How did Afghan women gain and lose rights before and after the Taliban?
What is life like for Afghan women now and how did it use to be before the Taliban? When militants seized Afghanistan in August 2021, they promised to respect women’s rights ‘within the limits of Islamic law’. The current reality there is grim: a strict Islamic dress code has been imposed, classrooms have been segregated by gender, and women have been told to stay home.
During the Taliban’s previous reign between 1996 and 2001, Afghan women were excluded from education, work, government, sports, and public places. Women had to observe a strict dress code, covering themselves from head to toe. Draconian punishments were widespread: women were flogged, stoned, and executed in public for violating the terrorist group's rules.
Yet, Afghanistan had made significant strides in women’s rights long before the Taliban appeared. In the 1920s, the country’s first queen consort, Soraya Tarzi, shocked the conservative society with her open-arm dresses and public appearances with King Amanullah Khan. By mid-century, women were wearing Western attire and embracing new opportunities in education and the workplace. During the Communist era, women actively participated in government, policing, business, and education.
Check out the up-and-down history of women’s rights in Afghanistan and find out how the country went from a Golden Age to the Stone Age of Taliban rule. This new episode of InfoBites also looks closer at what Sharia law is and the Taliban’s interpretation of it.