encourage births, including by providing tax subsidies and free IUD removals. But from 2015 to 2018, Xinjiang’s share of the country’s total new IUD insertions increased, even as use of the devices fell nationwide.

The contraception campaign appeared to work.

report by a Xinjiang government research center read. “They have avoided the pain of being trapped by extremism and being turned into reproductive tools.”

Women like Ms. Sedik, who had obeyed the rules, were not spared. After the IUD procedure, Ms. Sedik suffered from heavy bleeding and headaches. She later had the device secretly removed, then reinserted. In 2019, she decided to be sterilized.

“The government had become so strict, and I could no longer take the IUD,’” said Ms. Sedik, who now lives in the Netherlands after fleeing China in 2019. “I lost all hope in myself.”

leaked last year from Karakax County, in southwestern Xinjiang, which revealed that one of the most common reasons cited for detention was violating birth planning policies.

government notice from a county in Ili, unearthed by Mr. Zenz, the researcher.

operated under secrecy — many were subjected to interrogations. For some, the ordeal was worse.

Tursunay Ziyawudun was detained in a camp in Ili Prefecture for 10 months for traveling to Kazakhstan. She said that on three occasions, she was taken to a dark cell where two to three masked men raped her and used electric batons to forcibly penetrate her.

“You become their toy,” Ms. Ziyawudun said in a telephone interview from the United States, where she now lives, as she broke down sobbing. “You just want to die at the time, but unfortunately you don’t.”

Gulbahar Jalilova, the third former detainee, said in an interview that she had been beaten in a camp and that a guard exposed himself during an interrogation and wanted her to perform oral sex.

The three former detainees, along with two others who spoke to The Times, also described being regularly forced to take unidentified pills or receive injections of medication that caused nausea and fatigue. Eventually, a few of them said, they stopped menstruating.

The former detainees’ accounts could not be independently verified because tight restrictions in Xinjiang make unfettered access to the camps impossible. The Chinese government has forcefully denied all allegations of abuse in the facilities.

in February.

Beijing has sought to undermine the credibility of the women who have spoken out, accusing them of lying and of poor morals, all while claiming to be a champion of women’s rights.

Even in their homes, the women did not feel safe. Uninvited Chinese Communist Party cadres would show up and had to be let in.

The party sends out more than a million workers to regularly visit, and sometimes stay in, the homes of Muslims, as part of a campaign called “Pair Up and Become Family.” To many Uyghurs, the cadres were little different from spies.

The cadres were tasked with reporting on whether the families they visited showed signs of “extremist behavior.” For women, this included any resentment they might have felt about state-mandated contraceptive procedures.

When the party cadres came to stay in 2018, Zumret Dawut had just been forcibly sterilized.

Four Han cadres visited her in Urumqi, bringing yogurt and eggs to help with the recovery, she recalled. They were also armed with questions: Did she have any issues with the sterilization operation? Was she dissatisfied with the government’s policy?

“I was so scared that if I said the wrong thing they would send me back to the camps,” said Ms. Dawut, a mother of three. “So I just told them, ‘We are all Chinese people and we have to do what the Chinese law says.’”

But the officials’ unwelcome gaze settled also on Ms. Dawut’s 11-year-old daughter, she said. One cadre, a 19-year-old man who was assigned to watch the child, would sometimes call Ms. Dawut and suggest taking her daughter to his home. She was able to rebuff him with excuses that the child was sick, she said.

Other women reported having to fend off advances even in the company of their husbands.

Ms. Sedik, the Uzbek teacher, was still recovering from a sterilization procedure when her “relative” — her husband’s boss — showed up.

She was expected to cook, clean and entertain him even though she was in pain from the operation. Worse, he would ask to hold her hand or to kiss and hug her, she said.

Mostly, Ms. Sedik agreed to his requests, terrified that if she refused, he would tell the government that she was an extremist. She rejected him only once: when he asked to sleep with her.

It went on like this every month or so for two years — until she left the country.

“He would say, ‘Don’t you like me? Don’t you love me?’” she recalled. “‘If you refuse me, you are refusing the government.’”

“I felt so humiliated, oppressed and angry,” she said. “But there was nothing I could do.”

Amy Chang Chien and Fatima Er contributed reporting.

View Source

Biden Officials Place Hope in Taliban’s Desire for Legitimacy and Money

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan has drawn sharp criticism that it could allow a takeover by the Taliban, with brutal consequences, particularly for the rights of women and girls.

In response, top Biden administration officials have offered a case for why the outcome may not be so dire: The Taliban, they say, might govern less harshly than feared after taking partial or full power — in order to win recognition and financial support from world powers.

That argument is among the most significant defenses against those who warn that the Taliban will seize control of Kabul and impose a brutal, premodern version of Islamic law, echoing the harsh rule that ended with the American invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made the case on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” saying that the Taliban must gain power through an organized political process and not through force “if it wants to be internationally recognized, if it doesn’t want to be a pariah,” he said.

Mr. Blinken announced that the administration would work with Congress to expedite a commitment of $300 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, pledged last fall under the Trump administration.

“As the United States begins withdrawing our troops, we will use our civilian and economic assistance to advance a just and durable peace for Afghanistan and a brighter future for the Afghan people,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement.

In a background briefing for reporters after Mr. Biden’s withdrawal announcement last week, a senior administration official said the denial of international legitimacy would be a punishment for any effort to roll back human rights and women’s rights in the country.

Other U.S. officials and some prominent experts call this “pariah” theory valid, saying Taliban leaders have a record of seeking international credibility, placing a high priority on the removal of sanctions against them. Taliban officials have made clear their desire for foreign aid to rebuild their country after two decades of grinding war.

military aid to Afghanistan’s government in hopes that its security forces will not be overrun.

But in the long term, there is almost no doubt that the Taliban will either become part of the Afghan government or take over the country entirely. How the United States will respond is unclear.

a paper published last month by the United States Institute of Peace, before Mr. Biden’s announcement, Mr. Rubin contended that America “has overestimated the role of military pressure or presence and underestimated the leverage that the Taliban’s quest for sanctions relief, recognition and international assistance provides.”

Mr. Rubin added that the agreement Taliban leaders signed with the Trump administration in February 2020 committed Washington to beginning the process of removing U.S. and United Nations sanctions on the group, including some that are targeted at its individual leaders. It also featured a guarantee that the United States “will seek economic cooperation for reconstruction with the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government.”

released a report.

most prominent human rights advocates.

“America doesn’t shovel out aid unconditionally,” Mr. Malinowski said. “Most American aid is designed to help governments do the very things that the Taliban despises.”

The Taliban were presented with such choices when they controlled much of Afghanistan in the 1990s. For several years in a row, the group sent delegations to United Nations headquarters seeking recognition there, to no avail.

A desire for recognition and assistance was not enough, however, to make the group heed the United States’ demand that it hand over Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, a stance that ultimately led to Afghanistan’s invasion after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I think the Afghans deserve more than just being told, well, the Taliban better not do this,” said Christine Fair, a professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and who has studied Afghanistan for years. “They’re really clear that they want to roll back the rights of women. And they don’t want to contest elections. They believe that they should be given a piece of the government because they have killing power.”

Ms. Fair added that the Biden administration should be placing more focus on the role of neighboring Pakistan, which has long had great influence over the Taliban.

H.R. McMaster, a retired three-star general who served as national security adviser during the Trump administration, said it was “delusional” to believe that the Taliban had fundamentally changed in 20 years, and dismissed the idea that the group was seeking greater international acceptance.

It is false, he said, to think “there is a bold line between the Taliban and Al Qaeda,” he said on Monday during a discussion for the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in which he roundly criticized Mr. Biden’s decision.

“They have said that their first step is to reestablish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” he said. If that were to happen, it would be “a humanitarian catastrophe of a colossal scale.”

Mr. Eggers said that the reality could be more nuanced, and one that could confound American policymakers.

“For example, what if Afghanistan ends up being about as bad as the Saudis with regard to their treatment of women?” he said. “That’s not good enough, but what do we do then?”

Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

View Source

Women Are Battling China’s Angry Trolls. The Trolls Are Winning.

The feminists’ social media accounts had been slowly disappearing in China for days. And when that wasn’t enough for their angry critics, a powerful voice on the internet stepped in to help.

In a discussion on the popular Chinese platform Weibo, one of the critics asked for better guidelines on how to file complaints against women who shared feminist views. The user suggested that the company add “inciting mass confrontation” to the list of violations that could have them removed. A Weibo account long affiliated with the company’s chief executive, Wang Gaofei, joined the conversation to offer tips.

“Here,” the person using the account said on April 14, posting a screenshot with easy instructions for filing complaints against the women. Under “type of complaint,” click “inciting hatred,” the screenshot showed. Under specific reason: “gender discrimination.”

half a dozen state media reports and a podcast. “He accused me of gender discrimination, which is the most laughable thing in the world,” she said.

Ms. Liang, a 28-year-old lawyer in New York, is one of the women whose accounts were removed by Weibo. She is suing the company for violating China’s civil code, saying it did not adequately explain its accusations against her.

The women’s accounts first started disappearing after March 31. Two days earlier, Xiao Meili, a well-known feminist in China, had left a hot pot restaurant in the southwestern city of Chengdu, angry that a man had ignored her repeated requests to stop smoking illegally indoors. The man was so furious that he hurled a cup of hot liquid at Ms. Xiao and her friends.

four other feminists on a charge of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” ahead of a campaign about sexual harassment on public transportation. The detentions led to an international outcry.

Feminist ideas have slowly entered the mainstream. Many women have been encouraged by the small gains in the country’s nascent #MeToo movement. And feminist thought appeals to Chinese women who feel that the government fails to address issues of gender discrimination, said Lu Pin, a veteran women’s rights activist based in New York whose account was also removed.

There are few outlets for women to vent in China. “That’s why they go online,” Ms. Lu said.

domestic violence, the difficulties of getting a divorce and gender discrimination in the workplace. Gender-related issues are often among the most talked-about subjects on the platform. But in a male-dominated culture, that has led to resentment.

Many of the most active opponents of China’s rising online feminist discourse have hundreds of thousands of followers. Some are celebrated in state media and allied with a broader nationalist movement that sees any form of criticism as an affront to Beijing. Women are easy targets, facing death threats and accusations of being “separatists.”

Douban, an internet forum and review website, has also recently removed at least eight groups dedicated to women’s issues, according to China Digital Times, a website that tracks Chinese internet controls. Douban declined to comment.

After the hot pot incident, Taobao, an e-commerce site in China, removed 23 items from Ms. Xiao’s online store, saying that they were “prohibited content,” according to a notice viewed by The New York Times. All of the items had the word “feminist” written on them. Ms. Xiao sued Weibo in a Beijing court on April 14, seeking access to her account and $1,500 in compensation.

After she posted her lawsuit on WeChat, China’s ubiquitous instant messaging platform, her public account was removed for “violating regulations.”

Ms. Liang, the lawyer, said she was one of the many women inundated by abuse after she posted supportive messages for Ms. Xiao. She was furious when her Weibo account was frozen, because it meant she could no longer defend herself, she said. “It’s the equivalent of sealing your mouth shut, hanging you up and leaving you to burn,” she said.

One of Ms. Liang’s supposed offenses was sharing a post on Twitter by the group “Chinese for Uyghurs.” Her critics used it to accuse her of being unpatriotic by spreading awareness of the plight of the oppressed Muslim minority.

Despite the risks, many women continue to share messages of support for those who have been kicked off Weibo, Ms. Liang said. She described the platform as “the only open space for me to speak out” and said she wanted her account back, even though she knew that the same angry users would be waiting for her when she returned.

“I think having this space is especially important for young women on the internet,” she said. “I refuse to give it up to those disgusting people.”

Elsie Chen contributed reporting. Lin Qiqing contributed research.

View Source

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.

View Source

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.

View Source

Afghans Wonder ‘What About Me?’ as US Troops Prepare to Withdraw

KABUL, Afghanistan — A female high school student in Kabul, Afghanistan’s war-scarred capital, is worried that she won’t be allowed to graduate. A pomegranate farmer in Kandahar wonders if his orchards will ever be clear of Taliban land mines. A government soldier in Ghazni fears he will never stop fighting.

Three Afghans from disparate walks of life, now each asking the same question: What will become of me when the Americans leave?

President Biden on Tuesday vowed to withdraw all American troops by Sept. 11, nearly 20 years after the first Americans arrived to drive out Al Qaeda following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The American withdrawal ends the longest war in United States history, but it is also likely to be the start of another difficult chapter for Afghanistan’s people.

reported that in the first three months of the year there were 573 civilians killed and 1,210 wounded, a 29 percent increase over the same period in 2020. More than 40,000 civilians have been killed since the start of the war.

Over two decades, the American mission evolved from hunting terrorists to helping the government build the institutions of a functioning government, dismantle the Taliban and empower women. But the U.S. and Afghan militaries were never able to effectively destroy the Taliban, allowing the insurgents to stage a comeback.

The Taliban never recognized Afghanistan’s democratic government. And they appear closer than ever to achieving the goal of their insurgency: to return to power and establish a government based on their extremist view of Islam.

Women would be most at risk under Taliban rule. When the group controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, it banned women from taking most jobs or receiving educations and practically made them prisoners in their own homes.

“It is too early to comment on the subject. We need to know much more,” said Fatima Gailani, an Afghan government negotiator who is involved in the continuing peace talks with the Taliban. “One thing is certain: It is about time that we learn how to rely on ourselves. Women of Afghanistan are totally different now. They are a force in our country; no one can deny them their rights or status.”

Afghanistan’s shaky democracy — propped up by billions of American dollars — has given way to an educated urban class that includes women like Ms. Gailani. Many of them were born in Afghanistan in the 1990s and came of age during the U.S. occupation of the country. Now these women are journalists, part of civil society and members of government.

In the countryside, by contrast, fighting, poverty and oppression remain regular parts of life. Despite the challenges, residents found some comfort in knowing that Afghan forces, backed by the American military, were keeping the peace at least in some areas.

Haji Abdul Samad, 52, a pomegranate farmer from the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, has been displaced from his home for two months because of the heavy fighting there.

“I am too tired of my life. We are now in a position to beg,” Mr. Samad said. “The Americans are responsible for the troubles, hardships that we are going through. Now they are going to leave with their troops, with no peace, no progress. They just want to leave their war behind.”

Fears about the future are as palpable in the presidential palace in Kabul as they are in far-flung corners of the country. And people across Afghanistan are confused about who will soon be in charge.

The Taliban have repeatedly called for President Ashraf Ghani to step down to make way for an interim government, or most likely, their own. Mr. Ghani has refused, instead pushing for elections but also opening the door to more fighting and a potential civil war. The peace talks in Qatar have faltered and the Taliban have all but backed out of proposed talks in Turkey.

“Ghani will be increasingly isolated. Power brokers see every one of his moves as designed to keep himself and his deputies at the helm,” said Torek Farhadi, an adviser to former President Hamid Karzai. “Reality is, free and fair elections are not possible in the country amid war. In fact, it could fuel more violence.”

As American troops prepare to leave and fractures form in the Afghan government, militias controlled by powerful local warlords are once more rising to prominence and attacking government forces.

The American withdrawal will undoubtedly be a massive blow to morale for the Afghan security forces, spread across the country at hundreds of checkpoints, inside bases and along violent front lines. For years, the U.S. presence has meant that American air power, if needed, was nearby. But since the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban, those airstrikes have become much less frequent, occurring only in the most dire of situations.

Without American military support, Afghan government troops are up against a Taliban enemy who is frequently more experienced and better equipped than the average foot soldier.

The history of Afghanistan has been one of foreign invasion and withdrawal: the British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th. After each invasion, the country underwent a period of infighting and civil war.

“It is not the right time to withdraw their troops,” said Major Saifuddin Azizi, a commando commander in the southeastern province of Ghazni, where fighting has been especially brutal in recent days. “It is unreasonable, hasty and a betrayal to us. It pushes Afghanistan into another civil war. Afghanistan’s destiny will look like it did two decades ago.”

Reporting was contributed by Fahim Abed, Najim Rahim and Fatima Faizi from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

View Source

Afghans Wonder ‘What About Me?’ as American Troops Prepare to Withdraw

KABUL, Afghanistan — A female high school student in Kabul, Afghanistan’s war-scarred capital, is worried that she won’t be allowed to graduate. A pomegranate farmer in Kandahar wonders if his orchards will ever be clear of Taliban land mines. A government soldier in Ghazni fears he will never stop fighting.

Three Afghans from disparate walks of life, now each asking the same question: What will become of me when the Americans leave?

President Biden on Tuesday vowed to withdraw all American troops by Sept. 11, nearly 20 years after the first Americans arrived to drive out Al Qaeda following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The American withdrawal ends the longest war in United States history, but it is also likely to be the start of another difficult chapter for Afghanistan’s people.

reported that in the first three months of the year there were 573 civilians killed and 1,210 wounded, a 29 percent increase over the same period in 2020. More than 40,000 civilians have been killed since the start of the war.

Over two decades, the American mission evolved from hunting terrorists to helping the government build the institutions of a functioning government, dismantle the Taliban and empower women. But the U.S. and Afghan militaries were never able to effectively destroy the Taliban, allowing the insurgents to stage a comeback.

The Taliban never recognized Afghanistan’s democratic government. And they appear closer than ever to achieving the goal of their insurgency: to return to power and establish a government based on their extremist view of Islam.

Women would be most at risk under Taliban rule. When the group controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, it banned women from taking most jobs or receiving educations and practically made them prisoners in their own homes.

“It is too early to comment on the subject. We need to know much more,” said Fatima Gailani, an Afghan government negotiator who is involved in the continuing peace talks with the Taliban. “One thing is certain: It is about time that we learn how to rely on ourselves. Women of Afghanistan are totally different now. They are a force in our country; no one can deny them their rights or status.”

Afghanistan’s shaky democracy — propped up by billions of American dollars — has given way to an educated urban class that includes women like Ms. Gailani. Many of them were born in Afghanistan in the 1990s and came of age during the U.S. occupation of the country. Now these women are journalists, part of civil society and members of government.

In the countryside, by contrast, fighting, poverty and oppression remain regular parts of life. Despite the challenges, residents found some comfort in knowing that Afghan forces, backed by the American military, were keeping the peace at least in some areas.

Haji Abdul Samad, 52, a pomegranate farmer from the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, has been displaced from his home for two months because of the heavy fighting there.

“I am too tired of my life. We are now in a position to beg,” Mr. Samad said. “The Americans are responsible for the troubles, hardships that we are going through. Now they are going to leave with their troops, with no peace, no progress. They just want to leave their war behind.”

Fears about the future are as palpable in the presidential palace in Kabul as they are in far-flung corners of the country. And people across Afghanistan are confused about who will soon be in charge.

The Taliban have repeatedly called for President Ashraf Ghani to step down to make way for an interim government, or most likely, their own. Mr. Ghani has refused, instead pushing for elections but also opening the door to more fighting and a potential civil war. The peace talks in Qatar have faltered and the Taliban have all but backed out of proposed talks in Turkey.

“Ghani will be increasingly isolated. Power brokers see every one of his moves as designed to keep himself and his deputies at the helm,” said Torek Farhadi, an adviser to former President Hamid Karzai. “Reality is, free and fair elections are not possible in the country amid war. In fact, it could fuel more violence.”

As American troops prepare to leave and fractures form in the Afghan government, militias controlled by powerful local warlords are once more rising to prominence and attacking government forces.

The American withdrawal will undoubtedly be a massive blow to morale for the Afghan security forces, spread across the country at hundreds of checkpoints, inside bases and along violent front lines. For years, the U.S. presence has meant that American air power, if needed, was nearby. But since the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban, those airstrikes have become much less frequent, occurring only in the most dire of situations.

Without American military support, Afghan government troops are up against a Taliban enemy who is frequently more experienced and better equipped than the average foot soldier.

The history of Afghanistan has been one of foreign invasion and withdrawal: the British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th. After each invasion, the country underwent a period of infighting and civil war.

“It is not the right time to withdraw their troops,” said Major Saifuddin Azizi, a commando commander in the southeastern province of Ghazni, where fighting has been especially brutal in recent days. “It is unreasonable, hasty and a betrayal to us. It pushes Afghanistan into another civil war. Afghanistan’s destiny will look like it did two decades ago.”

Reporting was contributed by Fahim Abed, Najim Rahim and Fatima Faizi from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

View Source

Girl’s Rape in Venezuela Becomes a Rallying Cry for Abortion Activists

The assault of a 13-year-old girl in Venezuela and the arrest of her mother and a teacher who helped her end the pregnancy have forced a national debate about legalizing abortion.


MÉRIDA, Venezuela — She wore a ponytail and a red T-shirt, the words “Glitter Girl” sketched across the front.

Gripping her mother’s hand, she spoke softly, describing how she had been forced out of school by Venezuela’s economic crisis, and then was raped at least six times by a neighborhood predator who threatened to harm her family if she spoke out. At just 13, she became pregnant.

With her mother, she sought out a doctor, who told her the pregnancy endangered her life, and then a former teacher, who provided pills that induced an abortion.

But ending a pregnancy is illegal in almost all circumstances in Venezuela. And now the girl was speaking up, she said, because her teacher, Vannesa Rosales, was in jail, facing more than a decade in prison for helping her end a pregnancy — while the accused rapist remained free.

local and international press earlier this year, has become a point of outrage for women’s rights activists, who say it demonstrates the way the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis has stripped away protections for young women and girls. (The Times is not identifying the girl because she is a minor.)

The country’s decline, presided over by President Nicolás Maduro and exacerbated by U.S. sanctions, has crippled schools, shuttered community programs, sent millions of parents abroad and eviscerated the justice system, leaving many vulnerable to violent actors who flourish amid impunity.

But the girl’s assault, and Ms. Rosales’s arrest, has also become a rallying cry for activists who say it is time for Venezuela to have a serious discussion about further legalizing abortion, an issue, they argue, that is now more important than ever.

at least open to a discussion on the issue.

The country’s penal code, which dates back to the 1800s, criminalizes abortion in nearly all cases, with punishments for pregnant women lasting six months to two years and one to nearly three years for abortion providers.

An exception allows doctors to perform abortions “to save the life” of a pregnant woman.

But to obtain a legal abortion, a girl or woman must first find a doctor who will diagnose her with a specific life-threatening condition, said Dr. Jairo Fuenmayor, president of the country’s gynecologic society, and then have her case reviewed before a hospital ethics board.

The process is “cumbersome,” he said, and there are “very few” women who go through it.

The 13-year-old girl may have been eligible for a rare legal abortion, but the process is so infrequently publicized, and there so few doctors who will grant one, that neither she nor her mother knew they could seek one out.

Some women believe that simply raising the issue with a doctor will land them in the hands of the police.

legalize abortion, elevating a discussion about the issue in a region that has long had some of the strictest abortion laws in the world.

“We can ride the wave of the triumph in Argentina,” said Gioconda Espina, a longtime Venezuelan women’s rights activist.

Legalization, however, is far from imminent.

Venezuela is a deeply Catholic country, and many on both sides of the political aisle reject the idea of ending a pregnancy, even amid a crisis.

“Abortion is something that people naturally or instinctively reject,” said Christine de Vollmer, a Venezuelan activist who opposes the procedure. Venezuela may be “chaotic,” she said, but, “I don’t think the idea will catch.”

Hugo Chávez, who began the country’s socialist-inspired revolution in 1999, never took a strong position on abortion, but often asked feminist activists — many of whom supported abortion rights and his cause — to put his larger political movement ahead of their own demands.

sometimes disappeared for months or years in the Venezuelan justice system, and she worried that her partner was about to do the same.

Ms. Rosales’s lawyer, Venus Faddoul, exited the courthouse. No hearing today, she said. And it would probably be weeks before a judge took up the case.

Ms. Escobar collapsed, consumed by anger and anxiety. Soon, she was shaking violently and struggling to breathe.

“We are powerless,” she cried.

internet outrage that Venezuela’s attorney general, Tarek Saab, took to Twitter to clarify that he had issued an arrest warrant for the accused rapist.

The authorities in Mérida soon released Ms. Rosales to await trial under house arrest.

Abortion rights activists last month met for hours with Mr. Rodríguez, the National Assembly president, where they proposed a change to the penal code, among other ideas.

The country’s influential association of Catholic bishops responded with a letter imploring the country to stick with the status quo.

Powerful international organizations, the association said, were trying to legalize abortion “by appealing to fake concepts of modernity, inventing ‘new human rights,’ and justifying policies that go against God’s designs.”

Ms. Rosales remains in legal limbo. Six months after her arrest, she has yet to have her first day in court. The accused person is still free.

“This goes beyond being a negligent state,” she said. “This is a state that is actively working against women.”

View Source

South Korean Man Gets 34 Years for Running Sexual Exploitation Chat Room

SEOUL — A South Korean man was sentenced to 34 years in prison on Thursday as part of the country’s crackdown on an infamous network of online chat rooms that lured young women, including minors, with promises of high-paying jobs before forcing them into pornography.

The man, Moon Hyeong-wook, opened one of the first such sites in 2015, prosecutors said. Mr. Moon, 25, operated a clandestine members-only chat room under the nickname “GodGod” on the Telegram messenger app, offering more than 3,700 clips of illicit pornography, they said.

Mr. Moon, an architecture major who was expelled from his college after his arrest last year, was one of the most notorious of the hundreds of people the police have arrested in the course of their investigation. Another chat room operator, a man named Cho Joo-bin, was sentenced to 40 years in prison last November.

“The accused inflicted irreparable damage on his victims through his anti-society crime that undermined human dignity,” the presiding judge, Cho Soon-pyo,​ said of Mr. Moon in his ruling on Thursday.​ The trial took place in a district court in the city of Andong in central South Korea​.

Mr. Moon was indicted in June on charges​ of forcing 21 young women, including minors, into ​making ​sexually explicit videos between 2017 and early last year.​

He ​approached young women looking for high-paying jobs through social media platforms​, then lured them into making sexually explicit videos, promising big payouts​, prosecutors said​.​ He also hacked into the online accounts of women who uploaded sexually explicit content, pretending to be a police officer investigating pornography.

​Once he got hold of the images and personal data, he used them to blackmail the women, threatening to send the clips to their parents unless the victims supplied more footage, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors demanded a life sentence for Mr. Moon.

Last December, the police said​ they had investigated 3,500 suspects, most of them men in their 20s or teenagers, as part of their investigation of the online chat rooms that served as avenues for sexual exploitation and pornographic distribution​. They arrested 245 of them.

The police also identified 1,100 victims.

The ​scandal, known in South Korea as “the Nth Room Case,” caused outrage over the cruel exploitation of the young women​. Women’s rights groups picketed courthouses where chat room operators were on trial, accusing judges of condoning sex crimes by handing down what they considered light punishments.

On Thursday, outside the Andong courthouse, advocates held a rally demanding the maximum punishment for Mr. Moon.

In recent years, the South Korean police began cracking down on sexually explicit file-sharing websites as part of international efforts to fight child pornography. As smartphones proliferated, ​they soon realized that much of the illegal trade was migrating to online chat rooms on messaging services like Telegram.

The police said they had trouble tracking down customers of the online chat rooms because they often used cryptocurrency payments to avoid being caught.

View Source

Powerful Men Fall, One After Another, in France’s Delayed #MeToo

The executive, Eric Brion, did not deny making such comments. But because the two did not work together, Mr. Brion argued the comments did not amount to sexual harassment and sued Ms. Muller for defamation. A ruling in 2019 that ordered Ms. Muller to pay 15,000 euros in damages, around $17,650, was overturned last week.

In 2019, the court said that Ms. Muller had “surpassed the acceptable limits of freedom of expression, as her comments descended into a personal attack.” This time, the judges found that Ms. Muller had acted in good faith, adding that the “#balancetonporc and #MeToo movements had drawn a lot of attention, had been hailed by diverse officials and personalities and had positively contributed to letting women speak freely.”

Camille Froidevaux-Metterie, a leading feminist philosopher, said that it was significant that the men now under investigation were leaders in a diversity of fields. Revelations surrounding them have undermined the myths of Frenchmen as great seducers and of a refined romantic culture where “we, French, in our interplay of seduction, know how to interpret nonverbal signs and we have this art of seduction, a gentle commerce between the sexes,” she said.

“These are men who all embody, in some ways, the old patriarchal order of things — of men of power and men who have used and abused their power to sexually exploit the bodies of others, whether they be women or young men,” Ms. Froidevaux-Metterie said, adding, “Perhaps we are experiencing the first real shock to that system.”

Some conservative intellectuals regard the ever-growing list of accused prominent men as evidence of the contamination of French society by American ideas on gender, race, religion and postcolonialism.

Pierre-André Taguieff, a historian and a leading critic of the American influence, said in an email that “neo-feminist and neo-antiracist ideologues denounce universalism, especially French republican universalism, as a fraud, a deceitful mask of imperialism, sexism and racism.”

View Source