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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

Go deeper

Oct 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden admin releases first national strategy to promote gender equality

President Biden with Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House in August 2021. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Friday released a 42-page plan to promote gender equality at home and abroad — the first national strategy of its kind.

Why it matters: Women in the U.S. and around the world dealt with an unequal playing field before the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated many of the issues they face, potentially reversing years of progress.

5 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine.

Updated 37 mins ago - Economy & Business

S&P 500 on track for worst-ever start to year

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Stocks suffered their steepest drop of the year early Monday, putting the S&P 500 on course for its worst-ever start to a year.

Driving the news: The benchmark S&P 500 dropped for its fifth straight day, with losses nearing 3% in early trading, momentarily putting it on track to fall into a "correction." Some of the steepest losses were recovered in early afternoon trading.