The United States can play a critical role for women’s rights in Afghanistan

New Delhi, India, 08/24/2021 © PradeepGaurs / Shutterstock

After the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, women’s rights in Afghanistan came under constant attack from the Taliban, and many female activists were captured, tortured, killed and allegedly raped. Unfortunately, the scale of these crimes is unknown due to a lack of comprehensive media coverage. However, the AFINT news channel reports that at least 200 people have been detained, tortured, raped and banned from travel by the Taliban in the past six months. This number includes 102 women and 98 men, including 50 journalists, 92 civil activists, two singers and 40 prosecutors and judges in the previous government.

Over the past six months, Afghan women have continued to protest Taliban policies, prompting a backlash. One of the detainees told AFINT: “Unfortunately there is sexual harassment from the Taliban. The Taliban believe that a woman who protests for her rights or who worked before they came to power is a prostitute. So they consider these women as sex slaves. While it is impossible to change the Taliban’s mindset, international and regional pressure is essential to help Afghan women and hold the current regime accountable.

The Taliban use violence against women as a bargaining chip


To cope with international pressure, the Taliban have turned women’s rights issues into bargaining chips against the international community to gain recognition and force engagement. The United States, in particular, constantly calls on the Taliban to respect women’s rights. But does the United States have enough influence over the Taliban to force them to review their treatment of women?

power is everything

Since the overthrow of the Afghan government last August, the United States has remained engaged with the Taliban, despite Washington not recognizing the regime as legitimate. Although the Taliban sees the United States as the losers in this conflict, many leaders of the group believe they must interact with Washington in order to gain recognition.

Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai said in December: “If the US Embassy reopens in Kabul, all European countries will be here in half an hour. We are working hard on this, and since I am a member of the negotiating team with them (the Americans), I am sure from their morals and behavior that, God willing, they will be back soon.

From the Taliban’s perspective, power is everything. To the extent that they can control the country, the United States must respect them and will have to recognize them. This assumption leads the group not to compromise on women’s rights. Instead of revising their policies, they detained women activists, then released some after pressure to do so during talks in Oslo in January.

The United States is deeply concerned about the Taliban’s relationship with other terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State branch in Afghanistan, but human rights, women’s rights and a government inclusive are all part of the US agenda in its interaction with the country’s new government. leadership. In his speech at the US Institute for Peace, Thomas West, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan, stressed that these values ​​are crucial to US-Taliban relations.

However, it is imperative to bear in mind that any compromise by the international community on women’s rights that suggests to the Taliban that their harsh policies can be accommodated will only exacerbate the situation of women in Afghanistan.

International commitment

For more than 20 years, the United States and the international community have reiterated their strong commitment to supporting women in Afghanistan, creating hope that they should continue to do so after the Taliban seizes power. However, many Afghan women saw the US deal with the Taliban as a betrayal.

International pressure is the critical factor in holding the Taliban to account. When the activists disappeared without explanation, the Taliban denied their involvement for months. United Nations and United States diplomats have repeatedly called on the Taliban to find the missing women.

Ultimately, the Taliban released several well-known female activists although they denied any involvement in their detention. The group also released videos of confessions coerced by activists. Totalitarian regimes use this tactic against human rights activities for propaganda purposes and to mislead the public; Exposing the Taliban’s double game will not be easy and will require international commitment and cooperation.

Several measures can be helpful in holding the Taliban accountable, and the United States can play a central role. First, diplomatic contacts with the Taliban should not be interpreted as hope for recognition; rather, diplomacy should only be used for contact and assessment of responsibilities.

Second, international consensus on women’s rights and support for an inclusive and legitimate government in Afghanistan is essential. This is important for women’s rights and negotiation for building a broad-based government to reflect Afghan society, which is essential to avoid another round of conflict.

Third, there is a need to increase the activities of international organizations in Afghanistan to support women and monitor their situation under the Taliban. Currently, there is no access to the different corners of the country where crimes against women can be committed. Fourth, financial support for organizations that champion women’s education and activities will be vital for women’s voices and Afghan social society to resist the Taliban’s fascist approach.

The United States can lobby on behalf of Afghan women to demand that their rights to work and education be respected. Any degree of leniency towards the Taliban will make women’s situation worse. If the United States shows wavering resolve or sends a misleading message, the international consensus on human rights will vanish.