In a land of war and widows, Afghan women are bracing for a demolition of women’s rights as the finishing touch to a Taliban takeover.
The past 17 days have marked America’s bloody exit from its longest war as US President Biden quickly deposed over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of his allies, and US Afghan allies.
With each plane taking off, the looming threat of extremism loomed closer as the desperate residents chaotically clung to everything that came out of the area. The last C-17 left Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday, August 30, 2021, and with that, hope for stability.
Taliban fighters moved closer to major Afghan cities at an alarming and unexpected speed that shocked the US military, international observers and Afghans.
The seemingly ubiquitous presence of the Taliban created a global fear for the well-being of Afghan women, traumatically re-enacting the Taliban takeover of 1990 where women were not allowed to go to school, banned from the community. Most of the professions, most of them confined to their homes, and forced to wear burqas.
âWomen in Afghanistan are the most at risk or most at risk population in the country,â Fawzia Koofi said, as reported by NBC. Koofi is a women’s rights activist and member of the Afghan delegation who participated in the peace negotiations with the Taliban before the withdrawal of the US military. She notes that the future of women in Afghanistan looks “bleak” and that women feel “betrayed” by the US withdrawal. Already, women in towns that have fallen under the control of the Taliban “are like prisoners in [their] house, âaccording to a provincial government official in Afghanistan.
âWe need women as teachers, as health workers, in children’s hospitals as doctors; we need women to be able to work in society. We do not yet know in some areas whether this will be allowed, âsaid UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. She told CNBC that this was the agency’s “biggest concern.”“
The 20-year occupation of Afghanistan by US troops has enabled women to advance their agenda – an agenda that is now rapidly being overthrown by extremism.
President Biden said US affairs regarding Afghanistan were completed by mid-April. President Biden noted that it was now evident that the capabilities of the US military and the billions of dollars spent were not sufficient to maintain a modern and stable democracy in Afghanistan. However, the presence of the United States provided the conditions stable enough for women’s rights to advance.
Women’s rights have been able to advance enough to frighten the Taliban.
Fawzia Koofi went on to say that the “criminals” that the Taliban had freed from prisons to swell their ranks were now also a threat, as well as “those who [have been] upset that women have become powerful over the past 20 years.
The early successes of the American occupation included a pro-Western government, new schools, hospitals, and public facilities. Thousands of girls once banned from education under the Taliban have subsequently been able to attend school. Women once forced to return home by the Taliban have been able to attend university, join the workforce and be elected to parliament. An independent news media has been created. Despite these advances, corruption has remained the cornerstone of government. The reconstruction money was stolen and the government proved unable to provide for the needs of its people. The maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan has reached the highest in the world, with polls suggesting that 90% of women have experienced abuse in their lifetime.
One of the main goals of the initial American invasion was to improve the lives of Afghan women. On paper, this hailed a historic change. The Afghan constitution of 2004 guarantees equal rights between men and women and provides citations to ensure their political participation for the first time. In Kabul, women freely joined the military and police, trained as surgeons, judges and prosecutors, and worked as journalists, translators and television presenters. Change slowly took hold in Afghanistan.
Henrietta Fore said: âIn the last 20 years we have made a huge gain in education, so we have tripled the number of schools,â she added. âBefore, we had 1 million children in school [in Afghanistan]; there are now 10 million children and over 4 million girls. We don’t want to go back.
The Taliban’s rapid takeover was accompanied by a series of restrictions on women’s dress, employment opportunities and women’s freedom to travel.
Following a new Taliban government, Germany suspended development aid to Afghanistan, which was a vital pipeline for the country, while Britain made remarks that humanitarian aid could increase by 10%.
Contrary to promises of peace and respect for women’s rights offered by a Taliban spokesperson, violence and revenge are reported to follow.
Some areas controlled by the Taliban have already imposed restrictions on women. Women are forced to wear the burqa and are not allowed to leave the house without a male relative. The soldiers forced families to abandon single women to marry their fighters. In Kabul, steps towards supporting feminism have been reversed as images of women outside beauty salons have been repainted or removed. Female teachers are no longer allowed to teach boys and many female journalists previously employed by the state are no longer allowed to go to work.
Older generations now reliving the trauma of a Taliban takeover expect the worst. Before September 11, 2001, the ultra-conservative leaders who took power in the 1990s imposed severe restrictions and punishments on women – including public stoning and amputations. Women were not allowed to leave home and had no access to formal education. Every factor in a woman’s life was censored and controlled.
The solution to this is not just for the Taliban, but for all terrorist groups that are pushing an extremist agenda to the detriment of women and children. Serious sexual, mental and physical abuse – along with the limitations imposed on women – is a cornerstone of the Taliban regime that must be removed in order to change the whole structure. The Taliban have covered Afghanistan with women’s blood in the name of extremist religious views. America has failed to stay true to its reputation for democracy and freedom, and their retreat will come at the cost of abandoned Afghan women. Biden left Afghan women in the hands of a historically tortured group because the nation failed to achieve the degree of democracy originally intended. The billions of dollars spent throughout this war are now wasted – every fragile step towards freedom, no matter how small, has crumbled into the hands of killers. Advances in education, women in leadership and the freedom to travel are perhaps just a chapter in the history of Afghanistan.