“All I Could See Around Me Were the Scared Faces of Women” | What the Taliban Takeover Means for Afghan Women and Girls

“All I Could See Around Me Were the Scared Faces of Women” | What the Taliban Takeover Means for Afghan Women and Girls

In the 20 years since the Taliban was removed from power in 2001, a lot of minor developments were made, but it seems like it is all set to go back to square one.

Cover Image Source: Getty images

Trigger Warning: This story contains details of abuse and assault that may be disturbing to readers. 

On August 15, 2021, Afghanistan's capital city Kabul, was taken over by the Taliban, twenty years after they were removed from power in a U.S.-led invasion, reports NPR. Within hours, Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan's Washington-backed president fled the country, taking to social media to share that his decision to leave, though it was "a hard choice," was made to prevent bloodshed. 


In April this year, months before the takeover, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered all American troops out of Afghanistan by 11 September—on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers—for which he is now facing criticism, reports BBC.



Biden made his first public remarks on Afghanistan on August 16, 2021, to say that American troops being withdrawn was the right decision. "If anything, the developments of the past week reinforce that ending US military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision," said  Biden. "American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves."


While the situation is grim, this humanitarian crisis is particularly dangerous for the country’s 14 million women and girls, states NBC News.



The New York Times reports that the period from 1996-2001 was a bleak one for women when the Taliban previously ruled Afghanistan. All the improvements made in the 20 years since will most likely go back to square one. “Huge amounts of work has been done in women’s rights, education and political participation. I think we’re back to square one and that is very alarming,” said Yasmeen Hassan, executive director of human rights organization Equality Now.


But, Taliban officials are trying to reassure women that things will be different this time. In a news conference, a Taliban spokesman said that women would be allowed to work and study. Another Taliban official said that women should participate in government. “We assure that there will be no violence against women,” the spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said. “No prejudice against women will be allowed, but the Islamic values are our framework.”



Despite the assurance, some women in some provinces have been told not to leave the home without a male relative escorting them. One bank in the southern city of Kandahar saw Taliban gunmen escorting female employees from their jobs, telling them their male relatives could take their place, states Harper's Bazaar.


Per NBC News, one of Afghanistan's first female mayors said that she is now waiting for the Taliban to come and kill her. "I'm sitting here waiting for them to come. There is no one to help me or my family. I'm just sitting with them and my husband. And they will come for people like me and kill me," Zarifa Ghafari said. "I can't leave my family. And anyway, where would I go?"


A university student shared a first-hand experience of what exactly is happening in Kabul since the Taliban took over the capital, via The Guardian. She was informed by a classmate that "they will beat women who do not have a burqa." Though they wanted to go home, they were unable to use public transport, because men were afraid of transporting women.

She went on to write about the scenes of terror unfolding there. "Meanwhile, the men standing around were making fun of girls and women, laughing at our terror. 'Go and put on your chadari [burqa],' one called out. 'It is your last days of being out on the streets,' said another. 'I will marry four of you in one day,' said a third."


"All I could see around me were the fearful and scared faces of women and ugly faces of men who hate women, who do not like women to get educated, work and have freedom." She then spoke about what the takeover meant to her, as a woman.

"As a woman, I feel like I am the victim of this political war that men started. I felt like I can no longer laugh out loud, I can no longer listen to my favourite songs, I can no longer meet my friends in our favourite cafe, I can no longer wear my favourite yellow dress or pink lipstick. And I can no longer go to my job or finish the university degree that I worked for years to achieve."


The scared woman shared that it looks like she will "have to burn everything I achieved in 24 years of my life."

"I did not expect that we would be deprived of all our basic rights again and travel back to 20 years ago. That after 20 years of fighting for our rights and freedom, we should be hunting for burqas and hiding our identity," she added.


In such a situation, the least we can do is help, and share their plight. International Rescue Committee, Amnesty International UK, Women for Women International, and Relief International are some of the organizations and charities committed to aiding Afghan refugees and female empowerment in the region.









Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Paula Bronstein

Disclaimer : This is based on sources and we have been unable to verify this information independently.