One year ago, on September 27, 1996, the Taliban extremist militia took over the Afghan capital city, Kabul, and made Afghan women virtual prisoners in their homes. The Taliban banned women them from working, going to school, or leaving their homes without a close male relative. The Taliban claimed it would continue the women’s paychecks and that the restrictions on women would eventually be lifted. However, paychecks to women stopped six months ago, and even in the cities of Herat and Kandahar, where the Taliban has ruled for two and three years, women are still under the same severe restrictions.
Foreign aid projects which provide food to Afghan widows and children have a hard time keeping up with the enormous numbers of people who need help because women cannot earn a living now. A high-ranking humanitarian official stated that up to 40 percent of aid cash spent in Kabul goes towards women’s needs that did not exist before the Taliban entered the city.
The Taliban has hindered the work of these aid projects by issuing decrees that aid projects must not provide aid directly to women, but only through a male blood relative. It also temporarily closed down one feeding project when it was discovered that men were in the same compound — but not in the same room — as women attending a farewell dinner.
“One year ago many women expected things would change with UN and aid agency pressure, but what we’ve seen over the past year is them losing hope,” said Niamh Murnaghan of the British relief group OXFAM. “Women are horribly depressed because they have had all social life and public interaction stripped away.”