The global movement for women's rights in Afghanistan on January 14th, 2023.

Photo by Nk Ni / Unsplash

Two years since the Taliban takeover, women have been forgotten

Afghan reporter Roya Musawi reflects on the state of women's rights in Afghanistan.

It has been over two years since the Taliban took over control in Afghanistan. Their vision of an Islamic government is extreme - to say the least - and educated Afghani citizens have fled to live in exile in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and other European countries. Some have lost their lives in the forced search for a better and safer life, and for those who have remained behind, life has changed significantly. 

Women and education

In the last two years, women have been totally removed from every aspect of the community in Afghanistan. Girls' secondary schools were banned after they took over by the end of 2021, then universities, and finally, the ability to sit for university entrance exams.  

Beauty salons, access to public parks, public bathrooms and other slices of female freedom have been banned by the Taliban. As Sakha Cabs founder Meenu Vadera has noted of her inspiration behind starting a female-oriented cab service in India, women’s ability to empower themselves in public spaces is crucial for them to be able to empower themselves in private spaces. 

As such, some would describe the situation in Afghanistan as a contemporary gender apartheid, and no one woman in this century is experiencing it as the women of Afghanistan are doing it. When part of the society is paralyzed, it affects the economy hugely even beyond the mental health pressures placed on women. Should the situation continue, women will begin falling away from various sectors and their futures are dark.  

The Taliban has also brought changes in the content of the schoolbooks and many faculties like art, and music have been eliminated and replaced by religious subjects. Musical instruments were burned in different parts of the country and musicians beaten and tortured.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of speech has been hugely censored, journalists have been beaten, tortured and detained. Access to information is increasingly limited and no one has first hand and exact information from Afghanistan. While some international organizations are doing research, outcomes and data differ. The media channels in the country hold programs in favour of the Taliban and the media outside the country rely on information they receive from local resources and/or social media contents.

Humanitarian situation

Afghanistan is aid dependent, as the country has suffered from many and different fragile regimes in the last decades. After the Taliban took over, numerous businesses have collapsed. As a result, aid dependency has increased compared to pre-Taliban Afghanistan, but there is no transparency in the distribution of these aids, and people claim that most aid reaches the Taliban family members or their supporters. 

According to a World Health Organisation report, Afghanistan is home to one of the most complex humanitarian emergencies in the world. The withdrawal of international forces and the transfer of the government to de facto authorities in August 2021 had a further devastating impact on the country and the health system. This political and economic instability has left 28.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023 – an increase of 16% from 24.3 million in 2022.

Human rights violations

Obsence humans’ rights violations have taken place in Afghanistan from the execution of people in public spaces to the extrajudicial killing of civilians. Tens of people have been detained, tortured, and has been killed by the Taliban in different parts of the country. People have been executed and women and men were flogged in public space. Shia/Hazara and Sikh minorities have been killed and insulted because of their religious beliefs. Many people from Panjsher has been killed and detained by the name of collaboration with National Resistance a group who are uprising against the Taliban regime in Panjsher province of Afghanistan. The LGBT community are at  risk of death if they express their sexual orientation or their sexual orientation is identified by the Taliban. Many former government members have been killed and detained.

Signs of hope 

The hunger strikers, who have set up camp in the German city of Cologne, want the Taliban's policies against women to be internationally recognized as "gender apartheid."