The Taliban have been sweeping across rural Afghanistan, taking control of over a hundred districts across the country. The hardline insurgents now claim controlling over 85 percent of Afghan territory. This has raised concerns that the gains made over women’s rights and education may be erased.
In areas under their control, the Taliban have already brought in restrictions on women’s education, their freedom of movement and clothing. In one area, flyers were circulating demanding that women put on burqas and do not step out of their home without a male companion.
Many Afghans who hoped the Taliban would reform their extreme views have been disappointed by the new severe restrictions imposed on the local population in some of the districts recently captured. Several residents of northern Balkh province that the Taliban have distributed leaflets, ordering locals to follow strict rules that are similar to those they imposed on Afghans when they last governed the country from 1996 to 2001.
The Taliban have banned women from taking care of animals or working the land. They have closed girls’ schools, ordered women not to leave home without a male guardian and even banned them from gathering for weddings, saying only men should attend.
Before their ouster by the US-led forces, the Taliban mandated all Afghans follow a strict interpretation of Sharia law, forcing women to cover themselves and preventing them from leaving their houses without a male companion those failing to adhere were publically flogged.
That changed when the new Afghan government introduced laws to encourage more girls to attend school and to have more women participate in the workforce. Today, over 30% of the civil servants are now women who were not allowed to work outside their homes during the Taliban’s rule.
The Taliban leadership initially appeared to recognize this new reality and hinted at an openness to changing policies. The group’s leaders hinted at an openness to changing policies but the Taliban’s actions have indicated otherwise during the offensive.
All women even from conservative backgrounds aspire to receive an education, greater freedom of movement, career choices, and a greater role in their families. The Taliban rule will take them in the opposite direction.
Many women have taken up guns in a show of defiance against the Taliban. Women have also joined Afghanistan’s security forces over the past two decades, The Taliban have also targeted human rights activists and women in media. The imminent Taliban rule would be huge setback for all the progress on women’s rights and worsen the situation in the country.