Afghanistan & the current Situation
for Afghan Women

Ahmad Shah Durrani

In 1747 Ahmad Shah Durrani, a Pashtu leader, established the Durrani Afghan Empire, which is the historical foundation of modern Afghanistan. The following two centuries were marked by repeated fragmentation and reunification due to internal and foreign fights over power. In 1919 Afghanistan became free of foreign political hegemony and emerged as the Kingdom of Afghanistan. While women in Switzerland gained the right to vote only in the 1970s, Afghan women achieved it already in 1919.

Kingdom replaced by the Afghan Republic

In 1973 the kingdom was replaced by the Afghan Republic, which has been plagued by armed conflict throughout its existence. Apart from local and regional actors, such as the Mujahideen, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and a branch of the Islamic State, also international players, like the Soviet Union or the U.S. and its allies, had a major impact on its youngest history.

After more than twenty years, the U.S. decided to pull out its troops in 2021, causing the withdrawal of all of the international forces without establishing any stabilization mechanisms. This resulted in the overtook of Afghanistan by the Taliban starting in August the same year, until September when the Taliban announced that they have taken control of the whole country. After the complete takeover, Afghanistan´s economic situation declined rapidly, whereas poverty, inflation, hunger and malnutrition increased and the health system completely collapsed. According to estimates by the UN 28.3 Million people, two thirds of the Afghan population, will need external support in 2023 due to the decades of war, economic collapse and natural disasters, like floodings and draughts.

Taliban Invasion

Soon after their takeover, the Taliban declared that they will protect the rights of women according to Islamic law, which allows them to work, enjoy education and play an active role in society. Despite their promise, they restricted step by step the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. In public they have to cover their whole bodies and need to be accompanied by a male guardian, while they are not allowed to enter public parks or fitness studios. Despite some jobs such as working in courts, NGOs or for the UN, women are formally not restricted to work in general, but the requirement of not being in public and to be accompanied by a male guardian at all times, makes it almost impossible for them to continue working. The exclusion of female perspectives and know-how from the public and humanitarian or development organizations reduces furthermore the quality of aid and support services, as projects are not able to take their needs into account. That actually means that the most vulnerable are not able to access and receive adequate support.

The loss of financial income from women's work leads to increasing poverty of families, which can result in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as domestic violence and forced marriage. Soraya Sobrahg, an Afghan women´s rights activist, describes this circumstance as followed: “Many young girls face forced marriage as the famine ravaging Afghanistan drives people to despair - they sell their daughters in hopes of at least saving the rest of their family from starvation."

Education Ban

In December 2022 the so called “education ban” came into force. It prohibits university education for women. Secondary education for girls is in the meantime also suspended, as girls are not allowed to be taught by or together with males. But even some girls schools are shut down, as the Taliban say they need to develop a new curriculum for girls only. Therefore it can be stated that secondary education is de facto also not allowed for girls.

The discrimination and exclusion of women and girls in Afghanistan under the Taliban´s regime have an economic, social, physical and psychological impact on them. This amplifies their vulnerability and weakens their capacity to deal with difficulties and catastrophes. Their empowerment and support is therefore a major obstacle in order to target their needs and build up Afghanistan.