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Shedding Light on the Oppression of Women in Afghanistan

Reschelle Peetam, Grade 12

Afghan women are pictured wearing burqas, garments made out of heavy cloth and a mesh covering over the eyes, designed to cover a woman from head to toe. Courtesy of GettyImages.

On August 15, the Taliban, an extremist political group situated in Afghanistan, gained full control over the country’s capital, decimating decades of gradually acquiring human rights for women.

Consequently, women’s rights have been propelled back into the terrifying and tyrannical years of their past regime, spanning from 1996 to 2001 respectively. Under this regime, women were restricted from working, girls were banned from attending school, and both were subjected to cruel and inhumane punishment for noncompliance to their rules. Additionally, statistics show that 62% of women have been victims of psychological, physical, and sexual violence, with a mere 18% conviction rate imposed on perpetrators (Keung, Nicholas, 2021). These statistics reflect a flawed judicial system and oppressive social norms that have only been amplified by the Taliban authorities.

Currently, the 11 million girls under the age of 25, who have never experienced such repressive measures, are now subjected to similar extreme conditions. These include the segregation of girls in schools, an exclusively male government cabinet, and the loss of countless jobs previously occupied by women. The Taliban has also dismantled safe houses, women’s shelters, and laws designed to protect women against abuse. Consequently, a surge in domestic violence has been observed by human rights advocates.

Under the ruse of forming an “Afghan inclusive Islamic government” (Coren, Anna, et al, 2021), the Taliban has also mandated that a burqa, a heavy-clothed garment designed to cover a woman completely, must be worn. As a result, women cannot leave the house or access services such as healthcare without a burqa and a male chaperone. The mandate has sparked fear into the hearts of women across the country as burqas have become nearly inaccessible due to high demand and the urgency to comply with the Taliban’s decree. Additionally, prices have inflated to approximately ten times the initial price. Unfortunately, these events are reminiscent of the 1996 regime, in which a failure to wear a burqa resulted in public beatings and other dire punishments. Fortunately, with the assistance of the U.S forces, NATO, and humanitarian and development aid, the burqa mandate was relinquished and women only wore burqas for their own traditional and religious beliefs. Notably, many chose to discard the garment in an act of defiance, demonstrating their freedom of choice with respect to their clothing.

It is beyond a doubt that the horrors of the Taliban’s dominion are multitudinous and unfathomable. However, women have fought tirelessly for the rights they deserve since the beginning of time, and many Afghan women have displayed determination to once more dismantle the systems that have oppressed them for so long. Women have always prevailed and will continue to prevail in this time of turmoil. As indicated by the compelling words of Habiba, a 26-year old university student in Afghanistan: “We have no burqa in our home, and I have no intention of getting one. I don’t want to hide behind a curtain-like cloth. If I wear the burqa, it means that I have accepted the Taliban’s government….I’m afraid of losing the accomplishments I fought for so hard” (Alizada, A., & Pirzad, Z., 2021).

Please visit the following resources for more information on the conflict in Afghanistan and ways you can help.

Women for Afghan Women: https://womenforafghanwomen.org/

UNICEF Canada: https://www.unicef.ca/en/ways-to-donate

Afghan’s Women’s Organization Refugee & Immigrant Services: https://afghanwomen.org/

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