Solutions Lagging Behind the Urgency: United Nations Addressed Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan

Recently, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the issue of gender apartheid in Afghanistan and compel the Taliban to stop policies of gender apartheid. Issues of human rights and women’s rights are fading from the global landscape’s attention. It is more important than ever to continue to fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan and to hold the Taliban authorities accountable.  

Ongoing gender apartheid worsens conditions for Afghan women and girls in all aspects of life. The United Nations expresses hope that the Taliban will reverse its course, despite restrictive policies issued by the de facto authorities which show no signs of stopping. The group has solidified its exclusionary stronghold in the country and its influence grows through the implementation of madrassas, religious institutes across Afghanistan. The Taliban views criticism of its rule as an orchestrated attack from the west against the interpretation of Sharia law. It is important to note that neither Islamic law nor Afghan culture call for banning women from education, work or erasing them from society. 

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) produced three reports, underscoring the ongoing attack on fundamental human rights, including women’s rights, and other violations. In spite of slight economic improvement, these issues remain of critical concern. 

The international community has come to a juncture where it is forced to bridge the gap between the Taliban de facto authorities’ policies and the international norm. The UN and the international community do not currently recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan. Yet, the issue of direct engagement has to be contended with in order to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance. This is a process from which women are also excluded, limiting its efficacy and reach. According to the representative from the United Kingdom, “Afghanistan cannot be self-reliant when 50% of its people are excluded from society.” 

Roza Otunbayeva, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA voiced her concern over the “more than 50 decrees issued by the Taliban, aimed at eliminating women from public life and education.” In response to this, she cited a recent report in which more than 46 per cent of Afghan women stated that the Taliban should not be recognized under any circumstances. This was taken from an UNAMA survey of 529 women surveyed across 22 different provinces. Women’s voices must be heard and acted upon. UN Women’s Sima Sami Bahous says “Afghan women continue to call on international actors to use all means at their disposal to leverage and pressure for change, including the use of sanctions without exceptions for travel, and the issue of non-recognition.” 

The UN recommends the de facto authority engage in dialogue with neighboring countries and the international community to counter present security threats. Although security incidents have decreased, the presence and activity of terrorist groups is a concern. Without respect for human rights, economic growth, and resilience to natural disasters, the risk of radicalization among young people grows, threatening the prospect of peace in the future. 

Karima Bennoune, international legal expert and civil society representative, urged the Security Council to adopt resolutions labeling the treatment of Afghan women by the Taliban as an institutionalized framework of “gender apartheid.” This is one step in the right direction toward recognizing and addressing the dehumanizing existence women have been relegated to. 


UN 09/26/2023

China’s Ambassador to Afghanistan as a Catalyst to Slippery Slope of International Recognition for Taliban

Recently, China announced its new ambassador to Afghanistan, Zhao Xing, who presented himself at a lavish ceremony in Kabul last week. He is the first foreign envoy to occupy an ambassador position since the Taliban took power in August 2021. The Taliban has not been officially recognized by any government, but they celebrated this moment as “the beginning of a new chapter.” The Chinese foreign ministry, however, tried to downplay hopes for formal recognition of the de facto authorities. 

Observers said that the appointment indicates China’s openness to create close ties with the Taliban regime. Beijing kept their ambassador-level relations and their embassy in Kabul after the fall of the previous government. Other countries and bodies, including Pakistan and the European Union have sent senior diplomats on missions using the title “charge d’affaires” which does not require presenting ambassadorial credentials to the host nations, as China did.

Zhao said that China was “a good neighbor of Afghanistan” and “fully respects Afghanistan’s independence, territorial integrity and independence in decision-making.” The Taliban has been criticized globally for their treatment of women and human rights violations. Countries in the region care more about security and economic ties than human rights issues, which they consider an internal problem. In May, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to work together tri-laterally to counter terrorism and strengthen security. The Taliban has also been accused of allowing various extremist terrorist groups to flourish within the country. 

Afghanistan is a key region to China. It falls in Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Militants of the Turkistan Islamic Party along Afghanistan’s border with China’s Xinjiang region have targeted Chinese projects in the past to retaliate against Beijing’s mistreatment of Muslim minorities of the Uyghur ethnic group. Such mistreatment includes mass detentions, forced labor, “re-education” of the Uyghur population, and abuse of a million Uyghurs under surveillance – all of which China has denied. The Taliban has vowed to help China in the removal of these militants from Afghanistan and that it would not allow the Uyghur leaders to operate against China from Afghanistan’s territory. Thousands of Uyghurs have fled to Afghanistan, but now fear becoming victims of China’s influence on the country.

This comes ahead of Russia reportedly inviting the Taliban to attend the Moscow Format later this month in the Russian city of Kazan. Spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that the goal is to “bring together key regional actors to address various aspects of Afghanistan’s situation, intra-Afghan reconciliation, regional security and post-conflict reconstruction efforts.” Russia reports that the main focus of the conference will be to form an “inclusive” government reflecting the major ethnopolitical groups within Afghanistan.

Both developments reflect a shift in the international outlook and treatment of the de facto authorities, leading in the direction of normalized relations and diplomatic recognition. We cannot forget the plight of Afghan women and the continuing human rights violations occurring in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban. 


CNN 09/14/2023; BBC 09/14/2023; Reuters 09/13/2023

Human Rights Crimes Against Former Government Officials Further Solidifies Taliban’s Grip of Power on Afghanistan

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released a report recently calling attention to several instances of human rights violations by the Taliban against former government officials across 34 different provinces in the country, with the greatest occurring in Kabul.

To date, there have been at least 800 instances of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest, torture and disappearances against people affiliated with the previous government, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan supported by the US and an international coalition of countries. These cases go against the Taliban’s promise to pardon all those who worked for the former government and international allies. It represents “a betrayal of people’s trust,” said Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

After the Taliban takeover of the Afghanistan in 2021, former U.S.-backed government officials were targeted, especially those in the Afghan security forces and judicial branch. Some were killed before even being taken into custody, others killed in custody, and some taken to remote locations and killed. UNAMA interviewed families of the victims who had gone missing and whose bodies turned up months later. The former head of Herat Women’s Prison, Alia Azizi, never returned home from work on October 2, 2021. Her whereabouts are still unknown. 

Moving forward, says Roza Otunbayeva, Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA, “the de facto authorities must demonstrate genuine commitment to general amnesty.” This would be “a crucial step in ensuring real prospects for justice, reconciliation, and lasting peace in Afghanistan.” 

Despite being the de facto authorities of Afghanistan, the Taliban still has an obligation under international human rights law to prevent further violations and hold perpetrators accountable. The Taliban responded by saying that the killings were simply personal matters or “revenge cases” and not carried out in any official capacity. Even then, the Taliban has failed in providing security to Afghans at risk and are evading responsibility. 

The Taliban has received international criticism for their harsh policies of gender apartheid against women and are currently not recognized by the U.N. or the international community.


UNAMA 08/22/2023; ABC News 08/22/2023

“Immeasurably Cruel” Oppression of Afghan Women and a Further Collapse of Human Rights

The United Nations Rights Chief accused the Taliban of a “shocking level of oppression” of women and girls, and said that more broadly, human rights in the country were in “collapse.” The observation and fulfillment of human rights in Afghanistan has been in steady decline since the takeover of the government by the Taliban in 2021. The Taliban did not respond, but in previous statements claimed that they respect women’s rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law. 

A recent UN report based on the time from March 2022 to August 2023, tracks the systemic regression of women’s and girls’ rights and records hundreds of cases of gender-based violence against women. Women have been banned from education, work, and most public spaces through Taliban-issued edicts that are “immeasurably cruel,” according to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk. 

The human rights crisis is affecting millions of Afghan women, men, girls, and boys, and demands international attention.


Reuters 09/12/2023

What is “Freedom” to the Taliban? The Taliban’s Constricted Vision for Afghanistan’s Future. 

The Taliban has remained firm and doubled down on its vision for the future of Afghanistan. Since its takeover of the Afghan government 2 years ago, it established a de facto government, composed of different ministries to impose their interpretation of an “Islamic” rule and rollback the achievements of the former government. The Taliban has reversed almost every measure, going as far as taking out trees planted under the former government, calling the trees “infidel.” 

Recently, in an opening of a religious center in eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban Minister of Interior Affairs, Sirajuddin Haqqani, called on people to support the Islamic system, saying “the enemies of our religion and country cannot take away our freedom and now they are plotting and warning the system.” He added, “our belief is firm and our struggle is pure and we are united.” 

The Taliban notion of “freedom” is misplaced and criminal as they lack national and global legitimacy. When Haqqani invokes the term freedom, he refers to the Taliban’s ability to force people to obey their rules that are in contradiction with Afghan values and Islam, and which erase women from society altogether. When the Taliban invokes the term “freedom” and “liberation” they refer to forcing global allies out of Afghanistan and militarily collapsing a system that valued freedom and democracy. 

The assertion that the Taliban is united is untrue. Earlier this year, senior Taliban officials began expressing public disagreements with official stances. The dissent comes as the group struggles for international legitimacy, with some leaders pushing to respect the demands of the Afghan people. The Taliban Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, said the group “must aim for winning the hearts of our people rather than ruling over them with batons.” There is also conflict over the way in which the supreme leader “monopolizes” power and issues decrees that he expects other officials to obey and enforce on the Afghan people. 

The Taliban’s rhetoric is focused on defending the country from perceived outside threats and “enemies,” but neglects the humanitarian crises facing the country, the rise in extremist activity by various terrorist groups, and continues to steadily strip women of their fundamental rights.

On another occasion, the Minister of Information and Culture, Khairullah Khairkhah, asked young people to make more and effective use of the opportunities created now in the country. Such opportunities mainly constitute religious training in madrassas, religious seminaries under the Taliban. He tells them “you are lucky that there are scholars.” Since the Taliban’s return to power, opportunities have been limited and to women, erased. People are forced to flee due to unemployment, which is the highest it has been in the past 25 years.  

These standpoints ignore crucial issues surrounding Afghan women, the economy, and Afghanistan’s place on the global stage. Not to mention that millions of Afghans face unemployment, which is at a 30% rate, and a lack of opportunities for a livelihood. Other officials have made similar statements. 

The Acting Minister of Economy, Din Mohammad Hanif, also discussed the sacrifices made in order to establish the Taliban’s Islamic system, emphasizing the role of mujahideens, fighters and religious scholars. He said “the majority of the sacrifices were made by the scholars,” and the “leadership was led by the scholars.” To the Taliban, a scholar is only a person with religious education and with the Taliban in power, there has been increasing focus on madrassas, religious institutions and less focus on other subjects. 

Emphasis on the victory of the Taliban and its role in freeing the Afghan people leaves little space for critique of the current political system and ideas regarding Afghan freedom that deviate from the Taliban’s narrow ideals. The goal is ultimately power through force, which is considered victory and freedom, not anything that the Afghan people, including women, want. 

The Taliban has not liberated the country and its people. The regime has erased the human rights of women and girls, destroyed a democratic and electoral system, and enforced primitive rules on the Afghan people. The Taliban doesn’t deserve the legitimacy from the international community that the regime demands. 


Ariana News, 9/2/2023; VoA 02/23/2023; RFE/RL 06/02/2023; Human Concern

Ethnic and Religious Minorities Face Systemic Discrimination Under Taliban Rule in Afghanistan

The Taliban’s rise to power in 2021 raised concerns about their treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in the country, who had been persecuted during the first Taliban regime. Shi’ite Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and other religious minorities suffer systemic discrimination under Taliban rule. 

In the 1980s, there were around 100,000 Hindus and Sikhs across the country. After the war began in 1979, growing persecution pushed many out. The Taliban and rival groups promised to protect religious minorities but this did not occur, and Sikhs and Hindus lost their homes and businesses. During the first Taliban regime, militant rulers announced that Sikhs and Hindus would be forced to wear yellow badges to be identified, which led to international uproar. They were also prevented from building new temples and had to pay jizya, taxes for not being a Muslim.

Other religious minorities, such as Shi’a Muslims, make up approximately 15% of Afghanistan’s 40 million people, and are mostly ethnic Hazaras, some Tajiks and few Pashtuns. In addition to harassment and persecution, the minorities are also denied the right to use their jurisprudence in courts. Afghanistan’s 2004 Constitution permitted Shi’a to use their Jafari jurisprudence in court cases. But the Constitution has since been suspended indefinitely by the Taliban and minorities are asked to follow the Taliban’s rules. 

Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” 

The Taliban originally promised better treatment towards minority groups. They visited Shi’a mosques in Kabul and designated officials to protect ceremonies for the Shi’ite month of Muharram. Since then, they have broken promises granting the Shi’ite community freedom to observe their religion. 

Last month, the Taliban stopped Shi’a from celebrating an important festival, Eid al-Ghadir, a day that marks when Prophet Muhammad declared Ali, a cousin, his successor. In Sunni belief, this day is when Abu Bakr, the first Muslim caliph, became the successor to Prophet Muhammad. This is the main ideological difference between the two sects. The Taliban has also restricted Shi’a teachings at universities and in February announced an edict banning marriages between Shi’a and Sunnis in Badakhshan province, in northern Afghanistan. 

Sikhs and Hindus also face harsh restrictions on their appearance and have been banned from celebrating religious holidays in public to the point where many have fled. Fari Kaur, one of the last Sikhs remaining in Kabul describes that she “cannot go anywhere” and is forced to “dress like a Muslim” so that nobody will identify her as Sikh. 

Kaur’s father was killed in a suicide attack targeting Sikhs and Hindus at a temple in Jalalabad five years ago, in eastern Afghanistan. After that attack, some 1,500 Sikhs left Afghansitan, including Kaur’s remaining family. In 2020, 25 worshippers were killed when IS-K militants attacked a Sikh temple in Kabul. Kaur says “we have very few community members left behind in Afghanistan. We cannot even look after our temples.” 

Historically, the Taliban has been intolerant of public expressions and displays of the Sikh and Hindu, Shi’ite and other religious minorities. The Taliban has often forced to impose their interpretation of Islam and Islamic laws on all Afghans, and especially on religious minorities who are not Muslim and Sunni. 

The ban on observing religious holidays goes “against the spirit of Islamic brotherhood and national unity,” said Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Rizwani, a scholar at Shi’a Ulema Council of Afghanistan. The de facto authorities are attempting to institute their “distorted view of Islam,” leaving minority groups vulnerable to other religious extremists in the region, whose presence has increased since 2021.

The situation in Afghanistan worsens as political extremist factions claiming to represent Islam rise to power throughout the region. According to Niala Mohammed, director of policy and strategy at the nonprofit Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, “this exodus of diverse religious groups has left a void in the country’s social fabric.”


RFE/RL 07/17/2023; RFE/RL 08/252/2023

More Decrees Issued by The Taliban and the Ongoing Dangers Faced by Afghan Women

August 15th marked the 2-year-anniversary of the Taliban takeover in 2021. Since then, the Taliban has issued over 100 edicts and orders, taking away the human rights of Afghan women and impacting all aspects of life. The latest decree on park visits only adds to the long list of Taliban restrictions against Afghan women and girls.

The latest decree of the Taliban banned Afghan women and girls from visiting the Band-e-Amir national park, Afghanistan’s first national park established in 2009, in Bamiyan province in central Afghanistan. According to the Taliban’s minister of virtue and vice, Mohammed Khaled Hanafi, the ban was “a result of women not observing hijab inside the park,” although no incident of women violating the hijab has been recorded over the past two years. Religious clerics and security agencies have been called on to prevent women from entering the park “until further notice.”

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, questions the decision and asks, “can someone please explain why this restriction on women visiting Band-e-Amir is necessary to comply with Sharia and Afghan culture?” There is no mention of women not being allowed to visit parks in Islamic laws, but the Taliban Sharia is their interpretation and ideology of way of life. 

Band-e-Amir park is a popular destination for families to visit. UNESCO describes Band-e-Amir park as a “naturally created group of lakes with special geological formations and structure, as well as natural and unique beauty.” The restriction placed on women will make it difficult for many to attend the park. This latest ban is just one instance of the Taliban implementing rules on women’s movement since its rise to power in 2021. 

Fereshta Abbasi of Human Rights Watch, noted that the ban occurred on Women’s Equality Day, symbolizing a “total disrespect to the women of Afghanistan.” Many Afghans took to social media, sharing their aspirations and hope for the day they will return to the national park. 

Afghan women face increasing dangers

News of Hora Sadat’s passing was reported last week after she mysteriously died at age 25 in Kabul. Reports suggest that she was poisoned after attending a public event. 

Sadat was a female Youtuber in Afghanistan with 300,000 subscribers who created videos aimed at a young audience. She participated in public events organized by women in Kabul, but was not known for publicly criticizing the Taliban. 

Sadat’s death has led to accusations from activists pointing to the Taliban’s role. Her family has not commented on the details of her death. Sadat’s death is just one example highlighting the dangers faced by women in Afghanistan. The Taliban has placed strict bans on Afghan women, essentially erasing them from public life and controlling their mobility and appearance. 


BBC 08/27/2023; Twitter 08/27/2023; RFE/RL 08/25/2023

Afghan Girls Above Age 10 are Barred from Primary Schools in Afghanistan, Casting a Shadow on Education 

Girls over the age of 10 have been banned from attending primary school in Afghanistan in the latest edict issued by the Taliban-led Ministry of Education.

Taliban leaders met with school principals in certain provinces and told them strictly that “any girl over 10 years of age is not allowed to study in primary schools.” The Taliban had previously allowed girls up until sixth grade to attend school. But now girls above third grade are prevented from even entering school premises. 

The Taliban has a long history of restricting women’s education, dating back to the first regime during the late 1990s. After the takeover of the government two years ago, they banned girls from attending secondary schools, only allowing males to return to high schools. In December 2022, they extended the ban to university women. The United Nations has criticized the Taliban for increasing restrictions on education and employment for girls and women. 

This latest draconian rule is part of an effort at the hands of the de facto authorities to systematically erase women and girls from society. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls and women cannot legally attend school.

Meanwhile, the Taliban seeks to completely rehaul Afghanistan’s education system, by placing their officials in charge at the in education departments and at universities. Religious institutions have been increased and more religious subjects are incorporated into the curricula. Before women were banned from higher education, there were strict rules imposed on male and female students regarding conduct and appearance. Women had to dress and behave a certain way, facing far more obstacles than men.

Throughout the country there has been an increase in madrassas, religious learning institutions, and plans are in place to construct thousands more. In addition to teaching religious studies, jihadi madrassas have been used as centers for training suicide bombers and weapon use. Political analysts expressed concerns that the establishment of madrassas would fuel extremism among youth. While religious education is not always negative, these institutions follow the Taliban’s interpretation of religious text and mindset that focuses on war, killing, violence, and hate. 


Outlook India 08/06/2023; Afghanistan Analysts Network July 2023; 

Afghan Journalists in Jeopardy and the Taliban’s Tightening Grip on Media Freedom

The Taliban has halted local TV network’s broadcasts in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. Hamesha Bahar TV and Radio network was the outlet targeted in a Taliban raid of the office on Monday. 

This is not an isolated incident, nor the first of its kind, as the media outlet had a similar situation and treatment by the Taliban two months ago in Jalalabad city. Media freedom has been severely restricted under the Taliban, as well as women’s rights and freedoms. 

Employees described the office breach that led to verbal abuse towards people who were attending a journalism class, including women. Atal Khan Stanekzai, head of Hamesha Bahar Radio and TV network in Nangarhar said that the Taliban treated employees and attendees with inappropriate language and belittling words. Afghanistan Journalists Center released a statement on Tuesday and revealed that the class at Hamesha Bahar TV network had 16 attendees, including six women. Yasamin Sahar, an employee, shared disappointment because some female employees did not return to work the next day. Sources have said that the reason behind the outlet’s closure was the presence of women in this class. 

Hamesha Bahar Radio and TV network has had an influential presence in Nangarhar for nearly 12 years and has been crucial in sharing information through its broadcasts. The organization has also educated the youth about journalism and helped them develop skills related to working in journalism. This latest incident has raised concerns about the obstacles facing media outlets and educational programs in areas under Taliban control.

The issue at hand is that the safety and rights of media professionals and students in Afghanistan is in jeopardy. Journalists expressed their worries over the shrinking work opportunities for them, and have accused the Taliban of restricting freedom of expression. Shakrullah Pason, a journalist, said the “Taliban’s actions are squeezing the space for journalistic activities, making it narrower than ever” an employee at Radio Sada in Nangarhar, Irfanullah Bidar, was even imprisoned for 12 days before the Taliban raid. 

Amnesty International has noted that the takeover of the Taliban has caused various restrictions on freedom of expression in the country. The restriction of reputable and established media outlets has repercussions throughout Afghanistan, leading to a news vacuum that gives way to disinformation and to the violation of rights for journalists.


Amu TV 08/02/2023

The Political Offside: Politics Takes the Field in Afghan Women’s Fight to Play Soccer

Thousands gathered at a stadium in Brisbane to watch Australia’s World Cup match against Nigeria. Among the crowd, sitting close to the pitch were players from the Afghan women’s national team, who are now exiled. They dream of representing their country again, as they have done in the past. Currently, however, the national team is not recognized by the sport’s governing bodies. 

Khalida Popal, co-founder of the team, met with the players who now live in Australia as refugees who fled Taliban death threats. “It’s very difficult to believe we’re actually here,” Popal said, donning a yellow Australia jersey. 

After the Taliban takeover in 2021, she called on the international community to help evacuate the team out of Afghanistan, and told players to burn their kits so that Taliban fighters would not attack them for playing competitive sports – now fully banned for women in the country. Today, she calls on FIFA, the sport’s main authority, to allow women and girls to represent Afghanistan on the pitch again. 

They have the senior women’s national team, youth teams around Europe and even some in the U.S. and Canada. Popal asks “can these Afghan players from diaspora represent Afghanistan at international games? It’s not that difficult. It’s not like going to the moon.” 

FIFA is currently unable to recognize any team unless it is first recognized by the “concerned” Member Association, in this case, Australia. The Afghan Football Federation also cannot stand up for women because it will be attacked by the Taliban, and shot, stoned or killed.

The Taliban has recently closed all beauty salons country-wide, leaving 60,000 women without a source of income and making it difficult to earn money to feed children. Human Rights Watch calls Afghanistan “the most serious women’s rights crisis.” Heather Barr, from the Human Rights Watch Women’s Rights Division, added “women and girls, they really see the walls continuing to close in on them.”

The Afghan women’s team were guests at the World Cup game for a gender symposium, invited by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. FIFA claims to be working hard to close the gap between men’s and women’s soccer, after decades of inequality. Soccer has even been banned entirely in some regions and countries. Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, said to the women’s team “I wish you were participating in this World Cup with your country behind you.” 

Gender equality is one of eight key issues promoted at the Women’s World Cup, in partnership with UN Women. Craig Foster, a human rights activist who was instrumental in the Afghan team’s relocation to Australia, says that FIFA has more responsibility to bear than simply taking on a social campaign. In their gender equality statutes, there can be no discrimination against women in any member federation in the world.  

The Afghan Women’s Team currently plays in Melbourne with a local club, the Melbourne Victory. They wear black and red as their team colors, representing the national colors of Afghanistan. Recently, the team took part in the Hope Cup, a competition for refugees. The goalkeeper, Fatima Yousifi, said that the players’ minds are never far from their families and friends back home, who fear for their lives and the loss of ambitions in a country where women don’t count. “I am encouraging them to watch the World Cup…because you can at least be having the hope that there are still women who are fighting,” she explained. 

John Didulica, the director of Melbourne Victory, described that the Afghan team needs hope to play for their country after the trauma of having to leave home, but that every time an international game occurs and Afghanistan is not included, they lose hope. “There is a lot of tokenism. There is a lot of symbolism – but there’s not a lot of action,” he said about the superficiality of international governing bodies.

Foster urged other female players around the world and male allies to push FIFA to reinstate the Afghan team. It is unacceptable that in Australia women can dream of winning a World Cup at home, whereas in Afghanistan, women and girls are prohibited from kicking a ball.

Yousifi said after the game, “I know Afghanistan will not remain like that forever, someday it will change, because we are the changemakers. I believe in myself. I believe in my sisters.” 


CNN 07/29/2023; BBC 07/24/2023

Taliban Torches Music Instruments in Kabul, Setting Culture and Music Ablaze

The Taliban-led Ministry of Vice and Virtue says its officials burned down musical instruments which were collected nationwide over the past few months and which were used “for the promotion of music and corruption.” They were destroyed according to the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia law. 

The Ministry of Vice and Virtue did not provide any more details of the instrument, but pictures posted of the bonfires on Twitter showed drums, cassettes, harmoniums and other items. The Ministry tweeted that the materials had been seized from “immoral programs” in Kabul and other provinces and which allegedly caused “the loss of our youth and the deterioration of society.” 

Afghanistan has a long history of art and music at the center of its rich culture. Since the Taliban takeover in 2021, many Afghan musicians have fled to Iran to live in exiled communities to avoid persecution at home.


Pajhwok News 07/19/2023

Afghan women face economic challenges—three personal stories of resilience and hardship amidst Taliban bans. 

In a feature story by the Afghanistan Analysts Network, three resilient Afghan women open up about their experiences enduring economic hardships under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. 

Despite different backgrounds, these women share a common thread – they all face the oppressive bans imposed by the Taliban prohibiting them from employment and numerous other opportunities. 

These narratives only represent the stories of three remarkable women, providing insights into the struggles millions of Afghan women face across all generations. Afghan women are not allowed to work, they cannot leave their homes “unless necessary,” they cannot seek education, and so much more, but despite the numerous bans, they continue to find ways to earn an income and survive in the face of adversity. 

Nilofar, for example, is a 26-year-old Afghan woman who had a government job before the Taliban takeover in 2021. She had to support her family: two children, her disabled husband, his father and four sisters. Her husband was in the military and lost both his legs and damaged his spine. 

“I used some of my savings to buy a karachi [handcart]. I sold soda, cigarettes and cold water, but my husband’s injuries required medical attention, so I had to sell the handcart to pay for his treatment.”

Then she started selling ice cream for a company. She gets a percentage of what is sold – 2 afghanis (about two and a half U.S. cents) for every small ice cream cone, which sells for 10 afghanis (12 U.S. cents) and 5 afghanis (about 5 and a half U.S. cents) for the larger ones, which go for 20 afghanis (24 U.S. cents).

At the end of the day Nilofar makes 100 to 200 afghanis, or 1.17 to 2.33 U.S. dollars. That covers basic needs including rent and utilities.

“Life is hard for a woman in this country and for women street peddlers, it’s doubly hard. We have to endure street harassment which is an unfortunate pastime of some Afghan men. They say and do disgusting things without a second thought.”

In the early days of the Taliban takeover, they wouldn’t allow women to work without a mahram, or male guardian. She now moves around, observing the hijab, searching for crowded places where customers will buy a luxury like ice cream in a country that is facing an economic crisis. 

“So this is how I spend my days, peddling ice cream from Kart-e Parwan to Shahr-e Naw and Wazir Akbar Khan and sometimes all the way to the airport…I take my meager earnings and rush home. I pick up some bread along the way. Sometimes when I have the money, I get some vegetables or yogurt, but I’m worried about the winter when people don’t buy ice cream.”

Leilama is another women, doing everything she can to survive. The 35-year-old Leialma from Kabul, supports her two daughters and infant son by selling socks and masks in the west part of the city. She used to work for a private company as a cook, alongside her husband. Her husband traveled to Iran, searching for work but because of the high cost of living, he is unable to send much money back, leaving Leilama to support the family. With no jobs for women, Leilama decided to sell socks and masks. She makes about 2 afghanis (2 and a half U.S. cents) in profit for each mask and 5 afghanis (5 and a half U.S. cents) for a pair of socks. Most days she returns home without enough money to buy bread for her children.

“My infant son is now malnourished. I heard some organizations give people food and treat malnourished children, but we haven’t received anything and I don’t know where to go to get help. We don’t have a man at home to follow up on these things and find the offices and I don’t have time to do it myself. I can’t miss time from work because every hour I’m not on the street is money lost.”

The Taliban bother her about the rules against street peddlers staying in one place, and even sometimes confiscate her karachi (handcart). When she gets it back from the police station, her stock is missing and she has to find money to buy more things to sell.

“They made me sign a paper several times promising I would not sell on the main roads, but I don’t have a choice; there is no footfall and no customers on the side streets.”

The 48-year-old Maryam is her family’s breadwinner since her husband was killed by a suicide attacker. She used to work at an international organization but when the Republic fell, she lost her job and couldn’t find a new one since the Taliban barred women from working in offices. She has six daughters and a son. Her older daughters once helped her work, but she decided to leave them at home to protect them from Taliban attention and street harassment.

“Most people are friendly and respectful, but there are always those few bad apples who say off-color or hurtful things. What can I say? It’s the lot of women on the streets of Kabul. We hear a thousand and one unpleasant things every day. We have to tolerate it; there is no other way. Sadly, this is our culture. When you’re down, people look down on you.”

The Taliban believes that women should not be working outside the home, especially not as street peddlers where men can see them. They tell Maryam that she cannot operate a karachi among non-mahrams. She is adamant on getting around such obstacles in order to feed her family.

“Life is getting more difficult every day. I wish the Taliban would let women work for the government or foreign organizations. Many women don’t have a husband to provide for them and have to find ways to provide for their children.”

Maryam says that if she could get a job, she could make as much as 5,000 afghanis a month (58 USD). She is prepared to do any kind of work. 

“I wish I had enough money to start a small business at home and put my girls to work. But I have borrowed money from everyone I know and no one will lend me any more money because they don’t think I can pay them back.”

Earning about 150 to 200 afghanis (1.75 to 2.3 USD) is enough to meet expenses if Maryam works every day. But sometimes business is bad, or she is prevented from selling by the Taliban. If she gets sick, that’s one day’s earnings gone. Some days, she cannot afford to buy much stock if the prices of vegetables have increased overnight. She is behind on the rent, 3,000 afghanis (35 USD), which keeps her up at night worrying that her family will end up without a roof over their heads. At the end of the day, she takes the wilted greens and rotten vegetables home for her family to eat. It eats into the profits, but keeps food on the table and losses to a minimum.

“During the Republic, my husband and I had so much hope for our daughters. They were all in school and we helped them with their homework. We thought they would grow up educated, get office jobs and support us in our old age. Now that future seems like an impossible dream. I don’t know what to do. Where should I raise my voice to ask for help? There is no one to hear us.”


Afghanistan Analysts Network July 2023. 

The Taliban officials confirmed that only men will take the university entrance exams. Afghan women and men demand equal access to education for the sake of Afghanistan’s future. 

The National Examination Authority (NEXA) in Afghanistan announced that only male students can attend the university entrance examination this year. This came from a letter written by the Ministry of Higher Education stating that only male students should be recruited to universities. 

This removal of women from society will negatively impact the country, many women worry. Suraya Paikan, a women’s rights activist, expressed her disappointment, “unfortunately, the interim government has failed in this regard and has not been able to reopen the doors of the schools and universities for the girls.” 

Female students have urged the de facto authorities to allow women to attend classes. Kubra, a student, said “we call on the Islamic Emirate to respect us as humans, as girls, and reopen the doors of the schools.” Another student, Sahar, added that “we should not be forced to migrate from Afghanistan because of lack of access to education.” Even male students have called for the attendance of women in the university entrance exam. Elham, a male student, explained that the Taliban government should “provide educational opportunities to females, as the girls also have the right to education.” 

U.S. special envoy for Afghan women and human rights, Rina Amiri, shared in a tweet, “stand with Afghan girls’ demand to be allowed to take university exams,” noting in particular that “their success will be Afghanistan’s success, leading to food on the table, an improved economy & future.” She added, “the Taliban should put the country and people before their ideology.” As of 2023, six million Afghans are currently on the brink of starvation and 9 in 10 people are living in poverty. Access to education is a fundamental right for everyone, regardless of gender or sex.


Tolonews, 7/19/2023

“We are here for justice.” Afghan Women Take to the Streets to Protest Against Latest Taliban Edicts

Dozens of women took to the streets in Kabul on Wednesday to protest against the Taliban’s closing of women’s beauty salons. The order forces thousands of beauty parlors across the country, run by women, to close. 

The Taliban government has banned women from high schools and universities, parks, gyms, working for NGOs, and in the latest move, operating and proving services at beauty salons. This is part of a concerted effort to erase women from public life. This is known as gender apartheid and is defined by the United Nations as “the economic and social sexual discrimination against individuals because of their gender or sex. It is a system enforced by using either physical or legal practices to relegate individuals to subordinate positions.” A report by the Human Rights Council last month found that the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan was “among the worst in the world,” due to systematic harsh discrimination. 

Beauty salons are often the only source of income for households. This prevents women from socializing outside the home away from men and seeking business opportunities. One of the protestors carried a sign saying, “don’t take my bread and water.”

Public protests in Afghanistan have become rare under the Taliban and often dispersed violently by the Taliban officials. Nearly 50 women took part in the demonstration, which attracted national attention. Security forces tried to break up the women using fire hoses, tasers and gun shots in the air. Two or three women were put into cars and taken away by the Taliban. 

“Today no one came to talk to us, to listen to us. They didn’t pay any attention to us and after a while, they dispersed us by aerial firing and water cannon,” a salon worker explained. Her name has been withheld for safety reasons. Farzana stated, “we are here for justice. We want work, food and freedom.” The purpose of the demonstration, as explained by Farzana, was to make the Taliban reconsider and reverse the decision to close beauty salons because it affects women’s livelihoods. 

The Taliban claimed that salons were closed because they are too “extravagant” and un-Islamic. More than half a million people have been forced out of jobs since the Taliban took over, worsening the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The spokesman for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Akif Muhajir, commented “the protestors should have paid attention to the notification we had issued earlier.” 

According to the Taliban leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada, women’s status as “free and dignified human beings” has been restored, by forcing them to stay home and not receive an education or be able to work. 


Aljazeera 07/19/2023

UN report underscores the Taliban’s growing restrictions on Afghan women and girls.

As the two-year anniversary of the Taliban takeover approaches, the UN released a report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan. The report highlights increased restrictions on the freedom of Afghan women and girls. The Taliban has also firmly enforced limitations on women’s freedom of movement and employment. Despite promises of being more moderate than the 1990s regime, the Taliban has instituted harsh policies since taking over Afghanistan in August 2021, which includes barring women from most areas of public life and work, and cracking down on the media. The UN report underlined several key areas where life has been severely restricted under the Taliban regime.

Only men can continue higher education

The Ministry of Public Health announced recently that only males can take the exams required to pursue further medical studies. This follows a ban on female medical students taking graduation exams in February and a prohibition issued last December on women attending university at all. The Taliban has banned girls from attending school beyond sixth grade, making Afghanistan the only country in the world with such restrictions. 

Threats, arrests, and detentions of NGO workers

Throughout the months of May and June, the de facto authorities have obstructed NGOs led by women or employing women. Two female staff of an INGO were arrested in May at an airport for traveling without a mahram, or male guardian escorting a woman. The de facto General Directorate of Intelligence stopped a midwife on her way to work, detained and questioned her for 5 hours on her work with an INGO, threatening to kill her if she continued. She resigned two days later. 

NGOs have either had their assets seized or licenses suspended altogether. Matiullah Wesa, head of NGO PenPath – an organization campaigning for the reopening of girls’ schools – continues to be detained after his arrest in March on unknown charges. Both male and female staff at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) work from home in order to prevent discrimination in the workplace after the Taliban banned women from working at local and non-governmental organizations. This move faced intense backlash due to the severe ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. 

Increased security threats and civilians in danger

The daily lives of civilians are affected from decades of conflict and violence. Suicide attacks are still a significant concern in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, and although there have been fewer incidents, these have resulted in higher numbers of civilian casualties. Between August and May 2023, UNAMA recorded a total of 3,774 civilian casualties from improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in populated areas, such as places of worship, schools and markets. The terrorist group, ISIL-KP, claimed responsibility for most of the attacks. UNAMA also noted victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO) were children who mistakenly picked them up to sell for scrap metal. Victims struggle to access medical, financial and psychosocial support after the attacks. According to the UN report, the de facto authorities have a duty to respect and ensure the rights of all individuals in Afghanistan to live without the fear of an attack. 

Extrajudicial killings and public punishments

Under the first Taliban regime, corporal punishment and executions were carried out publicly, often in sports stadiums, against people convicted of crimes. A woman in Parwan province was convicted of adultery in May and lashed 39 times. Three days later, six men were publicly lashed in Kandahar City, after being convicted of sodomy and adultery. 2,000 people were in attendance. In June, a 35-year-old man was executed, the second instance of the death penalty being carried out since the Taliban takeover in August 2021. He was convicted of allegedly killing three children and a man. The victims’ families rejected an offer for financial compensation in exchange for sparing his life. UNAMA has continued to record cases of extrajudicial killings of former government and military personnel nationwide. 

Journalists forced not to report Taliban violations

On a daily basis, journalists continue to be arbitrarily arrested and detained. In May, four journalists were arrested in Khost city and told not to publish reports against the de facto authorities. French-Afghan journalist, Mortaza Behboudi, arrested in January, remains in custody on unknown charges. The de facto authorities created the Department of Information and Culture without any mandate explaining its purpose. It conducted an unannounced visit to a private radio station in Kabul, leading journalists to worry about media independence being jeopardized. A delegation of officials from the General Directorate of Intelligence’s Unit 53, which oversees media activities, traveled to several northern provinces to meet with media outlets and recapitulate restrictions placed upon them. 

Justice system doesn’t exist under the Taliban

To date, approximately 15,000 people are imprisoned, an increase from the 2022 average of 10,000. Many detainees are women and girls who have served their time, but will not be released without mahrams or male guardians. UNAMA engaged with the de facto Office of Prison Administration to advocate for an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse in prisons across the country. After a visit to the prisons, they reportedly concluded that the allegations were baseless.

Edicts and decrees increase daily

The Ministry for Virtue and Prevention of Vice has been at the forefront of enforcing Taliban edicts and decrees, particularly against women. A group of women, men and girls were beaten, arrested and detained at a checkpoint for failing to comply with the beard and hijab orders. In June, Taliban officials beat a woman for being at a public park. The Ministry gave beauty salons orders to close in early July, and all licenses will be suspended by July 25th. Afghan women continue to protest the closure of beauty salons, risking their safety and the safety of their families. 


UN 07/15/2023

The Taliban in Afghanistan seeks instructors from Pakistan for Afghan youth but denies local teachers job opportunities.

Taliban officials in Kabul have asked Pakistan to send teachers to Afghanistan, meanwhile firing thousands of Afghan professionals and staff members at academic institutions across the country. 

The Taliban Minister of Higher Education, Neda Mohammed Nadeem, announced calls to Pakistan to send teachers to Afghanistan. Nadeem requested a meeting with Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan, Obaid ur-Rehman Nizamani, where they discussed cooperation between the two countries over academic affairs.

This comes at a moment when over thousands of teachers and university professors, particularly women have lost their jobs over the past two years under the Taliban regime. Last week, in a decree of the Taliban, the teachers training institutes were closed, leaving thousands of teachers and staff members out of jobs. The order affected 49 teacher training centers and 198 supporting centers, vastly affecting the future generations of teachers and quality of education in Afghanistan.

The Taliban is likely to continue its war on eradicating all forms of secular education, including removing those from their jobs who taught secular education for 20 years under the Western-backed republic regime. Inviting teachers and professors from Pakistan guarantees that they will not resist the curriculum of the Taliban, mostly removing secular education from the curriculum. 

This type of engagement from Pakistan also symbolizes diplomatic relations between the two countries, representing a shift in the status of the Taliban from de-facto authorities to an unofficial legitimate government. During the first regime of the Taliban, Pakistan was one of three countries only that granted recognition to the Taliban. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were the two other countries. 

Such cooperation allows the Taliban to continue their brutal regime and institution of gender apartheid without facing accountability. Worst of all, it normalizes Taliban control, which has led to acute starvation, mass unemployment, and a loss of rights and freedoms for women. 

The Feminist Majority Foundation urges the U.S. and the greater international community to not recognize the Taliban.


Arian New, 07/15/2023; FMF 07/15/2023

The Taliban shut down teacher training centers, leaving thousands out of jobs. The majority of the student were women. 

The Taliban announced it will shut down teacher training centers throughout the country, leaving 4,000 Afghan professionals running the centers without jobs. Historically, a majority of trainees and aspiring teachers at teacher training centers were women until the Taliban took control of the government. Many of them have been subjected to a ban by the Taliban for nearly two years. 

According to a letter from the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, higher teacher training centers have been removed from the Ministry of Education’s organizational structure, deemed “ineffective” and “unnecessary” by the Taliban. This guideline was approved by Taliban directorates and will take effect in Kabul and other provinces. 

According to the Taliban letter, staff members will be appointed to open positions in the Taliban’s religious schools, madrassas, and seminaries, Darul-Uloom.

The Taliban has resumed the implementation of religious learning institutions in several provinces across the country. Hundreds of schools are turned into seminaries which in addition to teaching religious studies, have been used as centers brainwashing the young generation. 

Political activists express uneasiness that the increase and prevalence of seminaries – madrassas would fuel hatred and extremism among youth and would deprive them of any modern education. While religious education is not always negative, these institutions follow the Taliban’s interpretation of religious text and mindset that focuses on war, killing, violence, and hate. 

Instructors of the teacher training centers shared concerns over this decision. “An administration of the Ministry of Education, a backbone of the society, has been demolished,” said Hamid Ahmadzada, an instructor of Parwan Darul-Mualimeen – teacher training center in Parwan, near Kabul. 

This creates an uncertain future for academic figures in the country and for education itself. Fahrad Ibrar, a university instructor called the decision “unwise” and explained, “we will face a shortage of teachers in the future.”

In total, there are nearly 50 teacher training centers and nearly 200 supporting training centers of teachers and public servants. An overwhelming majority of the trainees or aspiring teachers have been women. 


Tolonew 07/12/2023; Khaam Press 07/13/2023;

With increasing Taliban restrictions against Afghan women, the mental health crisis worsens. “I feel like an empty shell of a human being.” 

For nearly two years, Afghan women find themselves at the forefront of a mental health crisis over the bleak outlook for their future and the future of their country. Afghan women and girls in Afghanistan are suffering from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, as a direct result of being forced into isolation by the Taliban. 

“I just want someone to hear my voice. I’m in pain, and I’m not the only one,” an Afghan university student told the BBC, holding back tears. The university student attempted to end her life a few months ago. 

When the Taliban took power by force in August of 2021, their representatives said they would be more moderate. The Taliban broke its promises of being a more moderate government than it was during the 1990s when women were forbidden from attending school or working outside the home. 

There have been over 100 edicts issued restricting freedom of media, women’s education, employment, and many other areas since the Taliban takeover in 2021. A majority of the orders are about women and girls, restricting their rights and freedoms. Many Afghan women say the return of the Taliban feels like “being sentenced to a life in prison.” 

In December 2022, the Taliban banned Afghan women from attending university and for many, that ended their dream of higher education and the life they had envisioned for themselves for years. Even those who were in the last year of their studies were forced to stop. The ban on higher education added to a growing list of Taliban edicts, banning women from employment, education, leaving home and accessing healthcare, among other areas. 

“Pandemic” of suicide

There is an underlying but urgent mental health crisis in Afghanistan on top of unemployment, hunger, poverty, and gender apartheid against women. Psychologist Dr. Amal*, reports that Afghanistan has “a pandemic of suicidal thoughts” and that “the situation is the worst ever, and the world rarely thinks or talks about it.” 

United Nations estimates show that one in two people in Afghanistan –mostly women – suffered from psychological distress even before 2021. Before 2021, nearly 2 million Afghan women had been diagnosed with severe depression, according to Ayesha Ahmad, an expert on global mental health at St. Georges University in London. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where the suicide rate is higher for women than men – 80% of suicides each year are women

In the days following the university ban, Dr. Amal received 170 calls for help. Now she gets about 7 to 10 new calls for help daily. Most of them are from girls and young women. With the latest restrictions on women’s freedom and the economic decline, the problem has only worsened. 

“I feel like an empty shell of a human being,” Maryam Rezaei told Radio Free Europe back in December of 2021, about being forced to leave university and being confined to her home. 

A hopeless generation – with no breaks 

Nadir* is the father of a girl who took her life in March this year. She had believed that schools would reopen and couldn’t cope when they didn’t. She became distressed and would cry a lot, according to her father. He painfully describes his daughter, saying “she loved school” and was “smart, thoughtful and wanted to study and serve our country.” Another father of a woman in her twenties recalled that his daughter “lost all hope” when she wasn’t allowed to sit for the university entrance exam. 

A teacher and breadwinner for her family, Meher*, reports trying to take her own life twice after losing her job and leaving her with unbearable expenses. The options for her were bleak, facing pressure to get married and no plans, goals or hope for the future. Being forced to stay home, “I feel exhausted and indifferent to everything. It’s like nothing matters anymore,” a teenage girl says while crying at her doctor’s office with her mother. Even women helping other women with psychosocial support are feeling the toll of the crisis. Saghar Yousoufi, who works in a women-focused group, said “breathing is getting really, really hard.”

The Taliban blames women for their suicide and won’t record suicide statistics.

Local news agencies began reporting on multiple suicides across the country. The Taliban does not record suicide numbers or respond to escalating figures. Dr. Shaan, a psychiatrist, said that they are not allowed to record or assess suicide statistics, but that there is hardly anyone who is not suffering from a mental illness. Because of the stigma attached to suicides, however, many families avoid reporting them. 

In Herat province, the Afghanistan Center for Epidemiological Studies released a report in March showing that two-thirds of Afghan adolescents reported symptoms of depression. Most of the patients at the mental health department at Herat District Hospital are women’s rights activists, former government employees, and journalists. 

Afghan men suffer from mental health crisis too.

Dr. Amal discussed the impact on men, as well. Men are brought up to believe they are powerful, but right now they can’t express themselves or provide sufficiently for their families. She suggests that people try to form support teams of family members, friends and neighbors in order to avoid isolation. A study conducted last year by the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of a mental health initiative, found that education would be an effective intervention for clinically depressed women – but those options are not available under the Taliban. Asra*, a master’s student at Kabul university studying Islamic religious law asserts that “it’s not right that women cannot go to school. They have the same rights that men have.”

Jamila Afghani of WILPF who has launched a mental health program stated that the international community has “a role to play in alleviating the suffering of these women.” 

She said governments should stop meeting with the Taliban behind closed doors. Additionally, countries should restrict funding and monitor spending of humanitarian aid closely.

“Now I’m worried about the future of my daughter,” Frishta Rahmani, an NGO worker in Afghanistan lamented, “what will happen to her?” 

*Names have been changed or withheld to protect the interviewees 


Springer 03/06/2023; BBC 06/05/2023; RFE/RL 11/04/2021; Analyst News 03/30/2023

Afghan women barred from beauty salons in latest Taliban edict: “Don’t we have the right to work or live?”

The Taliban has decided in their latest announcement to outlaw women’s beauty salons in Afghanistan. This follows restrictions on many rights and freedoms for Afghan women in education, employment and public spaces. 

The order came from Taliban supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada and was publicly declared by the Virtue and Vice Ministry. There was no reason given for the ban, but beauty salons in Kabul were given a month’s warning to close down businesses. This comes just days after the Taliban Supreme Leader claimed the government was improving the lives of Afghan women. 

The UN reported that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) urged the de facto authorities to reverse the ban on beauty salons, citing that the “new restriction on women’s rights” would “impact negatively on the economy and contradicts stated support for women entrepreneurship.” 

A beauty salon owner said that she was her family’s sole breadwinner after her husband’s death in a car bombing in 2017. She said everyday the Taliban imposes new restrictions on women and asked “why are they [the Taliban] only targeting women? Aren’t we human? Don’t we have the right to work or live?”

The Taliban’s recent ban specifically targets women-owned beauty salons and men salons will continue operating. Previously, the Taliban issued a warning to men’s salons as well, imposing restrictions on beard length or prohibit shaving. Around 90% of the beauty salons in Afghanistan are owned by women, making this ban particularly detrimental to women’s employment and their ability to support their families. Women beauty salons are popular in Afghanistan and historically have catered to women clients. The men salons serve male customers. 

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, women have been barred from education, employment, and public spaces like parks and gyms among many other restrictions. These policies have been condemned internationally, further politically isolating Afghanistan at a time of humanitarian crisis, but the Taliban has been clear that they would not concede or make any changes to their brutal restrictions against women and the Afghan people. 


NPR 07/05/2023; AP 07/04/2023

Facing Restrictions on Freedom and Rights, Afghanistan Ranks as the Unhappiest Country in the World

Afghanistan ranks as the unhappiest country in the world another year in a row, in the latest annual Gallup World Happiness Report. The report specifically noted that life for people in Afghanistan one year after the Taliban rose to power has declined. Gallup surveyed adults in 142 countries and areas in 2022 about different negative experiences they had on that day. Negative experiences varied from worry, stress, physical pain, sadness and anger – all of which were at a record high. 

Afghanistan has ranked as the unhappiest in the world since 2017 (with a hiatus in 2020 when surveys were not conducted). The country’s score in 2022 was 34 which is “the lowest in the world.” Even before the Taliban rose to power, the positive daily experiences in Afghanistan were low, but any positive emotions “largely disappeared from Afghanistan in 2021 – and did not return in 2022.” Afghans reported record lows of feeling enjoyment, learning something interesting, or feeling well rested – all measures of happiness. The Taliban has placed heavy restrictions on many freedoms and rights. 

Afghan women who were forced to stop working and became unemployed after the Taliban barred women from the workplace continue their calls on the Taliban to remove these restrictions immediately. Over the past two years, the Taliban has issued over 100 edicts against Afghan women and girls, including preventing them from going to work and school. Women emphasized the importance of providing work for women as a government responsibility for the de facto authorities.

Masoda, a woman who worked to support her family, stated that “knowledge and work are the basic right of every person.” Human rights have no cultural or geographic boundaries, they are universal. She added that many breadwinners in Afghanistan are women who don’t have brothers and fathers, and that the government should provide the opportunity to work instead of depriving them.

Sema, an employee of an organization, urged the Taliban to end the ban on work for girls and women which would allow them to participate in Afghanistan’s society and help it develop. In response, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman claimed that “work is underway” to let women return to work as long as there is conflict with Sharia law. 

UNICEF expressed concern about international organizations not being allowed to operate in Afghanistan, which will affect the education of 500,000 children, including over 300,000 girls. It said “every child has the right to learn” and that Afghanistan will “lose out on quality learning through community-based education” if intergovernmental organizations are no longer allowed to work.

A women’s rights activist said “such suspension of (NGO) operations will damage the education of Afghanistan and the Afghan children will be vulnerable.” Under the current Taliban regime, Afghanistan is facing its worst humanitarian crisis and women are being denied critical rights. Millions of people are affected by economic challenges and acute starvation. 


World Happiness Report; ANI 06/29/2023


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