The fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan

Women never have any choices. We heard it once from Khadija, the woman who set herself on fire in an attempt to escape the suffering in Afghanistan. But it is not the first time we have heard it and it will not be the last.

Many of us sat in horror watching people risking their lives and falling off planes in a desperate plight for freedom after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

It is easy to doubt whether the Taliban’s promise to respect women’s rights will hold up under the weight of their historical oppression, domination and abuse. Though the Taliban advertises its more moderate ideologies, history remembers their previous rule which forced women into their houses and hosted public executions. Horror and violence are not easily forgotten. So, 30 years later, as Afghanistan once again resides in the hands of the Taliban making promises of women’s rights, in accordance with Islamic practices, we wonder what that means.

Only nine years ago Malala Yousufzai took a bullet to the head for the abominable crime of being a girl who was seeking an education. A bullet put in her head by the same Taliban that claims, now, girls will be allowed to study. A bullet which nearly killed the girl who desperately wanted a life beyond death and destruction. Now, an Oxford graduate, she noted that nine years later “I am still recovering from just one bullet. But the people of Afghanistan have taken millions of bullets over the last four decades”.

So, what is to change for the women of Afghanistan. Well, for the foreseeable future; Afghanistan will be led by senior Taliban rulers described as the ‘worst of the worst’ by Michael Kugelman (deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Centre). The humanitarian crisis is already desperate, the Afghan people rely on increasingly reduced foreign aid. But it is the women who will feel the brunt of this force. It is women who are considered to be second class citizens, incapable of being independent. It is women who must rely on men, on their father’s or brothers or husbands. It is women who will be abused in a violent spectacle of sexual violence to punish the men in charge of them. To injure the pride of their husbands by leaving their virtue in tethers.

It is women who won’t be allowed to work. That’s an attack on women today. It is the women who won’t be allowed to study. That’s an attack on women tomorrow.

Debilitating ignorance breeds desperate reliance. Paired with the inadequate medical care for women, female lives are dispensable and intangible. Fragments of lives never fully lived. Potential never fulfilled.

“We are locked at home and cannot see the sun.”
Nageeba, a 35-year-old woman in Kabul.

The question of how the 90’s Taliban rule will compare to the 2021’s Taliban rule is up in the air. But it seems improbable that in 30 years the strict philosophies will have evolved. Not when we saw Malala shot. Not when we saw Kabul fall. Not when we saw people running to be evacuated.
We can hope that the Taliban will be mild. We may wish that the women will be safe. But, watching from the Western world – where, even now we see discrimination and injustices in the 21st century, the probability of female liberation under an inherently anti-female regime is a ridiculous, imperceptible hope.


Featured image: Women of Afghanistan via Wikimedia Commons with License  

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