In August 2021, the Taliban fought for control of Afghanistan for the second time in history. Combined with a negligent withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban was able to seize power for the first time since 2001. Although the Taliban promised to abandon its oppressive policies in favor of more lenient ones, minority groups are starting to become marginalized again. In particular, Afghan women are finding their rights being rolled back, which remains one of the largest achievements of the previous government in the post-2001 era.
After the U.S withdrawal, segregation laws have been increasingly implemented throughout the nation. On May 12, the Taliban began to administer segregatory laws in Herat, Afghanistan. Detailed underneath this law, women and men are prevented from dining together and also women are advised to stay at home unless leaving is absolutely necessary. Furthermore, women and men are required to go to parks on separate days, with Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays being reserved for women.
This comes just days after women were ordered to wear hijabs in public, particularly recommending burqas, which obscure women head to toe except for the eyes.
“For all dignified Afghan women, wearing Hijab is necessary and the best Hijab is chadori.” Chadori is the head-to-toe burqa, “which is part of our tradition and is respectful,” said Shir Mohammad, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a statement for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
The Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is the group responsible for the execution of justice and law. It is often known for implementing a severe version of Sharia law.
Yet despite the discrimination incited by the government, the Quran, Islam’s written text of laws, never sanctions female inferiority. Most lines of the Quran address men and women as “believing men and women,” highlighting the equality of both in religious and political contexts.
In the past, the ministry was found to have “banned music, carried out public executions, [and] whipped and publicly humiliated women.” Laws mimicking these old mandates are starting to appear again. This time, however, disobedience will be treated as a criminal offense for men and women alike. Male guardians will also be punished if women go out in public without proper attire.
A statement from the Taliban said, “If a woman is caught without a hijab, her mahram [a male guardian] will be warned. The second time, the guardian will be summoned [by Taliban officials] and after repeated summons, her guardian will be imprisoned for three days.”
Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban, remarked that this was a turning point for Afghanistan, saying that “our sisters, our men have the same rights,” which was only a heartless attempt to convince people of the desires of the modern Taliban. Subsequently, women were later banned from getting jobs and girls were banned from attaining higher education after completing grade 6.
The United Kingdom’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward said that since 2001, women have held autonomy in pursuing education, work, and were a part of “a thriving cultural environment.” Before the takeover by the Taliban, almost 3.6 million girls attended schools, women held a quarter of the seats in parliament, and women held 20 percent of available jobs.
“And now the Taliban is seeking to strip all of that away,” said Woodward. She emphasized that women should not have to accept “a life banished to the sidelines.”
The Taliban takeover already caused a humanitarian crisis. Half the population is facing starvation, and economic restoration is hindered by countless international sanctions preventing the Taliban from accessing major financial establishments. These recent events will only act to isolate Afghanistan more and will bring about greater suffering among the country’s civilians, which will be more marked in the female population as a result of the Taliban’s continued anti-women policies.
By Daniel Seong