The Taliban Takeover and the Threat on Women and Girls
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
If you’ve been keeping up with recent events, you’ve most likely heard of the Taliban and all the potential events that may arise following their Afghanistan takeover. This article will (briefly) discuss the history of the Taliban ruling in Afghanistan, how they lost their power, how they eventually gained them back while encircling the horrific effects that Afghan women and girls might face.
The History of Women’s Rights in Afghanistan and the Taliban
The independence of Afghanistan, preceded by the ruling of Emir Amanullah in the early 1920s, allowed room for progressive social change in terms of women’s rights. Everyone, regardless of gender, was allowed to gain access to education, governmental positions, and professional teaching roles such as a university professor. Furthermore, women were given the freedom of choice in choosing a marital partner. Twenty to thirty years later, women’s rights progressed even further. They were able to enter the workforce equal to men and strive to achieve their desired careers, whether as a nurse, doctor, or other professions.
This was the social condition for women in Afghanistan until the Taliban came to power in the 1990s. The imposition of their “gender apartheid” rules directly came into effect — girls’ schools were closed, and women were asked to stay at home and leave their jobs (except those in poppy cultivation and opium harvesting). Additionally, women were not allowed to leave their homes unless escorted by a male relative and clothed in their burqa coverings. To make it worse, the Taliban enforced a violent punishment on women when a slight inch of skin, like their wrists or ankles, were exposed. They would humiliate and whip the women publicly in the streets.
The Invasion by the United States
The 9/11 terrorist attacks conducted on American soil killed more than 2,900 lives. The Al-Qaeda leaders, the masterminds behind the 9/11 attacks, were based in Afghanistan. The then-Taliban group’s refusal to hand over control to the US eventually led President Bush to launch attacks against the Taliban in Afghan territories. The American troops' invasion quickly threw off the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan. This later on paved the way for the United States and NATO’s goal to rebuild Afghanistan as a pro-western democratic country. Over the span of 20 years, the US has spent billions of dollars on remodeling it.
The goal to transform Afghanistan into a democratic country provided early victories for women. Girls, who were previously kicked out of school from the Taliban rule, were finally able to receive proper education again. Women were able to attend college and return to the workforce. The government also did not withhold government positions in parliament and allowed them to take up office. Moreover, around 800 women’s organisations came into play around this period, which helped protect women’s rights even further. These organisations focused on women’s assistance, health, literacy, as well as skills training.
The Recent Taliban Takeover
In 2020, the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban with the primary objective of reconstructing a new political institution for the country together with the American-backed Afghan government. It was agreed that the US would withdraw its troops by May 2021, and in return, the Taliban would cut its relations with militant groups and cease all attacks against the American-backed Afghan government.
However, that plan quickly went south when the Taliban took over Afghanistan quicker than the US intelligence had predicted. Reports claim that the US defense officials estimated that it would take 90 days for Afghanistan to be fully controlled by the Taliban. However, it actually only took them ten days. This portrayed not only the intelligence failure and the willpower and capacity of militants to take over the country, but also the corruption in the Afghan government and theft in their military forces which aided the takeover.
Afghan Women Now
Although the newer Taliban rule promised a less violent and abusive ruling on its restriction on women and girls, there are still many uncertainties as to how things will actually be. Regardless, recent media showed several events, including:
The use of tight headscarves with enveloping cloaks
The segregation of classrooms for education — their school opening announcements did not mention girls
The face to face protesting of women against Taliban fighters
As the rest of the world keeps an eye on the Taliban, it is crucial to take measures and help as much as possible, especially for women and girls who are most at risk from the takeover.
How You Can Help
Advocate and spread awareness! Even if the people around you are aware of the situation, it is always helpful to advocate for the cause. One view that should be endorsed is the acceptance of refugees in light of the displacement of Afghan citizens, namely women and children.
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Written by: Serlina Azaria