Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

The Taliban have swept back to power, and dealing with them is the reality, again, for Afghan women and girls.

Afghan women find themselves in the untenable position of looking for help to the “international community.” But these countries, the United States chief among them, are licking their wounds after two decades of military failure, and almost all the way out the exit.

In recent weeks, as Taliban forces have surged triumphantly across the country, it has felt like the pretense of moderation is over, with alarming reports emerging of school closuresmovement restrictions, and women forced to leave their jobs. The Taliban spokesman has continued to pledge respect for women’s rights, but his claims ring more hollow than ever.


Mahbouba Seraj, a longtime women’s rights activist in Afghanistan, answered with a bitter laugh when asked by an interviewer what message she had for the international community. “I’m going to say — really — shame on you,” she said. “I’m going to say to the whole world, shame on you.”

The international community’s tool kit is limited, and their political will is questionable. But as shocking as Taliban abuses against women were in 2001, they are more so now. Women around the world have fought for their rights, with uneven but important successes. In the last 20 years, women and girls in Afghanistan have enjoyed a measure of freedom and are demanding more of it. Standing beside Afghan women in their struggle, and finding tools to pressure the Taliban and the political will to do so, is the least — the very least — the international community could do.

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