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The return of the Taliban, a recurring nightmare for women

WRITTEN BY Autumn Hall

Before the emergence of the Taliban in the 1990s, Afghan women were able to attend college and become well-educated members of society without fear. They could leave their homes unaccompanied without fear of being brutally attacked. 

This all changed when President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s regime was overthrown by the Taliban in 1996. Since this action, people all over the world have been shaken by their violent crimes against innocent people in the late 90s and early 2000s, specifically women. 

Women are again fearful for their futures after the Taliban was signed back into power at the end of the 20-year war. 

An article featured in The Atlantic entitled “The Taliban’s Return Is Catastrophic For Women” by Lynsey Addario follows Shukria Barakzai, a woman who has experienced the Taliban’s cruel habits first-hand, and her journey to overcome the adversity that she faced.

In 1992, Barakzai was a student at Kabul University. By 1996, she was forced against her will to leave school and work only in her home. 

“Are you familiar with something we call sadism? … Like they don’t know why, but they are just trying to beat you, harm you, disrespect you. This is now [what] they enjoy. Even they don’t know the reason,” Barakzai said.

Fearful for their wellbeing, many refugees were forced to flee Afghanistan and relocate to the neighboring countries of Iran and Pakistan. Barakzai is only one of the millions of people who have been affected by the Taliban, having her life almost stolen before her eyes. 

Barakzai did not give up, and her harsh interaction with the Taliban became a catalyst for her extremely successful career as a politician and activist. Barakzai risked her own life by organizing underground classes for young girls who could not access proper education. 

She is now a prominent Afghan politician, journalist and feminist who continues to advocate for women each day. 

After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, women slowly began to regain their basic human rights. Despite a significant increase in jobs available to Afghan women, their lives are still restricted by the law, depending on their locations. 

In his The New Yorker article “The Return of the Taliban,” Jon Lee Anderson states, “In February 2020, an agreement was signed that promised to withdraw all U.S. military forces in return for, among other things, peace talks with the U.S.-backed Afghan government …. instead of engaging in real discussions, the Taliban stepped up their attacks.” 

This deal with the Taliban could potentially jeopardize the futures of Afghan women, leaving their rights dependent upon Taliban negotiations. 

The U.S. requested and received confirmation from the Taliban that militants would not attack the U.S. and its allies, or perform any terrorist attacks. The withdrawal was officially completed on Aug. 30, 2021, reigniting decade-long fears in the Afghan people.

This agreement overlooks the safety of Afghan women entirely, and although concerns of this topic have been raised in the U.S. multiple times before, there is little talk on the issue in reconciliation talks with the Taliban. 

The fragility of women’s rights in Afghanistan is not only alarming, but it is an incomprehensible reality that millions of women have to face every day of their lives. No person should have to wake up every day with the fear that their basic rights might be robbed from them. 

Here’s one way you can help in Afghanistan with just the click of a button: 

The Malala Fund is a program founded by Malala and Ziauddin Yousafzai. Malala herself was once a victim of the Taliban, but she persisted and successfully graduated from Oxford University. 

More information about Malala’s life can be found in her book “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.” The main purpose of the fund is to protect and educate local women in situations similar to her own to ensure their future success. 

There are several different ways to get involved and support the fund. Information can be found at https://malala.org/join?sc=footer