Life is not easy for women in patriarchal societies like Afghanistan. Women suffered greatly during the Taliban’s first regime. Since the US deserted Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban have again taken over the country. This has thrust the future of working women in Afghanistan into turmoil.
The Taliban came into being when Afghanistan was embroiled in a civil war after it had defeated the USSR, and their ally, the US, had fled the country. The Taliban vowed to provide justice to the Afghans. They quickly gained the reputation of Robin Hood in the country.
But there was much to grieve. After taking over Kabul in 1996, the Taliban turned to a very conservative form of Sunni Islam. The entertainment industry was banned. Women were required to wear burqas in public. Girls were not allowed to attend school. Women were not allowed to work. Corporal punishments, such as publicly stoning men and women to death became common.
While the US was present in Afghanistan, 2001 onwards, to a certain extent, these limitations were relaxed. But after the American withdrawal earlier this year, and the Taliban takeover the situation for women seems dire.
After taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban are asking the international community for help, for development. However, the international community is concerned about the Taliban’s treatment of women. Hence, to allay these concerns, the Taliban have released several statements. According to their spokesperson, women will be allowed to work in all fields once proper security arrangements are made for them. They will be allowed spaces they are needed. Women working with the previous government have been granted amnesty. Female government employees who are forced to be at home are being paid. Women are allowed to work in health and education departments. Arrangements are under way to allow women to work in police and passport offices.
However, despite these claims things on ground are quite different. Working women are trying to flee the country. One female journalist who appeared on national television after the Taliban takeover has reportedly left Afghanistan. Women judges and lawyers who have previously passed orders on Taliban court cases are facing death threats. They are either on the run, or have taken refuge in other countries.
The entertainment industry is at the greatest risk. Beauty parlors have been shut down. The Taliban have vandalized posters of female models. Vloggers are also afraid to continue their work. The Afghan soccer team has taken refuge in Australia.
When women took to the streets to protest the Taliban and demand their rights, they were beaten with electric cables. Fewer women are seen in the streets. They have no representation in the government. The ministry of women affairs has been replaced with a ministry of vice and virtue.
The Taliban’s claims and their treatment of women is being perceived differently inside and outside the country.
Inside the county, there are two groups. One is that of liberals who are entirely against them. They are protesting at every opportunity and demanding their rights. The other group is comprising conservative women who are leading processions in favor of the Taliban. According to them, they will be the ones who will restore the country’s glory. They believe that the women’s rights are a western concept. They are demanding their rights only according to Sharia. On that they will not compromise.
Outside the country there are two groups as well. One is the West, according to whom the situation of working women in Afghanistan is at its worst. They are vigorously promoting this idea. The other group is China and its allies. They think that the situation inside Afghanistan is normal and the West is creating propaganda against the Taliban.
The solution is simple; the people of Afghanistan should be allowed to run their country. They may falter but ultimately they will find their way. Same goes for the working women of Afghanistan. They are struggling and there is a long way ahead of them. But one day they will reclaim their work spaces. They will make those who are against them working realize that a country cannot progress without women working. If one wants one’s daughter to be treated by a female doctor, one has to educate their daughters.
The importance of the international community in ensuring the welfare of women goes without saying. They should put pressure on the Taliban to ensure that women are granted the right to work in every field.
To conclude, the Taliban mistreated women during their first regime. Most importantly, they were not allowed to work. Now, during their second regime, they claim they will treat women better. However, so far, women are facing difficulties working in their respective fields. Most of them are on run or have fled the country. One possible solution lies in the cooperation of the Taliban and the international community.