On Sunday, around two dozen activists protested outside of the women’s bureau in the city of Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan that occurred last month. The department’s female employees had attempted to return to their jobs, but were told to go back to their homes by the new Taliban regime, according to Reuters. The sign outside the bureau, which originally designated the building as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, was replaced with one for the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. It was established by the Taliban in their previous reign. Restrictions implemented by the Islamic fundamentalist group during the past few weeks have severely limited women’s rights in Afghanistan. Facets of their established daily lives like education and employment are being constricted and taken away. Although the Taliban government stated that women would be able to maintain minimal freedoms, their recent actions have drawn the promise into question.
The Afghan takeover has generated reports of innumerable human rights violations and internal crises, many of them stemming from the Taliban’s strict implementation of Islamic law. A recent statement from Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reinforced the urgency of the situation: “[T]here are grave fears for women, for journalists and for the new generation of civil society leaders who have emerged in the past years. Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic and religious minorities are also at risk of violence and repression, given previous patterns of serious violations under Taliban rule and reports of killings and targeted attacks in recent months.” This concern is heightened by additional accounts of civilian executions, the recruitment of child soldiers, and the suppression of nonviolent protests.
Afghanistan’s fragile state cannot withstand the extensive pressures and civil maltreatments that are occurring within its boundaries. The current actions taken by the Taliban are imperiling the established ideals of human rights that have developed in the country over the past few decades, as well as perpetuating destructive violence that threatens to tear the nation apart. Afghan citizens who have experienced increased freedoms are now forced to follow restrictions on their humanity or be faced with societal and physical harm. These violations of humanitarian law have resulted in extensive instability; the Women’s Refugee Commission puts the number of displaced women and children at over 400,000, bringing the total number of people in need of aid in the country to more than 18 million. Combined with insufficient leadership and the misuse of funds, Afghanistan is following a path away from lasting peace and towards an uncertain, precarious future.
There have been human rights advancements in the country since 2001, when the Taliban regime was removed by the United States military. But the recent withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan has reignited insecurity and civil fears. In August of 2021, almost 20 years later, the U.S. ended the prolonged war and consequently allowed the Taliban to reassume control over a massive number of weapons and Afghan territory. Their newly established government has been the subject of intense scrutiny and worry due to their history of humanitarian offenses and violence. Women, who are often targeted by these crimes, are now seeing the Taliban implement the same rules that they had in the past. The Human Rights Watch group has detailed both the closure of schools and movement restrictions for women.
As the world witnesses the situation in Afghanistan develop, the lives of women and civilians must be remembered and considered—their human rights do not fade or fluctuate with the tides of power and politics. The Taliban’s record of force and armed conflict has resulted in thousands of deaths, and they are unlikely to reform their aggressive policies. However, the oppression of half the population, many of whom have enjoyed their right to education and expression in recent years, will only damage the country. In order for security and civilian safety to be reestablished within Afghanistan, the U.S. and international community must take responsibility for their actions, and work towards a region free of violence and instability.