Last month, the Taliban’s complete overthrow of Afghanistan had the entire world holding its breath, wondering what the future held for everyone involved. One of the most prominent issues being faced as of right now is women’s rights, as the Taliban has a history of extreme violence and oppression of women. The last time the Taliban held that power that it does now was from 1996 to 2001. According to one source, women were banned from going to school or studying, working, leaving the house without a male chaperon, showing their skin in public, accessing healthcare, and being involved in politics or speaking publicly. (The Amnesty School Speakers Network, 2014). Since 2001, women have slowly been working to regain their rights, potentially endangering themselves to access education, hold a job, and stop wearing burqas. Just weeks after the Taliban regained power this year, some of these restrictions have already been put back into place. Women are unable to play sports, and college classes are being separated by gender. This calls into question how long it will be until women are unable to get an education at all.
Currently, the Taliban claims to want to maintain women’s rights. A spokesperson for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, claims that they will protect women’s rights “within the norms of Islamic law” (Seir, Faiez, Gannon, Krauss; 2021). What exactly this means remains unclear, however for many people, this message is far from reassuring. One of the most troubling new developments is that Afghanistan is now of the very few countries across the world that has no women in high-ranking government positions. (Fox, 2021). Women are being forced to go as far as to burning all proof that they have been educated, fearing being targeted by the Taliban.
An unnamed woman from Kabul spoke out about what is happening in Afghanistan in a story posted on The Guardian in August. At the time of the Taliban’s insurrection, she was a university student set to graduate in November from both the American University of Afghanistan and Kabul University. Now, she is unable to continue her education and has been forced to hide all evidence of her education such as IDs, certificates, and diplomas. She describes this experience as devastating, and rightfully so. Even from a young age, she worked as a carpet weaver just to be able to get an education.
“As a woman, I feel like I am the victim of this political war that men started. I felt like I can no longer laugh out loud, I can no longer listen to my favourite songs, I can no longer meet my friends in our favourite cafe, I can no longer wear my favourite yellow dress or pink lipstick. And I can no longer go to my job or finish the university degree that I worked for years to achieve.” (A Kabul resident, 2021).
She goes on to discuss the role of men in Afghanistan, and how they have been directly contributing to oppression of women- without directly associating with the Taliban. As they watch fleeing the university dormitories, they stand and laugh. They refuse to drive women, even on public transport. They lurk in the streets and taunt the fearful women, telling them to get their burqas, telling them that it would be their last day in the streets, and that they would soon be married to these same strangers.
Storefronts displaying images of women have been painted over. Jobs are no longer available to women. Families are forced to live in parks or on the streets. The Taliban already has taken control of these women’s lives, and what the future holds remains unclear. We are all left to wonder what will happen next. How many women will be stripped of their basic human rights? How many will just stand by and watch?
The Amnesty School Speakers Network. (2014). Women in Afghanistan Fact Sheet. https://www.amnesty.org.uk/files/women_in_afghanistan_fact_sheet.pdf
Ahmad Seir, R. F. (2021, August 18). Taliban vow to respect women, despite history of oppression. AP NEWS. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://apnews.com/article/afghanistan-taliban-kabul-1d4b052ccef113adc8dc94f965ff23c7. https://apnews.com/article/afghanistan-taliban-kabul-1d4b052ccef113adc8dc94f965ff23c7
Fox, K. (2021, September 10). Afghanistan is now one of very few countries with no women in top government ranks. CNN. Retrieved September 20, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/09/asia/taliban-government-women-global-comparison-intl/index.html
Guardian News and Media. (2021, August 15). An Afghan woman in KABUL: ‘Now I have to burn everything I ACHIEVED’. The Guardian. Retrieved September 20, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/15/an-afghan-woman-in-kabul-now-i-have-to-burn-everything-i-achieved