Ever since the United States President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of its armed forces from Afghanistan, there has been one thought that has been terrifying Afghan women- the return of the nightmarish life that females endured during the Taliban's first reign between 1996 and 2001.
As the weeks went by, this nightmare became more and more a reality as the insurgents successfully launched an offensive that saw the government fall in just over three months - an embarrassing ending for the 20-year long 'War on Terror' launched by the US.
Now, as the Taliban finally has control over Kabul, women all across the country are scared for their lives as many try to flee the country. Reports have been circulating that the Taliban has been forcing young girls, even underaged girls, to marry their fighters. A statement that is supposedly from the Taliban is circulating on the social that orders the handover of young girls and widows to the foot soldiers of the insurgent group. "All imams and mullahs in captured areas should provide the Taliban with a list of girls above 15 and widows under 45 to be married to Taliban fighters," said the statement. This report has been rebuked by Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen who called it "baseless" and "poisonous propaganda". But the stories told by a collective of female journalists across Afghanistan on Rukhshana Media expose the reality.
The publication reports on women's fear of sexual harassment at the hands of the Taliban. Publications like the Foreign Policy have reported on sexual harassment and sex slavery that are already occurring in towns that are captured by the Taliban. Elsewhere, women are being told to resign from their jobs because under the Taliban regime only men are supposed to be active members of the workforce while women take care of their homes.
As we will soon see an imposition of the Taliban regime, let's scorn the conditions that women had to live in under the Taliban's initial reign in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Banned from the workforce
Almost everyone faced restrictions from the Taliban but women faced the brunt of the stringent laws. According to the archives of US Department of State, women comprised over 15% of Afghanistan's highest legislative body in 1977. By the early 1990s, Afghanistan was among the progressive countries with 50% of government workers and university students being women. All this advancement in women's role in society went down to waste as Taliban announced on September 30, 1996 that all women are banned from the workforce. This essentially led to a woman's world being confined to her home.
Under the Taliban regime, women weren't supposed to leave their homes without the company of a blood relative. This caused more of a problem for widows with no support from a male family member. If a woman violated the law by stepping outside her home without the company of her male guardian, she would've to face the risk of getting flogged by Taliban members.
Girls above the age of eight were banned from getting an education, which would guarantee that the Afghan women of tomorrow will no longer have the skills to provide for themselves. Due to no education and restrictive laws, women were driven out of the medical field and this brought forth more challenges. Women couldn't visit a doctor, which is filled with males now, without the company of her relative or husband. Even then, the doctor could only treat the woman if she was completely clothed, which effectively restricted the doctor from conducting any real diagnosis or treatment. Under the Taliban regime, women, therefore, faced severe health conditions due to the restriction from receiving serious medical treatment.
Mandatory dress codes
Burqa, an enveloping outer garment, was made mandatory in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The garment which covers one from head to toe was so uncomfortable that women suffering from asthma or other respiratory conditions found it difficult to breathe while wearing it. Even the display of ankles or feet while wearing a burqa was punished with public humiliation or flogging.
With no foreign power preventing the Taliban from gaining power and imposing such strict regimes again, it does look like Afghanistan has fallen into dark times yet again...two decades of 'War on Terror' and the rebuilding of Afghanistan by the US ultimately deemed worthless.