The Afghanistan Bulletin
‘Women, Life, Freedom’: the New Slogan for Afghan Women and Girls
Women and girls in Afghanistan are experiencing gender apartheid since the Taliban takeover in August of 2021. They have been denied their basic rights and have been systematically excluded from all aspects of Afghan society. Within the past year, the Taliban has banned girls from school after sixth grade, ordered women to cover up everywhere except their eyes, forced the majority of women to stay at home, and prohibited them from participating in politics. Afghan women and girls have protested and pushed back against the regime to demand their legitimate rights as a result.
Kabul and many other big cities across Afghanistan have seen constant protests by women and girls since the very first days of Taliban coming to power. In recent weeks protests across neighboring Iran over the death of the 22 year old Mahsa Amini, sparked a new wave of defiance against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Women and girls have protested and shown defiance against being blocked from universities for not wearing burkas and chanted the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom,” one of the main slogans in the protests sweeping Iran in recent weeks. . As expected, the Taliban’s response to this has been a harsh crackdown.
They have no choice but to fight back and protest to make sure that their voices are heard. There has been also an increase in protests since September 30 in which there was a suicide attack at Kaaj Educational Center in Kabul. At the time of the attack, female students were present for a practice university entrance exam.The suicide attack killed 53 people and injured 110 people with most of them being young females and women. The exam at the educational center illustrated a sign of hope for young females who were forced out of school because of the Taliban’s ban on girls’ secondary education. The suicide attack on these young females destroyed all the hope that was left.
Since the attack, thousands of women and girls have taken the protests to the streets to speak up about their repeated violation of their right to education. More than 1880 girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan have closed, and the Taliban has threatened to close the rest that remain in operation. In response to these protests, the Taliban has acted in brutality. They have responded violently by physically beating the protestors and firing warning shots over their heads. The Taliban continues to beat, arrest, detain, and abduct protestors even though the protests are peaceful and are demanding justice and equality. Despite the Taliban’s responses, women still “continue to defy the Taliban with periodic public rallies, including street protests.” Women have rallied in Kabul as well as many other provinces, including Balkh, Herat, Kunduz, Baghlan, Takhar, Kapisa, Panjshir, and Bamyan and recently in Badakhsan. They will even take their protests to social media in which they are fully covered to present speeches and signs with their demands for justice.
Women in Afghanistan fought for their rights for decades and have made substantial progress throughout time but their progress was halted and diminished when the Taliban took control. Girls and women in Afghanistan have become more vulnerable as there are other concerns in the country such as the current humanitarian crisis, severe drought, and a succession of economic shocks. There are several challenges facing Afghanistan and women’s rights is one of the main ones. The international community must recognize and pay attention to this problem and provide all necessary support to the women and girls who are risking their lives to demand their fundamental rights. With the proper amount of support, there is hope for a better life for women and girls in their country.