vaccine there amid concerns about the potential side effect.

The E.U. drug regulator’s endorsement — even with the caveat — not only clears a path for Johnson & Johnson in Europe, but could presage how the United States will handle the vaccine in the days to come.

On Friday, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to meet for a second to time to decide whether to recommend lifting a “pause” put on the vaccine’s use in the United States, perhaps with a similar warning.

had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

But some health experts worry that the headline-grabbing pause, which began over a week ago, might discourage some people from getting vaccinated, even though the risks from Covid-19 are far greater than the risk from a clot.

“You’ve put a scarlet letter on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

After clotting concerns associated with another vaccine, produced by AstraZeneca, were reported in Europe, Dr. Offit noted, some grew leery of it, overestimating the threat. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the clot risk has been put at an estimated one in a million.

“If you take a theoretical million people who are infected with Covid, five thousand will die,” Dr. Offit said. “Therefore, the benefits of this vaccine clearly outweigh its risks.”

a statement, the agency stressed the importance of treating the potential side effect and issued guidelines to health care professionals on the lookout for the rare clotting disorder. It listed symptoms to be vigilant for, including shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, severe and persistent headaches or blurred vision, and tiny blood spots under the skin.

The temporary suspension of the Johnson & Johnson rollout in the European Union had added to the bloc’s vaccine rollout woes, but it was not as big a blow as the AstraZeneca issues have been.

Vaccination efforts have fallen behind in Europe partly because AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company that is a major component of the region’s inoculation efforts, was unable to deliver the number of doses expected in the first quarter of the year. Then its vaccine was suspended over the blood-clotting concerns.

Even though the authorities eventually declared that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweighed risks, and advised E.U. members to use it, the damage had been done.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and was negotiating a new deal for future booster shots with the company for 2022 and 2023.

But while the impact for Europe may be cushioned, it could be a different story elsewhere. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been an important component of vaccination plans for countries around the world.

While it has not yet been rolled out at anything near the scale of AstraZeneca’s, some regions have pivoted to the shot amid AstraZeneca shortages. The African Union recently acquired 400 million doses.

The pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccinations in the United States, along with new restrictions on the use of AstraZeneca’s shot in Europe, rattled vaccination campaigns around the world relying on those vaccines. South Africa followed the United States in pausing Johnson & Johnson shots, though its health regulator in recent days recommended resuming its use.

U.S. health officials called for a pause in the vaccine’s use on April 13. Johnson & Johnson suspended its E.U. rollout immediately afterward, just as the first shipments of the shot were arriving in the region.

U.S. regulators and scientists are still studying the original reports of the clotting disorder and sifting through any new safety reports of possible cases of the clotting disorder. That effort has so far turned up little.

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, said on Monday that health officials were investigating “a handful” of new, unconfirmed reports that emerged after the pause was recommended, to determine whether they might be cases of the rare blood clotting disorder.

“Right now, we are encouraged that it hasn’t been an overwhelming number of cases, but we are looking and seeing what has come in,” she said at a White House news conference.

Carl Zimmer contributed reporting from New Haven; Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere from Washington; and Benjamin Mueller from London.

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E.U. Regulator Says J.&J. Shot Should Carry Rare Clot Risk Label

BRUSSELS—The European Union’s drug regulator on Tuesday said a warning should be added to the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine indicating a possible link to rare and unusual blood clots, but stopped short of recommending it be pulled from use, saying its benefits outweigh its risks.

“The reported combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is very rare, and the overall benefits of Covid-19 Vaccine Janssen in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side effects,” the European Medicines Agency said in a statement, referring to the division of Johnson & Johnson that develops vaccines, Janssen. The rare clots were “very similar,” the agency added, to those associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, for which the agency made a similar recommendation.

Johnson & Johnson decided to delay its rollout in the bloc’s 27 member states last week, after regulators in the United States called for a pause on the vaccine following concerns about the rare but serious side effect.

The EMA’s recommendation is not binding, but it is the first indication of what might happen next with the European rollout of the much-anticipated, single-shot vaccine that’s already been given to nearly eight million people in the United States. The agency said that regulators in individual E.U. member states should decide how to proceed taking into account their particular case load and vaccine availability.

damage had been done. Many Europeans have been refusing to take the vaccine, and several E.U. countries have limited its use to older people.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and was negotiating a new deal for future booster shots with the company for 2022 and 2023, signaling it was going to prioritize vaccines, like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, that use the mRNA technology.

But the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been an important component of vaccination plans from the United States to South Africa.

U.S. health officials called for a pause in the vaccine’s use on April 13 to examine a rare blood-clotting disorder that emerged in a small number of recipients. Johnson & Johnson suspended its E.U. rollout immediately afterward. E.U. countries had just began receiving their first shipments of the vaccine, and all but Poland followed company guidance and have not begun administering it.

On Monday, federal health officials said they were investigating “a handful” of new, unconfirmed reports that have emerged since the nationwide pause of the Johnson & Johnson injections. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ leading infectious disease expert, said previously that he anticipated a decision about whether to resume administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this Friday, when an expert panel that is advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to meet.

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Finland Is Again the World’s Happiest Country, Report Finds

In Finland, a relatively egalitarian society, people tend not to be fixated on “keeping up with the Joneses.”

“People often do pretty well in social comparison,” said Antti Kauppinen, a philosophy professor at the University of Helsinki. “This starts from education; everybody has access to good education. Income and wealth differences are relatively small.”

David Pfister, an architect from Austria who lives in Oulunkyla, a suburb of Helsinki, said that he would describe Finns as content, but that it was hard to say if they were happy. “The baby has increased our happiness,” said his wife, Veera Yliniemi, a teacher. Another man in the same suburb, Janne Berliini, 49, said he was happy enough. “I have work,” he said. “The basic things are in order.”

People in Finland also tend to have realistic expectations for their lives. But when something in life does exceed expectations, people will often act with humility, preferring a self-deprecating joke over bragging, said Sari Poyhonen, a linguistics professor at the University of Jyvaskyla. Finns, she said, are pros at keeping their happiness a secret.

The report this year received little attention in the Finnish news media. “Finland is still the happiest country in the world,” began a short article that ran on Page 19 in Ilta-Sanomat, a daily newspaper.

All of the countries that ranked in the top 10 — including the four other Nordic countries — have different political philosophies than in the United States, No. 14 on the list, behind Ireland and ahead of Canada. Lower levels of happiness in the United States could be driven by social conflict, drug addiction, lack of access to health care and income inequality, Dr. Wang said.

Things in Finland are far from perfect. Like other parts of the continent, far-right nationalism is on the rise, and unemployment is 8.1 percent, higher than the average unemployment rate of 7.5 percent in the European Union.

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A Cuba Without a Castro? A Country Steps Into the Unknown.

Over the past few years, as the Trump administration imposed stringent sanctions on Cuba and the tourism industry was decimated by the pandemic, Cubans have seen their country’s economy plummet once again, with many waiting for hours in bread lines. The country’s lauded health care system is frayed. And the number of Cubans trying to leave the island is going up, though it is still far from the exoduses of the 1980s and 1990s.

“The Communist Party lives off the achievements of a long time ago, from when they began,” said Claudia Genlui, an activist with the San Isidro political movement, a collective of artists who have protested against the Communist Party in recent months. Although the group is small, it has surprised the nation with its continued defiance.

“The party does not represent my generation, it does not represent me,” Ms. Genlui said, adding that “there is a lack of generational connection, of interests, of priorities, and all of that somehow drives us away.”

Mr. Castro, to some extent, would agree.

Although Fidel held fast to his rallying cry of “socialism or death” until he died in 2016, the younger Mr. Castro grew to realize that reform was necessary to quell growing discontent and began opening up the country’s economy.

After Fidel formally resigned from the presidency in 2008, Raúl Castro prioritized recruiting younger Cubans into the Communist Party and putting younger members into top government positions.

That has sat well with some Cubans.

“I think we’ve got to move on to a new generation, younger people with new ideas,” said Osvaldo Reyes, 55, a taxi driver in Havana, while voicing his support for Mr. Castro and the Communist Party. “A revolution should keep transforming, keep doing the best for people.”

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Fauci Expects Decision on Using Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Friday

A decision about whether to resume administering the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine should come this Friday, when an expert panel that is advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to meet, according to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.

“I think by that time we’re going to have a decision,” Dr. Fauci said on Sunday on the CNN program “State of the Union.”

“I don’t want to get ahead of the C.D.C. and the F.D.A. and the advisory committee,” he added, but said he expected experts to recommend “some sort of either warning or restriction” on the use of the vaccine.

Federal health agencies recommended putting injections of the vaccine on pause on Tuesday while they investigated whether it was linked to a rare blood-clotting disorder. All 50 states, in addition to Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have stopped administering the vaccine.

two more cases of the clotting disorder were identified, including one in a man who had received the vaccine in a clinical trial.

Of the 129.5 million people who have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the United States, more than seven million have received Johnson & Johnson’s. If there is a link between the vaccine and the clotting disorder, the risk remains extremely low, experts say.

“It’s an extraordinarily rare event,” Dr. Fauci said on the ABC program “This Week.” The pause was intended to give experts time to gather more information and to warn physicians about the clotting disorder so that they can make more informed treatment decisions, said Dr. Fauci, who appeared on four TV news programs on Sunday morning.

European regulators have been investigating similar cases of the unusual clotting disorder in people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Some European countries have since stopped administering that vaccine altogether, while others have restricted its use in younger people.

Dr. Fauci also expressed frustration that “a disturbingly large proportion of Republicans,” who have been critical of many coronavirus restrictions, have expressed a reluctance to be vaccinated. “It’s almost paradoxical,” he said. “On the one hand they want to be relieved of the restrictions, but on the other hand, they don’t want to get vaccinated. It just almost doesn’t make any sense.”

Dr. Fauci said that he expected all high school students to become eligible for vaccination before school begins in the fall, with younger children eligible no later than the first quarter of 2022.

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Aleksei Navalny Should Be in Intensive Care, His Doctors Say

MOSCOW — The personal doctors of Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, sharply escalated their warnings over the weekend about his health failing from a hunger strike, the lingering effects of an attempted poisoning with a chemical weapon, and what they said was ill treatment in prison.

Isolated behind prison walls and treated only by government doctors, Mr. Navalny is now at risk of dying “at any moment” from kidney and heart ailments, said a personal physician, Dr. Yaroslav Ashikhmin.

With the reports of Mr. Navalny’s deteriorating health, his supporters announced a street protest in what they called a final effort to persuade the authorities to allow access for independent doctors, and to draw attention to the grim standoff over health care in detention for Mr. Navalny. The activist is nearly three weeks into a hunger strike over his medical treatment in prison.

The health alarms also prompted an international reaction. The United States national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said in an appearance on CNN that the Russian government would face “consequences if Mr. Navalny dies.”

convicted in a show trial of violating parole and sentenced to more than two years in prison.

Mr. Navalny, who is 44, had been in good health before narrowly surviving an attack with a rare nerve agent last summer. He and Western governments blamed the Kremlin. The Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, has denied any role in the poisoning, and prison officials say they are providing adequate care.

But Mr. Navalny’s lawyers have not ruled out lingering effects of the chemical weapon on his health. Mr. Navalny, the main political opponent of Mr. Putin for a decade now, has reported severe back pain and the loss of sensation in his legs and arms. Prison doctors found slipped discs in his back.

He was later moved to a prison infirmary with a high temperature and coughing. The prison told Mr. Navalny and his lawyers that tests for Covid-19 and tuberculosis, a common contagion in Russian prisons, had been negative.

said in a post on social media. He noted abnormally high levels of potassium in Mr. Navalny’s blood.

“Our patient could die at any moment,” Dr. Ashikhmin wrote. “A patient with this level of potassium should be in intensive care as at any moment a fatal arrhythmia could develop.”

Members of Mr. Navalny’s political organization have called the withholding of care a slow-motion assassination attempt by the Russian government. Over the weekend, their warnings became more dire. After doctors raised alarms, Mr. Navalny’s political allies said on Sunday that if treatment were withheld, he would die within days, and called for the street protest.

Chris Cameron contributed reporting from Washington.

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Afghan Women Fear The Worst after U.S. Withdrawal

KABUL, Afghanistan — Farzana Ahmadi watched as a neighbor in her village in northern Afghanistan was flogged by Taliban fighters last month. The crime: Her face was uncovered.

“Every woman should cover their eyes,” Ms. Ahmadi recalled one Taliban member saying. People silently watched as the beating dragged on.

Fear — even more potent than in years past — is gripping Afghans now that U.S. and NATO forces will depart the country in the coming months. They will leave behind a publicly triumphant Taliban, who many expect will seize more territory and reinstitute many of the same oppressive rules they enforced under their regime in the 1990s.

The New York Times spoke to many Afghan women — members of civil society, politicians, journalists and others — about what comes next in their country, and they all said the same thing: Whatever happens will not bode well for them.

military and police, held political office, become internationally recognized singers, competed in the Olympics and on robotics teams, climbed mountains and more — all things that were nearly impossible at the turn of the century.

President Biden made his final decision to pull out all U.S. troops by September, some lawmakers and military officials argued that preserving women’s rights was one reason to keep American forces there.

more than 1,000 schools have closed in recent years.

“It was my dream to work in a government office,” said Ms. Ahmadi, 27, who graduated from Kunduz University two years ago before moving to a Taliban-controlled village with her husband. “But I will take my dream to the grave.”

If there is one thing that decades of war have taught Afghans, it is that conflict was never a good way to achieve human or women’s rights. Since the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, war has continuously fueled more war, eventually undermining any humanitarian achievements.

Under the U.S. occupation, education opportunities, cultural shifts, employment and health care have benefited some and barely affected others, especially in rural areas. In those places, some of the war’s most brutal chapters played out with many civilians dead and livelihoods devastated.

Often, women’s opinions are unclear in these parts, where roughly three-quarters of Afghanistan’s 34 million people live, and are often unreachable because of geographical, technological and cultural constraints.

report released in February said. “U.S. efforts to support women, girls and gender equality in Afghanistan yielded mixed results.”

Still, the Taliban’s harshly restrictive religious governing structure virtually ensures that the oppression of women is baked into whatever iteration of governance they bring.

The Taliban’s idea of justice for women was solidified for Ms. Ahmadi when she saw the insurgents beat the unveiled woman in front of her in Kunduz Province.

For many other Afghan women, the government’s judicial system has been punishment of a different kind.

Farzana Alizada believes that her sister, Maryam, was murdered by her abusive husband. But a police investigation of any sort took months to start, thwarted by absent prosecutors and corruption, she said. Ms. Alizada’s brother-in-law even pressured her to drop the charges by accusing her of stealing. The police asked her why she was pushing the case if her sister was dead.

Domestic violence remains an enduring problem in Afghanistan. About 87 percent of Afghan women and girls experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

“I lost all the hope I have in this government. In some cases, maybe the Taliban is better than this system.” Ms. Alizada said. “No one is on my side.”

Ms. Alizada’s sentiments were similarly portrayed in Doha, Qatar, at the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Despite months of negotiations, there has been little progress, especially when it comes to discussing women’s rights, which neither side has made a priority.

At a separate peace conference held in Moscow in March between the Afghan government, political power brokers and the Taliban, only one woman, Habiba Sarabi, was on the 12-member delegation sent by the Afghan government. And only four are a part of the 21-person team in Doha.

“Moscow — and Doha, as well, with its small number of women representatives — laid bare the thin veneer of support for genuine equality and the so-called post-2001 gains when it comes to who will decide the country’s future,” said Patricia Gossman, the associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

But one of the gains that is almost indisputable has been Afghanistan’s access to the internet and the news media. Cellphone coverage extends across much of the country, meaning that Afghan women and girls have more space to learn and connect outside their familial bubbles and villages. The Afghan news media, too, has blossomed after large investments from foreign governments and investors, and many women have become nationally known journalists and celebrities.

But even their futures are uncertain.

Lina Shirzad is the acting managing director of a small radio station in Badakhshan, in Afghanistan’s restive north. She employs 15 women and fears, given the growing insecurity, that they will lose their jobs. Even some of the larger national outlets are looking to relocate employees or move some operations outside the country.

“With the withdrawal of foreign forces in the next few months, these women that are the breadwinners for their family will be unemployed,” Ms. Shirzad said. “Will their values and achievements be maintained or not?”

Fahim Abed contributed reporting from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

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Afghan Women Fear the Worst, Whether War or Peace Lies Ahead

KABUL, Afghanistan — Farzana Ahmadi watched as a neighbor in her village in northern Afghanistan was flogged by Taliban fighters last month. The crime: Her face was uncovered.

“Every woman should cover their eyes,” Ms. Ahmadi recalled one Taliban member saying. People silently watched as the beating dragged on.

Fear — even more potent than in years past — is gripping Afghans now that U.S. and NATO forces will depart the country in the coming months. They will leave behind a publicly triumphant Taliban, who many expect will seize more territory and reinstitute many of the same oppressive rules they enforced under their regime in the 1990s.

The New York Times spoke to many Afghan women — members of civil society, politicians, journalists and others — about what comes next in their country, and they all said the same thing: Whatever happens will not bode well for them.

military and police, held political office, become internationally recognized singers, competed in the Olympics and on robotics teams, climbed mountains and more — all things that were nearly impossible at the turn of the century.

President Biden made his final decision to pull out all U.S. troops by September, some lawmakers and military officials argued that preserving women’s rights was one reason to keep American forces there.

more than 1,000 schools have closed in recent years.

“It was my dream to work in a government office,” said Ms. Ahmadi, 27, who graduated from Kunduz University two years ago before moving to a Taliban-controlled village with her husband. “But I will take my dream to the grave.”

If there is one thing that decades of war have taught Afghans, it is that conflict was never a good way to achieve human or women’s rights. Since the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, war has continuously fueled more war, eventually undermining any humanitarian achievements.

Under the U.S. occupation, education opportunities, cultural shifts, employment and health care have benefited some and barely affected others, especially in rural areas. In those places, some of the war’s most brutal chapters played out with many civilians dead and livelihoods devastated.

Often, women’s opinions are unclear in these parts, where roughly three-quarters of Afghanistan’s 34 million people live, and are often unreachable because of geographical, technological and cultural constraints.

report released in February said. “U.S. efforts to support women, girls and gender equality in Afghanistan yielded mixed results.”

Still, the Taliban’s harshly restrictive religious governing structure virtually ensures that the oppression of women is baked into whatever iteration of governance they bring.

The Taliban’s idea of justice for women was solidified for Ms. Ahmadi when she saw the insurgents beat the unveiled woman in front of her in Kunduz Province.

For many other Afghan women, the government’s judicial system has been punishment of a different kind.

Farzana Alizada believes that her sister, Maryam, was murdered by her abusive husband. But a police investigation of any sort took months to start, thwarted by absent prosecutors and corruption, she said. Ms. Alizada’s brother-in-law even pressured her to drop the charges by accusing her of stealing. The police asked her why she was pushing the case if her sister was dead.

Domestic violence remains an enduring problem in Afghanistan. About 87 percent of Afghan women and girls experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

“I lost all the hope I have in this government. In some cases, maybe the Taliban is better than this system.” Ms. Alizada said. “No one is on my side.”

Ms. Alizada’s sentiments were similarly portrayed in Doha, Qatar, at the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Despite months of negotiations, there has been little progress, especially when it comes to discussing women’s rights, which neither side has made a priority.

At a separate peace conference held in Moscow in March between the Afghan government, political power brokers and the Taliban, only one woman, Habiba Sarabi, was on the 12-member delegation sent by the Afghan government. And only four are a part of the 21-person team in Doha.

“Moscow — and Doha, as well, with its small number of women representatives — laid bare the thin veneer of support for genuine equality and the so-called post-2001 gains when it comes to who will decide the country’s future,” said Patricia Gossman, the associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

But one of the gains that is almost indisputable has been Afghanistan’s access to the internet and the news media. Cellphone coverage extends across much of the country, meaning that Afghan women and girls have more space to learn and connect outside their familial bubbles and villages. The Afghan news media, too, has blossomed after large investments from foreign governments and investors, and many women have become nationally known journalists and celebrities.

But even their futures are uncertain.

Lina Shirzad is the acting managing director of a small radio station in Badakhshan, in Afghanistan’s restive north. She employs 15 women and fears, given the growing insecurity, that they will lose their jobs. Even some of the larger national outlets are looking to relocate employees or move some operations outside the country.

“With the withdrawal of foreign forces in the next few months, these women that are the breadwinners for their family will be unemployed,” Ms. Shirzad said. “Will their values and achievements be maintained or not?”

Fahim Abed contributed reporting from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

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