Two years have passed since the Taliban re-assumed power in Afghanistan, and women and girls have yet to return to work or school. Can the international justice system now come to their defense? Experts say a case for Afghan women and girls has the potential to change the way the legal community thinks about human rights abuses. Will it?
Two years ago, the then 19-year-old Somaya Faruqi and the Afghan Robotic Team travelled from Herat City to Kabul, the heart of Afghanistan—the Taliban had taken over Herat city, cutting off electricity and internet. The all-girls team’s great passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) had driven them to Kabul to rehearse for a competition.
"I had my shop in Afghanistan but came here after the Taliban's warning against stitching women's clothes. Now, I am working on daily wages in a shop owned by a local tailor master," Noor Wali, 32, told IPS.
Hundreds of young women and girls are moving to Pakistan to continue their studies after the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s education in Afghanistan.
“If I return to Afghanistan, the Taliban will kill me; I’m prepared to stay in a prison in Karachi than face those ruthless people,” said 24-year-old Afghan refugee, Sabrina Zalmai*, referring to the recent crackdown on hundreds of Afghans residing without proper documents in the metropolis, who are being arrested and then deported back to Afghanistan.
Maliha looks confident in a café in Athens as she tells the story of her journey from Afghanistan to Europe. But as she starts recounting how a smuggler assaulted her in Turkey two years ago, she pauses, looking the other way and fiddling with her loose hair.
Afghan refugees living in Pakistan face a host of problems, ranging from seeking medical treatment to shelter, business, police harassment and violence. Many of those affected have been there for four decades.
“We came here in 1979 after Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. My children and grandchildren have grown up here and they don’t want to go back to that war-ravaged country. I go there occasionally to mourn the deaths of near and dear ones,” says Muhammad Jabbar, 67, a former resident of Kabul, capital of Afghanistan.
The arrest of Afghan musicians in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan has elicited protests from local politicians, artists and rights activists who demand their release and say they should be allowed to stay as refugees.
The late-night reversal of a decision by Taliban authorities in Afghanistan to allow girls from grades 7 to 12 to return to school has been met with distress from within the country and internationally – and fear that it could herald further restrictions.
After leading a landmark, first-ever all-women mission to Afghanistan last week, Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, says that schools must reopen for all children and that girls, in particular, must be able to return to secondary school classrooms.
Secondary schools have reopened for boys but remain closed to the vast majority of girls.
Women are banned from most employment; the Taliban government added insult to injury by saying women in their employ could keep their jobs only if they were in a role a man cannot fill—such as being an attendant in a women’s toilet
. Women are mostly out of university, and due to new restrictions it is unclear when and how they can return. Many female teachers have been dismissed
Education Cannot Wait Director Yasmine Sherif urged the world to support their efforts to provide education to children living in Afghanistan – in what she called the “biggest humanitarian crisis” on earth.
“If I fall into the hands of the Taliban, not only me but my family will be killed,” said AB, 23*, who worked as a broadcast journalist for the past seven years and is a well-known face on the television screen.
While Afghanistan ends a historic year, filled with the hope for peace as the government and Taliban sat down for almost three months of consecutive peace talks for the first time in 19 years, it was also a year filled with violence with provisional statistics by the United Nations showing casualties for this year being higher than 2019.
Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the United Nations this week launched a U.N. group that aims to put women at the centre of peace initiatives in Afghanistan.
Too many children are dying as a result of explosive weapons, and the international community must step up to protect and declare children off limits in war.
"I never come here, just because of boys," Atifa says, pointing at the door of the stall. "They're opening the door." Atifa, a sixth grader in Kabul, Afghanistan, attends a school of 650 girls. Since they study in tents in a vacant lot, the only toilets the girls have access to are on the far side of the boys' school next door. The school is one of a very few for girls in the area, so some students walk over an hour each way to get there.
On Sunday, June 5, three reporters were killed: Somali broadcast journalist Sagal Salad Osman, Aghan journalist Zabihullah Tamanna, and American photojournalist David Gilkey.