Aug 16, 2021 - World

Afghan women and girls fear for their futures after Taliban victory

Zinat Karimi, 17, raises her hand during 10th-grade class at the Zarghoona high school on July 25 in Kabul, Afghanistan
Zinat Karimi, 17, raises her hand during 10th-grade class at the Zarghoona high school in July in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Paula Bronstein /Getty Images

With the Taliban's declaration of victory in Afghanistan, Afghan women and girls face an uncertain future and stand to lose hard-won rights to education, employment and everyday freedoms.

Why it matters: Afghan women and girls described fear and a forced end to their lifelong ambitions.

  • “I am so worried about my future. It seems so murky," Wahida Sadeqi, a high school student in Kabul, told the New York Times ahead of the Taliban victory. "If the Taliban take over, I lose my identity.”
  • "[I] can no longer listen to my favourite songs, I can no longer meet my friends in our favourite cafe...And I can no longer go to my job or finish the university degree that I worked for years to achieve," a university student in Kabul wrote in the Guardian.

The big picture: According to Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan lawmaker and activist, Afghan women constitute the country's most at-risk population and the U.S. withdrawal from the country left many feeling betrayed.

  • Annie Pforzheimer, deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Kabul from 2017-18, told Axios' Dave Lawler that the Taliban will now reimpose restrictions on women and that there "should be absolutely no illusion that they have changed.”
  • Pforzheimer said these restrictions could mean that girls 15 years old and over could be married off to Taliban fighters, or that they won't be allowed to attend school past the age of 12, if at all.
  • "If they were attending university, such as in Herat, they have already been told not to return to classes. They have been told not to go to work," Pforzheimer said.
  • Many working women will be forced out of their jobs, she added. "Afghanistan will no longer have women businesspeople, judges or other representatives.”

State of play: As the Taliban captured successive provincial capitals in the past week, reports suggested that women's freedoms were already being curtailed.

  • In July, Taliban members in Kandahar and Herat forced women working in banks to leave their jobs, Reuters reported.
  • In Takhar province, a group of girls riding home in a rickshaw Friday were "stopped and lashed for wearing ‘revealing sandals,'" the Associated Press reported.
  • Ahead of the Taliban's arrival in Kabul, storefronts and beauty salons painted over the images of women in their advertisements.

What they're saying: “Now it looks like I have to burn everything I achieved in 24 years of my life," the university student in Kabul described in the Guardian, adding how she and her sisters rushed home ahead of the Taliban's arrival to hide their diplomas and certificates.

  • Zarifa Ghafari, Afghanistan’s youngest mayor and the first female mayor of Maidan Sharh province, told iNews that the Taliban "will come for people like me and kill me."
  • In a video circulating online, a young Afghan girl tearfully addresses the camera, "We don't count because we were born in Afghanistan. ... No one cares about us. We’ll die slowly in history.”
  • “How can it be possible for me as a woman who has worked so hard and tried to learn and advance, to now have to hide myself and stay at home?” a woman named Zahra told AP.
  • "We watch in complete shock as Taliban takes control of Afghanistan. I am deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates," Malala Youfzezai tweeted Sunday, calling for humanitarian aid and protection of civilians.

Go deeper: Malala Yousafza calls on countries to open their borders to Afghan refugees

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