The Taliban Insurgency: What It Means for Women

Women and girls are once again battling terrifying uncertainty as the Taliban have assumed power in Afghanistan. During their control in the 1990s, women faced unjust treatment, and most believe that history is about to repeat itself. In the 90s, the Taliban used Islam as an excuse to impose their oppressive regime over the country. They are likely to use the same strategies now.

The military organization has been addressing the international media through press conferences, claiming that they are not trying to subjugate or control women. Instead, they assured that all women will be allowed to work and receive an education during their rule, as long they conform to Islamic law. However, many find these statements hard to believe.

The last time the Islamist group was in power, women were strictly prohibited from working and receiving an education, as they claimed it to be a breach of Sharia law. Additionally, traveling without a male chaperone was forbidden, which significantly restricted the movement of women and limited their access to medical help. Women were also forced to wear a burqa any time they were in public because the Taliban believed that the face of a woman was ‘a source of corruption.’ Even riding bicycles and taxis was forbidden by law, and segregated bus services were introduced to prevent interactions between men and women. Additionally, cases of forced marriages, rape, and sexual assault were very common.

As the group continues to assert its dominance, thousands of Afghan women have decided to go into hiding to avoid persecution. Even the founders of non-profit organizations, focused on providing education for girls in Afghanistan, are fleeing because they believe they will be killed as a form of retribution. Women in positions of authority, such as the first female mayor Zarifa Ghafari, have expressed their fears, claiming that they are simply “sitting here waiting for them to come.” Sarah Keeler, the advocacy coordinator for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, said that she is “deeply worried about what lies ahead” for women and girls living in Afghanistan. The founder and executive director of the Afghan Women’s Organization, Adeena Niazi, claimed that “women are the first target of the Taliban atrocity.”

Even though the Taliban have promised to protect women’s rights, their actions do not match their words. In July, the Taliban walked into offices of Azizi Bank in Kandahar and ordered all nine women working there to leave, informing them that male relatives will come to take their positions. Moreover, many have died as a result of not answering their door when the Taliban come to conduct door-to-door inspections. Several reports have come from the city of Badakhshan where militants are abducting and forcibly removing young girls from their families. Many expect the progress made towards the equality and protection of women is going to disappear as the Taliban take control over the country.

Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner, Samira Hamidi, said, “before the Taliban takeover, 3.3 million girls were in education and women had actively participated in the political, economic and social life of the country, becoming lawyers, doctors, judges, teachers, engineers…all of this is now at serious risk.”

Since the Taliban’s takeover, countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and India have promised to open their borders and help Afghan refugees seek shelter. The Canadian federal government is working on resettling 20,000 Afghans fleeing from the Taliban. Even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the safety of women and girls living in Afghanistan is a priority for the federal government, stating that “the Afghan people need the world to stand with them, and that is what Canada will continue to do.”

In an attempt to help, various non-profit organizations around the world have been responding to requests for assistance from desperate families. To give direct support to the Afghan people, individuals should donate to organizations that are providing housing, transportation, and other assistance to Afghan asylum-seekers. All those with social media should use their platform to raise awareness, share petitions, and distribute links to donation sites. Those living in countries that are receiving refugees should help the Afghan’s arriving by volunteering and donating money, clothes, and furniture. Sponsoring an Afghan refugee can help in readjusting their lifestyle to a new country, preventing them from facing financial struggles. In combination, these efforts can prevent many women from suffering at the hands of the Taliban.