The Western world has a widespread flawed perception about what women’s rights in Afghanistan have always been like. Before the conflict in the 1970s began, the future looked bright for Afghan women. They were given the right to vote in 1919, gender separation was abolished in the 1950s, and a new constitution promised more equality for women in the 1960s.
Contrary to photographs the Western world sees of Afghan women dressed in burqas from head-to-toe, Horia Mosadiq, who was just a young girl when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, recalls a very different life for women, “As a girl, I remember my mother wearing miniskirts and taking us to the cinema. ” Noticeably, times have changed and those days are distant from the reality Afghan women face every day. After the invasion, foreign countries offered to support mujahidin (“freedom fighters”) in the war against the Soviets, and in 1989, the Soviet troops retreated.
In 1992, the mujahidin forces took Afghanistan’s president, who was also in power under Soviet occupation, Mohammad Najibullah, as prisoner, and decided on a new government structure with Burhanuddin Rabbini as president. The Taliban emerged as one of the strongest mujahidin factions and took control of Kabul, implementing strict interpretation of Islamic law, later exiling President Rabbini and hanging former president, Mohammad Najibullah. To this day, the devastating effects of the Taliban on women’s rights are immensely evident.
From the Taliban’s perversion of Islamic Sharia law, to the rights and freedoms Afghan women were deprived of during the five years of Taliban rule, and lastly to Afghan women in recent years, it is apparent that Afghanistan still has a long way to social equality and justice. Tracing its origins back to 7th century C. E. in the Middle East, Islam is a monotheistic religion. The Qur’an contains the teachings of Prophet Muhammad to submit to the will of Allah, the creator of the world. In Islam, the utmost important relationship is the one between man and Allah.
It is believed that acts of service and performing good deeds as Allah desires will be rewarded with the promise of heaven. However, the Taliban, a radical group which claims to be the true followers of Islam, perverts the religion of its name. They created a twisted version of Islamic Sharia law, which prohibited numerous rights and freedoms in Afghanistan, further helping the Taliban gain control of the country and surrounding areas. The Taliban proscribed music, television, movies, women’s magazines, photographs, stylistic choices, dancing, and singing, to name a few.
With their extreme ideologies, Muslims condemn the acts of terror the Taliban performs. Islam translates to “submission to Allah” and Muslims believe that Allah would never wish for a person to submit themselves by carrying out such heinous crimes. The Taliban are infamous for their abuses of human rights, ruling in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Under Taliban rule, their twisted version of Islamic Sharia law was forced upon women and girls, resulting in a huge outcry from humans’ rights activists and feminists.
Women and girls were denied their basic human rights, such as education, work, mobility, healthcare, freedom of speech, and politics, simply because they were female. If women were caught violating these repressive laws, they were subject to flogging, beatings, or execution. Nevertheless, women ran private girls’ schools in secret, putting their lives at risk every day. One out of every twenty girls received education beyond grade six. Almost 60% of girls were married by the age of 16, usually forced into an arranged marriage.
Under Sharia law, men were seldom charged for domestic violence or abuse because a woman’s word against a man’s was regarded as half of his. Since their access to healthcare was denied, many children and women died from medicinally curable illnesses, thus, one out of every ten children died before the age of five and life expectancy for women was 51 years of age. As Horia Mosadiq pointed out, “Afghan women were the ones who lost the most from the war and militarization. ”
After the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, Afghan women gained their rights and freedoms back. The 2004 Constitution declared that “the citizens of Afghanistan—whether man or woman—have equal rights and duties before the law. ” Since regaining their political rights, women have been appointed to roles in government. Girls’ education has improved, yet an estimated 1. 5 million girls still do not attend school. Now, women can be employed, but only by a male relative. Less girls are getting married at young ages and life expectancy for women has increased.
Even though Afghanistan has made tremendous progress in the past 15 years, women are still often disregarded by men and still do not have full access to all the rights and freedoms in which they should be granted. Trust in Education is an organization that works towards education for all and believes that “[Change] has to emerge through education within the context of the culture. We help girls get the education they so desperately want, as well as help educate the boys. Educated men are much more likely to support more choices for women.
Educated husbands appreciate and are less threatened by their educated partners. ” Nonetheless, the Taliban still exists today and often heartbreaking stories of the Taliban’s acts of cruelty and violence make it to the headlines. Even though the extremist group does not rule Afghanistan anymore, it has resurged in recent years, stirring fear and civil unrest in countries in the Middle East. Afghanistan continues to gradually improve its social policies and standards, but still has a long way to freedom and democracy for all its citizens.
Civil unrest and terrorism are still ongoing issues in the war-torn country. Over the years, several nations have sent military forces, set up foreign aid programs, and spent time and money in Afghanistan (XXVII-XXIX). Hence, the political landscape has changed overtime. In the upcoming years, it is the hope that all Afghan women and girls will have access to safe education, healthcare, and employment and be able to participate fully in the democratic process. As Afghanistan strides towards these momentous goals, may the world unite together and support them through this journey.