Afghanistan: what will happen to women now?

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What will happen to women in Afghanistan now?

© Lizette Potgieter / Shutterstock

The Afghan capital Kabul has been in the hands of the Taliban since August 15. For the first time in over 20 years. This worries our author very much. Because, above all, the freedoms of women and girls are at stake.

Scroll through the Twitter feed, scan the trending topics of the day, shake your head at the state of the world: morning journalist: inside routine. And then that: the pictures of desperate Afghans clinging to an American Air Force plane. Then the breath catches. That eats into your memory.

These images are less flashy, but at least as haunting: a shopkeeper hastily painting over the poster of a pretty woman, discreetly made up, styled with jewelry and loosely draped her hair under a hijab. Quickly, before the new old rulers come. Young Afghan women from the capital haggling in shops for cheaper prices on burqas, that they never wanted to wear. A foretaste of what’s to come.

The anxious wait

Another picture that gets stuck is broadcast by the Afghan TV station Tolo News. For the first time since taking power, he is beaming one Broadcast with a presenter from: Beheshta Arghand interviews a Taliban press spokesman. Since then, more and more pictures of female reporters have been found on the streets of Kabul. A diversionary maneuver? The attempt to suggest a peaceful takeover in which women could also have a place within and not again on the fringes of society? Or a serious change of course? It remains to be seen, but it is highly unlikely. Reports of planned forced marriages in rural regions have long been making the rounds. Women’s rights activists fear for their lives. My stomach cramps. The situation is like a thriller, only that it is about real human life.

Because one thing remains unforgotten: This is not the first time that the Taliban are in power in the parched country in the Hindu Kush. And then – between 1996 and 2001 – ruled medieval conditions. Until the American and then other international troops came. Afghan women and girls lived with relative rights for 20 years. Many continued to wear the blue burqa typical of Afghanistan, but in Kabul there were just as colorful and modern influences, women who wrapped themselves in colorful fabrics and showed their faces.

There was Educational opportunities. Women enrolled in universities. On June 3, Saad Mohseni from the Moby Group, a private broadcaster that was founded in 2002, tweeted a video showing the current enrollment figures at Herat University in the west of the country – more than 50 percent of the students are female and their results are even better on average than those of their male fellow students. That should be over soon.

When the past becomes the future

I read what felt like the hundredth article on the subject: This time in the British Guardian. In it the author refers to a spokesman for the Taliban who made the following announcement: You, the Taliban, would now begin to form a government; they would have wanted a peaceful takeover of power. And they respected women’s rights – but – and now please pause for a moment, because now comes the asterisk, the terms and conditions, the fine print that we should read before we check the box: You respected Women’s rights – under Sharia law.

What this means exactly is not clearly defined. Because how Sharia is interpreted and how it flows into legislation differs from country to country. But it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve used the Taliban in Afghanistan as a huge foundation Human rights violations against women and girls. Back then, between 1996 and 2001, that meant specifically: women had to wear a traditional burqa, were not allowed to leave the house without a male companion, and were not able to work – which in turn meant that many widows had no choice but to beg on the streets to go. Girls were no longer allowed to go to school and medical care was made extremely difficult for them. At that time, only one hospital in Kabul treated women at all. And they only got into that with a male companion. During the medical “treatment” they had to remain covered again, since male doctors were forbidden to touch them. So the visit was mostly unnecessary.

Will this past now be the future of girls and women in Afghanistan? Everyone is talking about the country right now, western nations are trying to get their employees to fly out. And what’s next? Can we send troops to a country for 20 years, try to build a democracy there and involve brave Afghan women, only to finally say: Unfortunately Wupps did not work, well, it doesn’t matter, we are out?

Anyone who wants to help directly can support Rukhshana Media, a platform run exclusively by women run by the Afghan journalist Zahra Joya, who gives women and their concerns a voice: for Crowdfunding campaign.


ABC News, Der Spiegel, Der Tagesspiegel, The Conversation, The Guardian, Theos, Twitter