Formed in 1994, the Taliban were made up of former Afghan resistance fighters, known collectively as mujahedeen, who fought the invading Soviet forces in the 1980s. They aimed to impose their
interpretation of Islamic law on the country and remove any foreign influence. After the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996, the Sunni Islamist organization put in place strict rules where women had to wear head-to-toe coverings, weren’t allowed to study
or work, and were forbidden from traveling alone. TV, music, and non-Islamic holidays were also banned. Though the Taliban remained on the other side of the fence during the US presence in Afghanistan, they quickly invaded all the major Afghan cities
at the offset of the US military.
It’s been over a month since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan. With half a million people displaced since the withdrawal of the coalition
military, millions of people fleeing the country at the onset of the Taliban rule, a collapsing economy and raging unemployment, a possible internet shut down, and a major humanitarian crisis at the hands of the interim government composed of terrorists and
extremists, stability in Afghanistan is still a far-fetched dream.
An Uncertain Future For Afghan Women
and children are increasingly bearing the brunt of the violence and continue to be at risk of targeted attacks. Afghan women makeup around half of all civilian casualties. Afghanistan has been the deadliest place for children for the past six years. The Taliban
gets to control what women wear, how much they can study, put restrictions on women’s place of work, and decide when women will get married. Women in Afghanistan face rising levels of domestic violence, abuse, and exploitation. Women fear to even leave
their home under Taliban rule and are barred from leaving home without a male relative.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen says the group will respect the rights of women and minorities
‘as per Afghan norms and Islamic values’. Taliban officials have said women will be able to study and work in accordance with sharia law and local cultural traditions, but strict dress rules will apply. However, a few days ago, they said
they would open schools for high school-aged boys and male teachers but made no mention of the country’s millions of women educators and girl pupils. Many are questioning how much they would respect women’s rights after this incident.
Over the past 20 years, progress has been made on the number of girls receiving an education in Afghanistan,
but over the past few months attacks on schools and villages dramatically increased while international support has slowly withdrawn. It is feared that 1 million children will miss out on education. In July, a group of Afghan schoolgirls shared their fears
with an online publication. “As the fighting increases day by day, it’s a concern that we’ll go back in time,” one 15 year old said.
Amidst the conservative Taliban
rule and restrictions on women’s education, Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani, in the Taliban interim government ordered gender segregation and mandatory hijabs for women in colleges and universities. The plan mentions bisecting classrooms,
cubicles with curtains fitted with jaalis, and separate shifts for women and men in schools and universities. For now, most universities have proposed that women be allowed to attend classes from behind curtains or cubicles, or transferred to institutes in
provinces they come from.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan for advocating for girl’s education, pleaded with the world leaders
to not compromise on the protection of women’s rights and the protection of human dignity. In a panel on girl’s education in Afghanistan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Malala emphasized ensuring the rights of Afghan women
are protected, including the right to education.
Strict Dress Restrictions for Women
Recently, women holding
a pro-Taliban rally in Kabul were seen saying Afghan women wearing make-up and in modern clothes “do not represent the Muslim Afghan woman” and “we don’t want women’s rights that are foreign and at odds with sharia” –
referring to the strict version of Islamic law supported by the Taliban. These women were seen in black dresses that cover the entire body from the top of the head to the ground.
was met with a lot of criticism from Afghan women globally, including Mursal Sayas, a master trainer at Afghanistan Human Rights Commission who responded to this incident with, “The fashion statement behind these clothes that cover even the women’s
eyes is coercion, bullying, and non-recognition of women’s choices and rights.” This was a mutual feeling with a lot of people.
Afghan women have started a powerful online
campaign to protest against the Taliban’s strict new dress code for female students and the burqa worn by women at the pro-Taliban rally. Using hashtags like #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanistanCulture, many are sharing pictures of their colourful traditional
dresses. Women are also protesting about linking chadari or burqa to Afghan women. “Chadari came to Afghanistan during wars with Soviets at the hands of extremists. The main dress of Afghan women is a colorful long gown, with small mirrors and delicate
thread work,” Attia Mehraban, a women’s rights activist in Afghanistan said.