In yet another attempt to enforce its brutal system of gender apartheid, the Taliban militia ordered the United Nations to close down bakeries run by Afghan women in Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul. The bakeries employ a number of Afghan women and provide bread at subsidized prices for 7,000 of Kabul’s poorest women and their families. When the Taliban militia took power in Kabul in 1996, they banned all women from working, forcing widows to rely on begging and charity in order to survive. Only a few women are allowed to work in the health and state sectors, and the UN had hoped that Kabul’s bakeries would be exempt from a recent edict forbidding Afghan women from working for relief and aid organizations.
The closing of the bakeries will affect women who were employed in the bakeries, as well as widows who relied on the subsidized bread for survival. Currently, there are tens of thousands of widows in Kabul as a result of two decades of war, many of whom are not sure what they will do now that bread is no longer available. This new decree comes at a particularly difficult time as the drought in Afghanistan is causing many Afghans to face extreme hunger. Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal stated, “we condemn the Taliban’s latest atrocity denying women their livelihood as well as denying food to a nation that is literally starving to death.”
Since 1996, when the Taliban militia took control of Kabul, women in areas under Taliban rule have been oppressed by a strict system of gender apartheid, under which they have been stripped of their visibility, voice and mobility. The edicts imposed by the Taliban, which have been brutally enforced, banished most women from the work force, closed schools to girls in cities and expelled women from universities, and prohibited women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan works to fully and permanently restore the human rights of Afghan women and girls.