Since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August, they have applied their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Although it tried to pass itself off as more moderate, the group imposed a series of restrictions that nullify the freedoms Afghan women have gained through a history of struggle and activism, and destroy the gains made during over the past two decades. Following the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington, the United States invaded Afghanistan. The justifications for the war paid particular attention to the misogyny of the Taliban. According to the administration of then-US President George W. Bush, the war on terrorism in Afghanistan was “also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.”
This drew attention to the plight of Afghan women, which has resulted in international aid and funding for social programs and NGOs focused on improving the lives of women. This has enabled women in urban areas, especially in the capital, Kabul, to participate in public life in ways that were not possible under the Taliban regime.
But these changes have not reached the countryside, where, according to World Bank data, around 70% of Afghans live. During the two-decade-long war, Afghan villages were the scene of countless clashes between Taliban-NATO aligned groups and national forces. Rural women have endured constant night raids, airstrikes and displacement, without the chance to benefit from the expanded opportunities for their urban counterparts.
A UN report released in July quotes rural women saying that the 2020 withdrawal agreement between the United States and the Taliban has meant less violence in their areas, greater freedom of movement and reduced anxiety .
The first restrictions introduced by the Taliban after they regained power mainly targeted women in the cities and the middle classes. But they expand into a long list of rules, which will affect the entire Afghan female population. Afghan women have been banned from traveling more than 72 kilometers (45 miles) without a male relative since December 26. The Taliban Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice has banned drivers from driving women traveling alone. A senior Human Rights Watch official said the decree prevents women from “being able to leave if they are faced with domestic violence.”
In November, the Taliban banned women from appearing in television shows and films and ordered female journalists and presenters to wear headscarves. Created in 2001, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was abolished by the Taliban in September. His office now houses the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of the Vice-Ministry. The Taliban effectively banned girls from pursuing higher education in primary school by keeping most secondary schools for adolescent girls closed, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in October. According to World Bank data, the proportion of girls in primary schools in Afghanistan increased from less than 10% in 2003 to 33% in 2017, while their share in secondary schools was 39% in 2017, up from 6. % in 2003.
In early July, as the Taliban seized territory from government forces across Afghanistan, the group’s fighters broke into banking offices in the southern city of Kandahar and ordered the women working there to leave.
After taking full control of Afghanistan, the group continued to eliminate women from workplaces. In September, a senior Taliban official told Reuters news agency that Afghan women should not work alongside men. This was followed by another decree issued by the acting mayor ordering Kabul city government workers to stay at home. Women made up 20% of the country’s workforce in 2020, according to a report released by the United Nations Development Program in December, and a growing number of them were running small businesses.
This article has been supplied by Deutsche Welle