For women, Afghanistan was once a different world, one with freedom and democracy. According to Amnesty International UK, Afghan women were first eligible to vote in 1919—only one year after women in the United Kingdom were given voting rights, and actually one year before women in the United States were allowed to vote.
However, after the emergence of the ultraconservative political and religious faction known as the Taliban, which started in 1994 following the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the collapse of Afghanistan’s communist regime, and the subsequent breakdown in civil order, women in Afghanistan had their rights increasingly rolled back.
The Taliban ruled in Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. Under the Taliban regime, women and girls were discriminated against in many ways, just for the “crime” of being born female. As the Taliban enforced their version of Islamic Sharia law, women and girls were:
- Banned from going to school or studying
- Banned from working
- Banned from leaving the house without a male chaperone
- Banned from showing their skin in public
- Banned from accessing healthcare delivered by men (thus, with women forbidden to work, healthcare was virtually inaccessible to them)
- Banned from speaking publicly or being involved in politics
So, during the Taliban regime, no girls were allowed to attend formal schools. As for the boys, only one million were enrolled. The short-lived Taliban regime collapsed in 2001. According to figures provided by the World Bank, by 2012 7.8 million Afghani pupils were attending school—including 2.9 million girls. The status of women in Afghanistan had begun to improve.
Currently, the Taliban and other insurgents control or contest within more than 40 percent of Afghanistan’s districts. In areas under Taliban control, girls are often limited to a few years of schooling, if not banned from education altogether.
Today, Afghani girls seeking an education are not as fortunate as I was. They take the highest risk to go to school in insecure situations.
In Taliban run areas, girls who want to attend school face heightened security threats. The national conflict has been accompanied by lawlessness, as militias and criminal gangs have proliferated, and girls face threats that include kidnapping, acid attacks, and sexual harassment, as well as targeted attacks and threats against their education.
As Afghanistan looks to the future, to the end of United States support and protection, starting in September 2021, we have many questions. Will girls continue to attend school, or will there be a return to the restrictions placed on them from 1996 till 2001? Who, we wonder, will step in to protect the next generation of Afghani girls?
I am one Afghan girl in millions. I want to say on behalf of Afghan girls, We always want democracy, peace and education. We never want the nightmare of the Taliban regime to come back. We want to have our voice and rights to be part of society.
Please help Shagufa raise funds to pursue her education and help end child marriage in developing countries. Donate here: ShagufaGoFundMe