Women Rights in Afghanistan: From miniskirts to Burqa
Photograph: Laurence BRUN/RAPHO Women in burqas, Kabul, November 1996. (Seamus Murphy VII Network/GlobalPost)
There was once a period of advantages for the situation of Afghan women in terms of education, work, and politics. Now, women can barely leave their houses without a male escort.
Afghan women used to be great advocates of equal political rights and justice in the government in the 1970s. Women in this period had achieved plenty in terms of education, there were women actively working different and high positioned jobs. In terms of the role of women in politics, women were greatly encouraged to work as members of the parliament and women had the right to vote.
As the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan by the end of the ’70s and spread more of the communist regime, the religious people of Afghanistan were outraged, and rebellion arose against the government of Afghanistan. The resistance that the Soviet Union faced was from a group of people called the “Mujahideen”, or Islamic guerillas supported and funded by the United States. After the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan by the end of the 1980s, the nation dove into a condition of vicious power battles. A wide range of groups, especially the Mujahideen, were battling for power and a civil war began. As a result of this civil war and the conflict before that with the Soviet Union, women and children became the main victims. Due to the lack of security and safety, not only did the women of Afghanistan lose their equality but also worse. The rights of women were completely ignored and women were violently and extremely abused whether it was sexually, physically, or mentally. Women were prohibited to be granted the rights that they had fought for in the previous decades, and all the development of their rights began to collapse.
The Taliban was another extreme radical group formed based on the same foundation as the Mujahideen that took over Afghanistan in 1996. This is a period where women were not only denied their right to education and work but also had to be hidden from public spaces. Women were extremely controlled and seen as inferior individuals in society. A huge number of cases of violence against women and traditions of harassing women in educational and social places can be observed. This violence and harassment caused women to be still afraid of freely living, being granted an education, or being treated as equals. Throughout these decades of war, Afghanistan was hurt tremendously from an economic and social
perspective, but most significantly, women lost and suffered the most. From 2001 to 2021; Afghanistan was trying to get back on its feet and there were some improvements being accomplished in terms of women’s rights and women’s education. However, it did not last long.
Today, the 15th of August marks the one year since the Taliban took control of the Afghan government again. The world was shocked by the events that unfolded in the chaos of the days following the Taliban victory and the most difficult and terrifying situation that everyone was constantly worried about was, what is going to happen to the woman in Afghanistan. – Women’s faces were painted over in the beauty salons and women were getting ready to hide and burn their diplomas and school certificates so that the Taliban would not execute them or punish them for having an education. Several months after that, little girls still had hoped to go back to school but were returned crying after being told they were not allowed anymore. Eventually, this is how women in Afghanistan went from achieving plenty in terms of education, and actively working different and high positioned jobs to hiding themselves for they too, have become afraid of their own existence. This is the story of how women went from wearing miniskirts to wearing Burqas.