Afghan Women Are Terrified For Their Rights As The Taliban Takes Over

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For the women living in Afghanistan, the past 20 years have given them something previous generations did not have — hope. 

Hope for basic rights and a chance to live their dreams. 

They could drive, go to school, have a career — things that other women around the world take for granted because we’ve never been denied these opportunities. 

That hope was swiftly ripped out from under them last week, when the Taliban completed their takeover and the largest of Afghanistan’s cities fell to the insurgents. 

The speed at which it happened seemed to surprise almost everyone and is taking place only weeks before the U.S. is set to officially end its war.


The Cost To Women

The Taliban seizing control is scary to most Afghan citizens, but it is particularly terrifying for the female gender. 

A woman identified by the AP only as Zahra (to protect her from the Taliban) told the outlet that “It was early evening and Zahra, her mother and three sisters were on their way to dinner at another sister’s home when they saw people running and heard gunshots on the street.”

“The Taliban are here!” people screamed.

Zahra was raised in a different Afghanistan — a Taliban-free one — and has worked with nonprofits to increase awareness for women and fight for equal rights. 

“I am in big shock,” said Zahra, a round-faced, soft-spoken young woman. “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?”

According to the the U.N. refugee agency, “Nearly 250,000 Afghans have fled their homes since the end of May amid fears the Taliban would reimpose their strict and ruthless interpretation of Islam, all but eliminating women’s rights. 

“Eighty percent of those displaced are women and children.”


The extremist fundamentalist group controlled the country for five years until the 2001 U.S.-led invasion after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

Under Taliban rule, girls are forbidden to get an education, denied the right to work, and cannot leave their homes unless a man, who must be a relative, goes with them. 

Not only are women denied any rights, they also face the threat of being publicly murdered — stoned to death — if accused of adultery. 

Not convicted — there just has to be an accusation. 

No wonder they’re terrified.


Not all women are convinced that life will return to the way it was before the U.S. intervention. 

Marianne O’Grady, Kabul-based deputy country director for CARE International, said, “The strides made by women over the past two decades have been dramatic, particularly in urban areas,” adding she cannot see things going back to the way they were, even with a Taliban takeover.

“You can’t uneducate millions of people,” she said. If women “are back behind walls and not able to go out as much, at least they can now educate their cousins and their neighbors and their own children in ways that couldn’t happen 25 years ago.”

Others are not as optimistic that the steps forward won’t be torn away overnight. 

“I feel we are like a bird who makes a nest for a living and spends all the time building it, but then suddenly and helplessly watches others destroy it,” said Zarmina Kakar, a 26-year-old women’s rights activist in Kabul.

Kakar was a baby when the Taliban came to her city in 1996, and she talked about going out for ice cream with her mom. 

Her mom uncovered her face for a few minutes and as a result, was whipped by a Taliban fighter.

“Today again, I feel that if Taliban come to power, we will return back to the same dark days,” she said.

Advocacy For Afghan Women

NPR reported that “Across the world, women’s advocacy organizations are voicing their pleas to protect Afghan women and spreading the word about how to help.”

Women for Women International, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides support to female survivors of war, tweeted that they are gathering donations to help Afghan women.

“We’re closely monitoring the situation unfolding in #Afghanistan. Our team is safe. They are very sad, but calm, and sheltering in place,” the organization said. “Whatever happens in the coming days, we hold true to the idea that women can and should help shape the future of Afghanistan. Our international community of supporters matters now more than ever.”

Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) is also spreading the word about how to donate.

The organization tweeted, “We need your help to save the lives of Afghan women. Every day, the #Taliban is gaining ground, assassinating women leaders, attacking girls at school & rolling back women’s rights. Here are 3 donations you or your organization can make now. #Afghanistan”

GIPWS’s director, Melanne Verveer, also co-authored an op-ed in The Washington Post asking for the U.S. government to intervene on behalf of Afghan women. 

She and her co-author, Tanya Henderson of Mina’s List, appealed for the U.S. to “charter direct evacuation flights for Afghan women activists and fund relocation efforts with money the Biden administration appropriated for Afghan refugees.”

“It is a perilous moment for Afghan women and girls,” the institute wrote on its website. “Every day, the Taliban is gaining ground, assassinating women leaders, attacking girls at school, and rolling back women’s rights in the process. We are running out of time to prevent the worst from happening.”

For more info on how to help or contribute, visit GIPWS, Women for Afghan Women (WAW), or Women for Women International. 


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