Tyrannized by the Taliban: women’s rights in Afghanistan in jeopardy once again

by Marissa Chao (’25) and Eliana Shin (’22) | November 19, 2021

Artwork by Nicole Schubert (’22)

On August 15, the Taliban seized Kabul and took control of the Afghan government. Despite their pledges to respect women and their rights, many doubt that the Taliban will act on these promises. The recent takeover has induced immense fear for the women in Afghanistan and all who remember the Taliban’s restrictive regime from 1996 to 2001.

In early September, Taliban rulers abolished the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs, replacing it with the headquarters for the Taliban’s “morality police.” This troubling replacement is not only symbolic, but also contributes to a pattern of diminished women’s rights. Workplaces refused to let their women employees return to work. Universities announced stricter regulations for their students: women are required to dress in “appropriate” Islamic attire and study in gender-segregated settings. Threats of violence or arrest force many women to submit to these restrictions. However, in recent months, Afghan women began to protest for the rights that took them so long to attain. Older generations fear reliving the same nightmare once again, while younger generations feel apprehensive about their future. 

The newly appointed government includes an all-male cabinet, unlikely to push for equal rights for women, people with disabilities, or members of the LGBTQIA community. For these marginalized communities, the situation in Afghanistan looks more dire each day; many live in a state of constant fear. With crimes against women increasing in number, it is unlikely that women’s liberties will expand under the Taliban’s rule. 

The contradictory statements of Taliban officials do not help to alleviate the uncertainty surrounding the grim circumstances for women in Afghanistan. In August, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid promised to respect women’s rights within the guidelines of Islamic law. But days later, he issued a public statement warning women to stay home for their safety. Since Taliban soldiers “keep changing and are not trained,” Mujahid explained that there is no guarantee that women will not be “treated in a disrespectful way.” There is a significant discrepancy between public statements offering an expansion of women’s rights and the reality of danger and enforcement of harsh rules. The return of this threat to the civil liberties of women is alarming and unthinkable.

Categories: Opinions

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