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Pakistani Taliban Release New Magazine Geared Toward Women

The Pakistani Taliban released an online magazine geared toward women this week. The third of its kind in six years, the magazine comes at a time when the militant group formally known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, is staging a resurgence with near-daily deadly attacks on Pakistani security forces.

Titled Banat-E-Khadeejatul Kubra, which means Daughters of Khadeejatul Kubra, the 36-page Urdu-language magazine released July 16 is named after Khadeeja, the first wife of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.

The look

The red and white cover features a photo of a warrior woman dressed in black from head to toe with only her eyes showing, sitting on a white horse, ready to shoot an arrow. For titles, the magazine uses red and pink colors, and many floral motifs; however, all illustrations show women in long, loose gowns and face coverings. None of the drawings depicts any facial features.

The message

TTP, an ideological offshoot of the Afghan Taliban, released its first official magazine for women in mid-2017. Titled Sunnat-e-Khaula, meaning The Way of Khaula, the magazine was named after a female warrior from Prophet Muhammad’s time and encouraged women to prepare to fight.

A second magazine, Khawateen Ka Jihad , or Women’s Holy War, came out in March after a gap of six years. Observers say that was almost a trial run for the latest release.

The latest issue named after Prophet Muhammad’s wife focuses on women’s domestic responsibilities with an emphasis on serving and supporting men.

Feminist scholar and author Afiya S. Zia told VOA the agenda of this magazine is not to spread extremism but maintain a patriarchal status quo.

“It’s to stabilize and support the extremist agenda like the ‘B’ team,” she said in written comments. “It gives women only a supportive role – not suicide bombers or jihadists but daughters and wives who sacrifice their men for the cause and testify to their martyrdom.”

Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, a journalist and founder of The Khorasan Diary, an online news platform that focuses on militant activity in Pakistan and Afghanistan, told VOA TTP sees women as an asset in promoting its extremist ideology.

Since the majority of Taliban and their families are Pashtun, Mehsud said releasing a magazine in Urdu shows TTP is trying to reach a wider audience.

“The fact that this magazine has come in Urdu (Pakistan’s national language) and not just Pashto, shows that it’s not just Pashtun women but other too whom they [TTP] are creating content for,” he said.

Unlike the Afghan Taliban who have put a ban on women’s education, the Pakistani Taliban support women’s right to education in this magazine. The writings, however, strongly criticize co-education with sweeping generalizations and declare certain subjects like engineering “unnecessary” for women.

Zia said the TTP takes a pro-education stance because “there is no appetite for Afghan Taliban agenda in Pakistan – it has to be a softer version.”

The timing

Although Pakistani military operations dealt a massive blow to the militant group, driving its leadership and many fighters into Afghanistan in the 2010s, TTP has staged a comeback since the Afghan Taliban regained power in Kabul in August 2021.

Under the leadership of Noor Wali Mehsud, allegedly present in Afghanistan, TTP has regrouped, reorganized, and expanded by taking more than 30 other militant outfits into its fold.

The group has claimed responsibility for more than 300 attacks this year, in which more than 800 people, mostly security personnel, were killed or injured.

The Pakistani Taliban’s official media outlet, Umar Media, named after Afghan Taliban’s founder Mullah Umar, has been ramping up production of slick video and text content.

While Pakistan has repeatedly targeted TTP’s operational capacity, journalist Mehsud said the state has not focused sufficiently on countering its extremist ideology.

“[This] is why the TTP manages to stage a resurgence again and again. For any militant group, their center of gravity is their ideology. We have seen that groups weaken operationally but their ideology remains intact because of which they bounce back again.”

The magazine, like other extremist content, is accessible through various social media accounts that manage to dodge scrutiny with clever use of key words and hashtags.


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