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Out of Work, Out of School and on the Run: Women’s Rights in Taliban’s Afghanistan

Post capturing power in August last year; the Taliban claimed that under its regime, women would be awarded every right within the confines of the Sharia law. However, after witnessing the harsh restrictions imposed on women’s education, their right to employment, and even the right to ride a vehicle; it’s hard to believe that the Taliban will stand by its words.

So, what is the current state of Afghan women under the Taliban regime? How is the international community reacting? And is the worst yet to come?

How Are the Taliban Abusing Women’s Rights?

The past two decades marked an era of women’s empowerment in Afghanistan. Girls entered classrooms, females entered the workforce, became prominent political leaders, business tycoons, sports personalities, and whatnot. But, soon after the takeover, the Taliban succeeded in stripping away all the development done in the sector in a flash.

While the Taliban promised international observers that it would alter its stance on many human rights concerns; the organization has been accused of reverting to old patterns more than half a year into its rule. The Taliban has proven to be as restrictive and violent as many thought it would be on women’s rights.

So, here’s a glimpse of how the lives of women in afghan have changed over the year after the Taliban takeover:

The Dying Education Sector

Despite its claim and support of the right to education; most secondary schools in Afghanistan have been closed since August, at least for girls ages 13 to 18.

Officials previously promised that all students would be able to return to school by the end of March. However, on the reopening day, the Taliban took the orders back, pushing female students’ futures again into great uncertainty.

Afghan Students in a classroom
Afghan Students in a classroom

The majority of private institutions have reopened, despite teachers’ shortages. However, the new rules issued by the Taliban demand the classrooms be divided by gender, and there must be no mixing of men and women between classes.

Some government institutions reopened a few weeks ago under similar restrictions, although most barely had a trickle of female students.

Afghanistan: No Place For Women Employees

According to Talibani leaders, women can be allowed to work, but only if their workplace is segregated from men. In practice, however, women are essentially forbidden from working. Especially for the government, with the exception of particular fields like health care and education.

Even in the private sector, cases of harassment against women on their way to work often resurface. Moreover, Taliban intelligence officers often visit commercial firms to ensure strict segregation is maintained. As a result, several managers have fired female employees out of prudence.

Women at Work in Afghanistan
Women at Work in Afghanistan

Small women-only cooperatives have been able to survive in some locations, such as a jasmine processing plant in the historic western city of Herat; which has long been considered liberal by Afghan standards.

Despite this, the Taliban’s resurgence has rendered tens of thousands of Afghan women jobless, reversing two decades of social progress in diversifying all elements of their profession, from the police to the courts.

Personal Freedom

The Taliban made it mandatory for women to wear an all-covering burqa in public during their first term in office. Agents from the dreaded Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice are ordered to whip anybody discovered without one.

Last month, the Ministry distributed posters across Kabul “suggesting” that women wear the less restrictive hijab. Although images of women wearing the burqa accompanied the message.

Women were also required to travel between cities and towns with a male relative. Moreover, cab drivers were instructed not to pick up female customers unless they wore hijabs.

Prior to the Taliban’s return, the capital’s beauty salons and fashion stores were thriving, but they have all but primarily vanished. Meanwhile, in Herat, store mannequins were decapitated, and billboards depicting the human form were removed because they were judged un-Islamic.

Read More: Afghanistan: Taliban Orders Head-to-Toe Coverings for Women in Public Further Defying Human Rights

Women’s Rights Abuse: The Reaction of the International Community

The international community is condemning the Taliban’s draconian laws and abuse of women’s rights. Upon the recent decree mandating Afghan women to wear head-to-toe covering while stepping outside, the U.S. State Department spokesperson released the following statement

“We are extremely concerned that the rights and progress Afghan women and girls have achieved and enjoyed over the last 20 years are being eroded. We and many of our partners in the international community remain deeply troubled by the recent steps the Taliban have taken directed at women and girls, including restriction on education and travel.”

U.S. State of Department Spokesperson

The United Nations has also condemned the Taliban and believe the recent decree can further strain engagement with the international community.

Women activists in Afghanistan are raising questions about the laws imposed in the state against women’s rights. The activists fear that the Taliban is tracing its steps back on the same old regressive rule they followed during their regime from 1996 to 2001.

Is this the Kindler, Gentler Taliban Afghan Women Were Promised?

After reclaiming power in Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban promised a milder version of the brutal rule that characterized their first term in office, during which women’s rights were systematically taken.

Afghan Women Protesting Against Women's Right Abuse
Afghan Women Protesting Against Women’s Rights Abuse

However, despite its promises, Afghan women had little to no hope of a better Afghanistan, with the Taliban leading the government. The glorification of the Taliban’s policy was a way for the west to justify its act of bailing on Afghanistan. It was a mere consolation that the Taliban have changed, and now it will not enforce its draconian rules on Afghans.

However, as the regime is crushing the rosy glasses, the terror of the worst is resurfacing again. The terror of 2022 Afghanistan becoming the terror-stricken 1996 Afghanistan.

The Islamic laws do not force women to lose their identity as people. Instead, they empower women. Therefore, it is high time for the international community to take action against the atrocities of poor Afghans. Because the way the Taliban is treating its women citizen is anything but right.