Afghan Women Erased: A Tragic Reality Amidst Shifting Sands

Afghanistan is a beautiful country with a rich culture, but it is also home to people who have suffered immense hardships. Afghanistan is now at the center of human rights concerns since the Taliban took back power in 2021. Many Young Afghan girls are disproportionately targeted by the Taliban government. They suffer from forced, child, and early marriages as well as an education restriction, which is quite concerning. However, their struggle for equality, education, and basic human rights remains a poignant and often ignored narrative.

Millions of Afghan women are left on the verge of extinction as restrictions are rammed down their throats by those who have climbed the political ladder with promises of change, peace, and prosperity. Afghanistan, a country that had finally started to emerge from the shadows of war and destruction, has human rights on its knees. A group of United Nations human rights experts alleged that Afghanistan’s Islamist Taliban government is attempting to steadily erase women and girls from public life. They are institutionalizing large-scale and systematic gender-based discrimination and violence against women.

According to the UN official, following the recent series of earthquakes in the Herat province of Afghanistan, women are in the most difficult situation. 

Cultural norms make it impossible for women to share a tent with neighbors or other families. Many women also have difficulty obtaining humanitarian aid if they don’t have male relatives who can access it on their behalf and there is an absence of female aid distribution points.

The Legacy of Afghan Women

Afghan women have faced adversity for decades. During the rule of the Taliban in the late 1990s, they were subjected to one of the most repressive regimes in modern history. They were banned from education, work, and even basic freedoms; their lives were marred by violence and fear. The fall of the Taliban in 2001 ushered in a new era of hope, promising increased rights and opportunities for Afghan women.

Afghan women and girls continued to make progress in achieving their human rights despite obstacles. Women are, however, denied their fundamental freedoms and rights, including the freedom to move freely, the freedom from fear and want, and the freedom from discrimination. The situation has significantly regressed to the pre-2002 period.

More than 20 years later, women and girls are no longer permitted to attend tertiary institutions of learning in Afghanistan. Women and girls are not permitted in amusement parks, public baths, gyms, or sports clubs. They are not allowed to work in NGO offices. Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, women have been completely barred from holding public office and serving on the court. Women and girls in Afghanistan must now follow a rigorous clothing code and are not allowed to travel more than 75 kilometers without a mahram. They must remain at home by force.

Women across the nation claim to feel imprisoned-like, alone, invisible, and smothered. It serves as a disturbing reminder of just how quickly and forcefully rights for women and girls can be snatched away.

Erasing Women: A Darconian Philosophy

Afghanistan is the only country in the world where women and girls are denied access to secondary and higher education. The Taliban want to maintain enacting changes that would guarantee a patriarchal society. A society in which women and girls must endure a long list of misogynistic restrictions. Women are being kept within the confines of their own houses. The limitations on their right to subsistence came first. Then, the authorities forced the closure of civil society organizations and government offices with a mandate to promote or uphold human rights. The proverbial last nail in the coffin came in the form of banning expression, movement, and visibility in the public domain.

In a country where women had just started to shine through the decades-old darkness with a will to stand up for themselves, the new command forbids them to even make their presence felt. The fact that the Taliban’s philosophy has nothing to do with Islam has repeatedly been echoed in all corners. But slamming their rule as a draconian subversive philosophy does little to change the reality on the ground. 

Today, young girls and women walk on eggshells, for they are aware of how a single step out of the line and violent public punishments would follow. The floggings are back, and so is the threat of getting stoned to death. To put its point across, the Taliban’s leadership, which is entirely comprised of men, does not seem interested in opening any doors for its women. To let alone allow them to participate in governance at any level or hold any senior positions in the civil service, including as judges. Authorities frequently enforce rules prohibiting women from traveling or leaving their homes without a male family member accompanying them. 

Afghan women are facing an increasing sense of despair as they wonder how many times they will have to yell and scream: Look at us, we are dying. If any change is to come, the world would have to put its money where the mouth is-and for a period longer than one news cycle.

Afghanistan thrives as a graveyard for women’s dreams. Still, one thing is certain: no administration, however delusional, can forever close its eyes to the fact that the prospect of a stable and prosperous Afghanistan rests on the participation of both its men and its women. Denying women and girls’ rights to participate in daily and public life denies them their human rights. It also denies Afghanistan the benefit of the contributions they have to offer.

The Global Response

The world watched in horror as the situation unfolded. International pressure, including diplomatic efforts and sanctions, was exerted to ensure the protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Yet, the situation remains tenuous, and the plight of Afghan women continues to be dire.

While new and frequent impositions succeed in pushing the fundamental rights of women and girls to the fringes, all international society can do is wave the sanction banner and hope for sanity to prevail. Many governments around the world have been rightly condemning Taliban crimes. But this is not enough.

U.N. experts have called on the global community to step up urgently needed humanitarian aid for Afghans. They stressed the need to pressure Taliban authorities to ensure that restrictions on the fundamental rights of women and girls are removed immediately.

The erasure of Afghan women is a tragedy that must not go unnoticed. While the international community has a critical role to play in advocating for their rights, it is the resilience and determination of Afghan women themselves that will ultimately make a difference. Their struggle for equality, education, and freedom should serve as a reminder that even in the darkest of times, the human spirit endures. The world must continue to stand with Afghan women, ensuring that their voices are heard and their rights are protected in the face of adversity.

Despite the challenges they face, Afghan women are not giving up. They continue to speak out, organize, and resist oppression. Organizations both within Afghanistan and internationally are working tirelessly to support them, providing aid, and advocating for their rights.