A year has passed since the United States withdrew its forces from Afghanistan.
The power vacuum left behind was filled by the Afghan Taliban immediately. The Islamist group has not changed its worldview since its previous stint in power from 1996 to 2001. It has maintained its radical, orthodox and ultraconservative views related to religion, governance and society. Afghans, especially women, are living a miserable life under its shadow.
Women have been removed from almost every domain of the country. The entire government of the Afghan Taliban is exclusive to women. There are no female members in the cabinet. Even a department related to women, called “Ministry of Women’s Affairs”, was closed indefinitely in one of the initial steps taken by the newly formed government.
The worst policy of Taliban so far is that of women education. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where women’s education is banned. Secondary schools for girls have been shut down. The leadership says that it is in process of drafting a strategy to deal with the issue, but no follow up development has been observed from its side. For now, the schools remain closed. In September, 2021, some women held a small-scale, peaceful protest against their loss of education. The Taliban-led police force responded with pushings and air shots. One can imagine the seriousness of the orthodox government regarding closure of female education by the fact that only 6 women were attending the protest.
For women across the world, roaming freely in the streets is an ordinary act. For the Afghan women, especially in rural areas, it is an extraordinary task which is carried out with dare. Women in urban areas still go out, but they are required to be in the company of a male guardian. Furthermore, the Taliban has prohibited women to do any job, leaving them limited to the closed walls of the house.
Young Afghan women were brought up under the US-dominated Afghanistan. The US inculcated its western values during its two-decade rule. It is not easy for such women to just give up their freedom that they have been enjoying since birth. The positions held by some women in Western-backed Afghanistan were inconceivable in the 1990s. The same era has begun to haunt the current generation.
The global Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Index measures women’s justice, inclusion, and security in 170 countries. The 2021 index showed that Afghanistan scored least in its standards of justice, security, and inclusion. It was also ranked the worst country by the Global Gender Gap Report 2022 published by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The international community has still no plan to recognize the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan. It calls for women’s education and empowerment. Women must be allowed representation in social and political domains. The Taliban get its views from a strict interpretation of Islamic law. During the peace talks, it made an implicit promise that it would reconsider its puritanical views regarding the Shariah law. Despite the Taliban’s repeated assurances regarding women’s education and employment, it has not yet delivered, leading it to failure in gaining international trust. Unless the Taliban convinces the world with its just treatment of women, its recognition is out of the question.