After the fall of the Afghanistan government on August 15, women and children fear the regressive return to the way of life implemented by the Taliban during their last ruling.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001 before the United States seized the country due to the 9/11 attack on the twin towers. Women were treated poorly and had no right to help defend themselves. They were not allowed to work or go to school and if they planned to leave the house, they had to be escorted by a male family member.
During the last 20 years, the U.S. has dedicated over $780 million according to a report found by Dan Bilesfky of the New York Times. This money was spent to better Afghan women’s rights including encouraging them to work, join the military and police forces, join politics and even compete in the Olympics. All of these factors seemed to be nothing but a dream for women under the Taliban two decades prior.
On August 17 after the Taliban seized the capital, a news conference was held with Taliban rulers to answer questions regarding the takeover. When asked about women and if they will return to the strict rules they were once made to follow, the Taliban assured them that it will be different this time. Women will still be allowed to work, study and participate in government as long as they follow the Islamic law but they promised to have no prejudice against women.
The women are not confident of these claims considering there have been multiple Taliban-associated attacks against women and girls through the years. During the last rule, a woman wearing nail polish had the finger that was painted cut off, women accused of adultery were killed and anyone who was a homosexual was punished by death. May 9, 2021, there was an attack involving a car bomb along with two other explosions at a school that ran on a shift schedule rotating the girls and boys. Of course, this explosion was timed perfectly to target women. Over 80 people died that day, the majority being women and high school girls. The Taliban denied any involvement in the attack just as they are denying the attack on the Kabul airport last week.
The actions of the Taliban before the fall of the Afghanistan government are not the only reason Afghan women are wary of these claims considering in some areas of the country, there are signs of old habits from the Taliban rule emerging.
In Herat, a West Afghan city, Taliban gunmen were seen guarding University gates preventing women, both teachers and students, from entering. Another University in Kabul is not allowing female students to leave their dorm rooms without being escorted by a male relative. Many students travel from out of town to attend school and have no male relatives around. Those girls are essentially trapped in their dorm rooms. In Mazar-i-Sharif, Aliya Kazimy, a female professor, said she and other women were being turned away from shops if they were alone.
Kazimy, like other Afghan women, expresses their concern for the younger generation who have grown up learning about their country being under Taliban rule. They face the fear that they deemed unimaginable of returning to life under those circumstances. Those who did not follow the behavior, dress, and movement were enforced by morality police who would drive around publicly humiliating, torturing, and killing them.
As we watch their world unfold from overseas, the women and children brace themselves as they grasp onto hope for the best as their lives are altered in ways we cannot imagine to be true and only the future will tell.