Afghan Women and Schools Lead the Way in Modern History
By: Fatemah Uzgun Nusrat and Younus Negah
The two main protagonists of Afghanistan’s contemporary history are women and schools. Political forces, foreign powers, and movements have made their stance clear by engaging with education and women. Some have constructed schools in an effort to demonstrate their desire for change, while others have set them alight in opposition to transformation. Some have provided special amenities for women, so as to enable them to make up for lost opportunities through education. Conversely, others have implemented unprecedented discrimination against women and compelled teachers to abandon their duties and their homeland in order to impede any positive transformation.
Throughout this text, many parallel stories have been presented. The last hundred years have seen the heroism of women in farms, families, and markets. In villages and communities where education is scarce, the issue of women’s rights has been a major topic of discussion, as women have been oppressed, fought against oppression, and endured deprivation. Now, as we transition into an era where the quality of government is the primary concern, individual freedoms have become the focus of contention. To commemorate International Women’s Day and recognize the efforts of Afghan women to establish a democratic system, we can look back on the shared history of women and education in this century.
A Boat in the Storm
For the past one hundred years, Afghanistan has been like a boat in a turbulent sea, with waves that have often swallowed the ship, its captain, and its passengers, plunging them into the depths of despair. The effects of these waves can be seen most clearly in the academic lives of women in urban areas. In 1919, following the assassination of Habibullah Khan (February 20, 1919), a group of politicians aiming for modernization came to power in Afghanistan. Habibullah Khan had founded the Habibia School in 1903, which was initially a boys’ school, but its construction marked the beginning of a wave that first swept through Kabul, then other cities, and eventually the whole of Afghanistan. This allowed girls to attend school, universities, and the workplace, and to gain access to power, wealth, and positions that had previously been the exclusive domain of men. Unfortunately, this struggle is still ongoing, as even today, as we write this article, women and girls are being denied access to education in the vicinity of Habibia High School. They are not allowed to travel long distances without a male guardian, are not permitted to work or have fun, and are confined to their homes.
In Afghanistan, the driving force of education was propelled by the winds of change from all directions. During the Habibullah Khan era, the leader and director of education was an Indian intellectual named Abdul Ghani. The ringing of the bell of the Habibia school can be seen as the official declaration of the clash between progressives and conservatives. Those who had been educated in traditional schools and had attained positions of power felt threatened by this.
Abdul Ghani reported that the Habibia School and the elementary schools constructed during that period were received more positively than anticipated and developed quickly. This astonished the local authorities and caused envy. This provoked the adversaries of modern education to imprison Abdul Ghani and many others. Abdul Ghani wrote that seven of the Afghans who had supported him in the advancement of education were immediately executed and the remaining sixty were incarcerated. The conservatives instilled in Habibullah Khan the belief that Abdul Ghani and his companions were plotting to overthrow his monarchy and establish a constitutional government with Abdul Ghani as the leader (p. 66, Ghani).
Following Habibullah Khan, the divide between conservatism and progressivism intensified as the modernists sought to implement liberal reforms, such as guaranteeing equal educational opportunities for both boys and girls, property rights, freedom of the press, and other civil liberties. (Fatima Jafari, p. 69).
Amanullah Khan, who reigned from 1919 to 1929, was the leader of these reformers and implemented fundamental reforms to modernize the nation. He was married to an educated woman named Soraya, in contrast to his predecessor and father who had “more than a hundred wives with dozens of illegitimate children”. He was opposed to polygamy.
Women Entered the Arena
Queen Soraya, otherwise known as Soraya Tarzi, was a trailblazer in advocating for women’s liberation. She was born in Syria and was educated by her father, Mahmoud Tarzi. Soraya attended social events with her husband and was present at some meetings of the king’s cabinet.
King Amanullah openly advocated for women’s liberation and the promotion of girls’ education. Queen Soraya, a member of the royal family, served as a role model for this change. She founded Ershad-e-Niswan, the first women’s magazine, and Anjuman-e-Himayat-e-Niswan, the first women’s organization in Afghanistan, to support the social role of women and defend their rights. Kobra, Amanullah’s sister, led this organization and provided women with a platform and authority to express their desires. The Anjuman-e-Himayat-e-Niswan fought for women’s rights and freedoms, including the right to education, the right to work and rest, the right to individual liberty, immunity, freedom of speech, assembly, political and civil activities, and foreign travel (Hamidullah Bamik, 2018).
Meanwhile, Queen Soraya established the Mastorat School in 1920, the first girls’ school, the first women’s cinema in Paghman, and the Mastorat Hospital in 1924, the first women’s health center (Reddy, 2014).
In 1927-1928, Soraya and her husband Amanullah traveled to Europe. Upon his return from Europe, Amanullah convened a Loya Jirga to gain the support of influential people for his reform plans. At the Jirga, Amanullah advocated for women’s rights to education, asserting that Islam does not require women to cover their bodies or wear full clothing. Consequently, he asked his wife to remove her hijab. At the conclusion of Shah’s speech, Queen Soraya removed her hijab in public, and the wives of other officials attending the Jirga followed suit. The conservatives objected to the veiling of women, but they did not express this objection with the necessary gravity during the Jirga. Instead, after returning from the meeting, they began to stir up public opinion. It is said that British spies were blamed for inciting public sentiment against Amani’s reforms, and they are said to have circulated collaged photos of Queen Soraya with real photos taken on a trip to Europe showing her with Western men, using it as a tool for opponents of the government.
At the time, Amanullah Khan’s hasty and formal reforms were not only criticized by conservatives, but also by his own friends who desired the country’s improvement. Subsequently, progressive analysts and historians such as Ghulam Muhammad Ghobar attributed the failure of the progressive movement to the Shah (king), who had supported the reforms, due to his impulsive actions and disregard for the advice of experts. Ghobar wrote that “upon the Shah’s return from his trip to Europe, he had become very self-righteous, selfish, and proud, and his hasty actions had made Afghanistan vulnerable to a negative revolution. The old castle no longer existed, and luxury and fashion had replaced simplicity and traditional clothing. Partying had become rampant, and positive reform had been mixed with harmful and childish actions. In the implementation of this ideal, the king was unaware of the firmness and desires of the people, as well as economic difficulties and the life of the nation.” (The First Volume of Afghanistan in the Course of History p. 812).
Ghobar provided an example of Shah’s disregard for the opinions of ideologues and progressives from his discussion with Abdul Rahman Khan Ludin at the Chaman Store meeting in Kabul. When Abdul Rahman Khan suggested that His Majesty should accept the revolution in the government system, as it had been ten years since His Highness had taken on the role of Prime Chancellor, the Shah refused and the following day summoned Abdul Rahman Khan to Dilgusha Palace and commanded him to resign from his government mission (The First Volume of Afghanistan in the Course of History p. 812).
According to Ghobar, the Shah subsequently removed potential supporters such as Mahmoud Tarzi from the ministry, dismissed Mohammad Wali Khan from the cabinet, saw Abdul Hadi Dawi, the Minister of Trade, resign, banished Mirqasem Khan Rashti from the critical affairs of the government, and sent some detectives of the country out of Afghanistan as ambassadors.
In November 1928, a significant revolt against Amanullah’s reforms began, with the Shinwari tribes laying siege to the city of Jalalabad. The rebels issued ten declarations, five of which were critical of Amanullah’s policies concerning women’s rights and status. The rebellion quickly spread, and Habibullah Allah Kalakani (February-August 1929) assumed power. During Kalakani’s brief reign, chaos ensued; schools were shut down, and domestic and foreign trade, agriculture, and industry all suffered.
In 1929-1933, Nader Shah overthrew the Kalakani government. He targeted reformist intellectuals and attempted to eliminate them, banning all women’s schools, organizations, and institutions, including Ershad-e-Niswan, the only publication for women. Nader Shah’s government repatriated students from Turkey and imposed hijab on women. On November 8, 1933, Abdul Khaliq, a 17-year-old student of Nejat High School (Amani High School), assassinated Nader Shah during a ceremony at the Arg during the awarding ceremony. This murder was the reaction of elites who supported liberal reforms. The two opposing forces continued to clash, and according to Ghobar, the assassination of Nader Shah had a profound effect on the future administration of Afghanistan. Despotism and conservatism persisted for many years, and Zahir Shah (1973-1933), the son and successor of Nader Shah, gradually allowed reforms, as a result of which women re-emerged in the fields of education and work in a remarkable manner.
The 1964 Constitution was a major accomplishment for human rights advocates and women’s rights activists. Following the adoption of the 1964 Constitution, Zahir Shah ruled for an additional ten years, which is now referred to as the Decade of Democracy. The accomplishments of this decade have had a profound effect on war and peace since then, and Anna Larson has stated that “Afghanistan’s Constitution, which was formed during the post-Taliban period, was constructed based on the 1964 Constitution of Zahir Shah’s democracy era.” Therefore, it would be inaccurate to assume that the post-Taliban process had no national foundation and was solely a foreign initiative. Many institutions that emerged during the formation of post-Taliban Afghanistan were either the continuation or development of the older versions established within the country with the support of the reformist groups. What is the significance of this decade in the modern history of Afghanistan, and what were the accomplishments of Afghan women?
Women Re-Enter Political Arena After 10-Year Ban on Democracy
At the age of nineteen, Zahir Shah was declared king a few hours after his father’s assassination in 1933. During the early years of his reign, his uncles held power through influential chancellery institutions and ministries. From 1963 to 1953, Zahir’s cousin, Dauod Khan, was in charge of the government.
One year after Dauod Khan stepped down from the chancellery, the Shah declared reforms, such as elections and freedom of the press. Members of the royal family were not allowed to take up public office. Political activities were also relatively accepted, and social reforms were implemented, including attempts to enhance the status of women.
During the 1910s, women were granted the right to vote and take part in social and political activities. In the late 1920s, Amanullah Khan established the first National Council, and the first parliamentary elections were held in 1954. Ruqiya Habib, Anahita Ratebzad, Khadija Ahrari, and Masoumeh Esmati were among the few women who won seats in the National Council in two terms (1965-1969 and 1969-1971). Aziza Gardizi and Humira Saljuqi were appointed as members of the Senate. In 1967, Kobra Noorzai became the first woman to enter the cabinet, and Shafiqa Ziai was the second female minister to be allowed to join the Council of Ministers.
In summary, the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan brought about significant changes. Elections were held with relative freedom, and the National Council was opened to women and other disadvantaged groups. The civil and political rights of individuals were enshrined in law, and the freedom of women was no longer a taboo. Women’s organizations, such as the Women’s Welfare Democratic Women’s Organization of Afghanistan (DOAW), worked to facilitate women’s participation in politics, social, and economic spheres, thus helping to strengthen their position in Afghan society. Although a few women from the royal family had taken steps in this field by forming schools, publications, and social institutions during the time of Amanullah Khan, it was during the decade of democracy that women’s rights activists began to make their presence felt in large numbers from within the community.
Women actively defended their rights against conservatives and were members of progressive organizations and political movements. In 1964, a group of conservative members of the House of the People of Afghanistan attempted to pass a law prohibiting Afghan girls from studying abroad, but were forced to withdraw their proposal after facing serious protests from progressive men and women. These conflicts intensified over time, with fundamentalists organizing movements against reform. In 1970, members of the Muslim Youth Organization began shooting at women and girls wearing short dresses and throwing acid at some of them. This caused the horizon of women’s rights to darken, and in 1973 a long period of chaos began. That year, while Zahir Shah was in Europe, his cousin Dauod Khan announced his ‘Republic Government’ through a white coup.
Dauod Khan’s ‘Republic’
Dauod Khan, self-proclaimed as the president, implemented stringent regulations on the political adversaries of the government, thus making his absolute republic much more authoritarian than the constitutional monarchy of Zahir Shah.
He was opposed to Zahir Shah’s constitutional parliamentary system, believing it to be the cause of slow progress. As a result, he abolished the 1964 constitution and dissolved the parliament, restricting political freedoms in order to promote economic and infrastructure developments. This action provoked the ire of the opposition forces, who resorted to violent approaches. Despite this, the growth of schools and universities continued, and women were not limited in their presence in social life. However, there was no longer a dynamic atmosphere for political movements. Initially, his foreign policy leaned towards the Soviet Union, which angered religious fundamentalists. Later, he attempted to reduce his dependence on the Soviet Union and visited the heads of allied Western governments in the Middle East to announce a pro-Western foreign policy and gain their support. This displeased Moscow and caused a rift between Daoud and the powerful pro-Soviet People’s Party. Daoud had ultimately alienated the leftists, liberals, and conservatives. On April 28, 1978, the pro-Moscow leftists revolted against Daoud Khan’s Republic, resulting in his death and the deaths of many members of his family.
Despite his inclination towards tyranny, Dauod Khan was progressive and worked towards social, economic, and cultural advancement. During his tenure as Prime Minister (1963-1953), the first Afghan woman’s voice was broadcast on the radio. In 1959, he commanded the women attending the Independence Day ceremony to appear without a burqa. Additionally, he established the first midwifery school.
Caught in Two Extremisms
Dauod Khan’s four-year and nine-month rule ended in bloodshed, and, following the Amanullah Khan regime, the country was once again divided into two extremist factions. Moderates were suppressed and religious extremists strongly opposed the presence of women in public. Both sides resorted to violence, and shortly after the coup of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, two extremist currents (right and left) began a bloody conflict. This war lasted for several decades, causing countless deaths and forcing millions of people to flee their homes and homeland.
On October 18, 1978, approximately five months after the coup, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan issued Decree No. 7, which shocked the conservative and religious fundamentalists of Afghan Society. This law was intended to ensure “equality of rights of women and men” and to eliminate unfair patriarchal feudal relationships between husband and wife “for the sake of stronger family relations.” The most controversial aspects of this decree were Articles Three and Five. Article Three stated that “the daughter or her guardian cannot receive cash or kind in the name of dowry, more than ten Sharia dirhams, which according to the silver rate in the bank does not exceed three hundred Afghani.” Article Five prohibited child marriage, stating that “engagement and marriage are not permitted for women under age 16 and men under age 18.” Article Six stipulated that offenders would be sentenced to imprisonment from six months to three years, and any cash or money collected against the provisions of Decree No. 7 would be confiscated.
The People’s Government regime’s radical policies provoked national resistance from conservatives and religious extremists. Despite this, women under the regime experienced extensive reforms in favor of their political and social participation. Unfortunately, women in rural areas and refugee camps ruled by conservative Mujahedeen and extremist groups were denied education and other fundamental rights.
Under the rule of the People’s Government regime, social freedoms expanded in the areas under its control, allowing women from different classes to benefit from the reforms. This was a stark contrast to the regime of Zahir Shah and Dauod Khan, which only allowed women from noble and wealthy families to use the rights stipulated in the laws. However, the People’s Government regime was unable to implement reforms throughout the entire country.
In Kabul and other major cities, the urban population welcomed certain aspects of the reforms. Women’s presence in the social and political spheres increased significantly, with figures such as Anahita Ratebzad, Masouma Esmati Wardak, and Saleha Farooq Etimadi holding prominent positions during the regime. A large number of urban women were members of the political, social, and military organizations of the People’s Government and Flag. One of the most well-known of these organizations was DOAW, which had thousands of members. According to statistics from the time, approximately 15,000 people were members of DOAW. The organization’s purpose was to provide welfare to Afghan women and to implement literacy and vocational training programs for them (Wimplman, 2015).
In 1991, the final year of the People’s Government, approximately 7,000 women were enrolled in universities and 23,000 girls in schools. There were approximately 190 female professors teaching in universities and 22,000 teachers in schools (Eksir and Others, 2017).
On the other hand, jihadists were burning schools, killing teachers, and denouncing women’s rights to education, work, and property as un-Islamic practices, claiming that they were part of a conspiracy by communists and pro-Western liberals to destroy Afghanistan’s cultural, religious, and social foundations. Various conservative factions and religious extremists fought against the Soviet-affiliated People’s Government. A leftist minority, a section of pro-democracy and liberal activists who opposed the occupation of the Soviet Union, but supported the social and political participation of women and other civic values, were under pressure from both sides of the war and faced threats, torture, and killings. Consequently, many chose to remain in seclusion and silence inside the country under the rule of the People’s Government. Some sought refuge in neighboring countries and the Western world, and only a few continued to fight politically inside the country despite the restrictions. Many women continued to fight for justice as individuals or organizations. Meena Keshwar Kamal (1987-1956), the founder of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), supported the resistance against the occupation and defended women’s rights and democratic society. She was assassinated in Quetta, Pakistan, on February 4, 1987, in a conspiracy that her followers claimed was orchestrated by the People’s Government’s intelligence and fundamentalist accomplices.
On April 5, the People’s Government was overthrown and jihadist parties gained control of Kabul. The jihadist factions were unable to come to a consensus on how to exercise authority, leading to a devastating civil war that ended with the Taliban’s conquest of Kabul in September. As a result, women were deprived of their basic rights during the Mujahedeen’s rule.
In 2008, the Taliban gained control of Kandahar and, two years later, they had taken over Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Under their rule, girls’ schools, political organizations, music, and dance were all banned. According to Fatima Jafari, women in the first Taliban government experienced the most extreme and unjust treatment, and were denied basic rights such as education, ownership, freedom of movement, and even the right to go to the market (Jafari).
In August, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, issued a decree concerning women’s rights in regards to marriage and family affairs. This decree prohibited the forced marriage of girls as “peacemakers” to end hostility between two families or tribes. Additionally, it stated that a wife could choose another husband after the death of her husband. However, the decree did not address women’s rights to education, labor, ownership, and other civil and political rights (Official Journal, No. 788, p. 76).
The Taliban’s imposition of backwardness on Afghanistan was far-reaching and profound. Compared to the decade of democracy, the Dauod Khan era, and the People’s government, the country had changed drastically, creating a stark contrast between the two stages of Afghanistan’s history. The Taliban group had imposed restrictions on universities and schools and sought to erase the progress of past decades. The oppression of women was particularly severe; for instance, in October, the Taliban cut off a woman’s thumb for wearing nail polish. In December 1996, they arrested and punished 225 women for violating religious laws. In 1999, Zarmina, a mother of five children, was executed in the Ghazi Studio in Kabul in front of 30,000 spectators, her released photos shocking the world and becoming a symbol of the suffering of women under the Taliban system.
In October 2001, a coalition led by the United States invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban government in December 2001, resulting in a dramatic shift in the country’s political and social landscape. This presented Afghanistan with a promising future full of potential and opportunity. However, the people failed to take the necessary steps to ensure the security of their homeland.
20 Years of the Islamic Republic
Two years after the Taliban had been overthrown, the Loya Jirga approved the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on January 4, 2004, which was officially declared on January 26 of the same year. This was the sixth constitution to be introduced since Amanullah Khan had first established one in 1923. This new document was in line with the “establishment of a permanent government” as outlined in the Bonn Agreement of December 5, 2001. The Constitution recognized the rights of women, with Article 6 obliging the government to create a “prosperous and progressive society based on social justice, preservation of human dignity, protection of human rights, the realization of democracy… and balanced development.” Article 7 stated that the government would respect the United Nations Charter, international treaties, international covenants to which Afghanistan had joined, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 22 declared that “any kind of discrimination and privilege between Afghan nationals is prohibited,” thus granting men and women equal rights and obligations. Articles 43 and 44 guaranteed women’s right to education, while Article 83 stipulated that at least 27% of the seats in the House of the People of Afghanistan should be reserved for female representatives.
In the subsequent years, various laws and regulations were passed to ensure women’s rights, some of which were contested by conservative members of the council. The law prohibiting violence against women was not ratified in parliament. Nevertheless, the president issued a decree on July 20, 2009, which declared 22 cases of violence against women, including underage marriage, forced isolation, denying the right to education and work, and access to health services, to be illegal.
The desire for change among the urban middle class and other individuals and families who had become accustomed to different environments during migration and had since returned to their homeland with more open minds brought about progress, particularly in terms of the political and social participation of women. In 2004, for the first time, a woman (Masouda Jalal) was nominated for the presidential election, coming in sixth out of seventeen male candidates. Schools and universities opened their doors to both male and female students across the country, and the number of students increased from 900,000 in 2001 to more than 9.5 million in 2020, with 39% of them being girls. Women’s presence gradually increased in offices, sports fields, educational centers, factories, and markets. According to the World Bank report, in 2014, women constituted 16.1% of the Afghan labor force. Many women held positions as ministers, deputy ministers, army officers, governors, district, sports champions, diplomats, parliamentarians, and university professors.
Despite the challenges, Afghan women have had to face in a conservative society, the path to success has been difficult. Discrimination, harassment, violence, and a variety of cultural, institutional, traditional, and legal obstacles have all been obstacles to overcome. Unfortunately, these developments have not been balanced or comprehensive, with parts of Afghanistan still suffering due to the war and the presence of the Taliban. Honor killings, forced marriages, and family violence remain high, with 240 cases of honor killings recorded in 2012, perpetrated by husbands, brothers, fathers, and other relatives.
The tragic murder of Farkhunda Malekzadah, a 27-year-old woman, on March 19, 2015, sent shockwaves throughout Afghanistan and the world. Farkhunda was stoned and killed by a group of boys and men near the shrine of Shah Du Shamshira, a few kilometers from the presidential palace. The perpetrators falsely accused her of burning the Quran, which was later disproved. Research showed that she was a religious teacher who had been in an argument with Mullah Zain al-Din, who was known for writing amulets. After debating the morality of writing charms with Farkhunda, he excommunicated her and incited ignorant youths and bigoted men against her. Farkhunda’s murder marked a tragic end to another chapter in Afghans’ efforts to modernize their country.
On August 15, 2021, the Taliban re-established control of the country, abolishing the 2004 constitution and establishing their own emirate. Women and schools were used as propaganda tools by terrorists and those opposed to modernity. In the last years of the Islamic Republic, Afghanistan had become a place of slaughter for scholars, women, and those who defended democracy.
Back to the Taliban Emirate
In February 2020, the United States of America signed an accord with the Taliban in Doha (Qatar). As per the agreement, the US-led coalition forces would withdraw from Afghanistan. In exchange, the Taliban promised that Afghan soil would not be used against the security of the United States and its allies. During the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces escalated, and the insurgents began a major offensive in May 2021, taking control of large parts of the country. On August 15, they seized control of Kabul. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the country, and the world was shocked by the images of people rushing to the Kabul airport.
The Taliban have revoked almost all civil and political rights of the people, particularly women. This caused protests both within and outside of Afghanistan. On August 17, 2021, a few days after the Taliban’s return, small groups of women gathered in Kabul to demand equal rights. The Taliban disregarded the protests and increased the restrictions against women, banning high schools and universities and prohibiting female employees from returning to their workplaces. On August 24, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters that women should stay home until proper systems are in place, claiming the measure would be temporary. However, on September 10, 1998, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada issued a decree on women’s rights similar to Mullah Omar’s, which limited women’s right to choose a husband, receive a dowry from her husband, and have the right to inherit. No mention was made of women’s property rights, education, politics, or work. This decree, which falsely claims to protect women’s rights, is nothing more than another form of misogyny. It is as if Hibatullah is outlining the conditions for the division of women between men, such as marrying adult girls with their consent, not abusing women, marrying widows, giving widows an inheritance, and in the case of polygamy, being just.
Following this, the Taliban systematically excluded women from society, even going so far as to forbid them from using the restroom. On January 29, the BBC Persian website published a comprehensive list of the Taliban’s orders and actions that have been used to impose restrictions on women for nearly eighteen months. The BBC divided these decrees and actions into four categories: excluding women from politics, excluding women from public spaces, excluding women from education, and depriving women of the right to work.
To review the dark times of Afghanistan, here are some accounts of oppressive orders and measures:
- In September 2021, the male-dominated cabinet of the Taliban was announced, initiating a series of official measures to exclude women.
- On September 8th, 2021, the Taliban’s Ministry of Interior released a statement in response to the women’s protests, declaring that demonstrations are not allowed without the approval of the Taliban’s security forces. Just one day prior, three people were killed and seven were injured in Herat city during the shooting of women who were protesting.
- On September 19, 2021, the female employees of Kabul Municipality were informed that they would only be allowed to continue their employment if their husbands were not employed.
- From the outset, music was prohibited and images and videos of musicians being humiliated and musical instruments being destroyed were disseminated. During the initial month of Taliban rule, all music centers and establishments were shut down.
- On September 8, 2021, Ahmadullah Wasiq, Deputy Minister of Information and Culture of the Taliban, declared that women‘s sports are “inappropriate and unnecessary“.
- On September 12, 2021, the Taliban‘s Ministry of Higher Education informed the BBC that they are implementing gender segregation between male and female students in all universities. As a result, they have divided classes and school days for boys and girls.
- The Ministry of Women was dissolved on September 17, and its name was changed to the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
- On September 17, 2021, secondary and high school girls were prohibited from attending school. It was anticipated that secondary and high schools would resume the following year. Consequently, the girls returned to their schools on March 22, 2022, but the Taliban refused to allow them to stay.
- In November 2021, it was prohibited for women to appear on television programs, and female reporters were mandated to cover their faces entirely.
- On December 26, 2021, it was announced that restrictions had been placed on women‘s travel, stipulating that women were not permitted to travel long distances without the accompaniment of their fathers, brothers, husbands, or sons.
- On February 22, 2022, it was prohibited for women to travel abroad without a mahram.
- During the initial period of Taliban rule, women‘s safe houses and shelters were subjected to violence and homeless women went missing.
- In January 2022, the Taliban began a campaign to enforce the wearing of the hijab, and on May 7 of the same year, they declared in a decree that women must cover their faces in public or their husbands would be punished.
- In May 2022, it was ordered that driving schools should not provide training to female individuals.
- In September 2022, educational institutions in Kabul and other provinces were prohibited from operating until they had hired female teachers for female students. Additionally, in the same month, girls were forbidden from attending religious classes in mosques.
- Beginning in the first week of October 2022, female students were restricted in their choice of fields of study, with agriculture, construction, and mining engineering being prohibited.
- On November 27, 2022, parks were divided into days where only men or women were allowed to appear, while women were prohibited from appearing in baths and sports clubs.
- In December 2022, female graduates were prohibited from hosting a graduation celebration outside of the university.
- On December 21, 2022, females were prohibited from pursuing higher education.
- On December 24, 2022, the Taliban prohibited female employees from working in both domestic and foreign NGOs.
With all of this in mind, the full picture of women and schools has yet to be revealed. The battle between progressives and reactionaries is far from over. Women are now standing up to defend their rights with more maturity than ever before. Over the past eighteen months, Afghan women have been the primary victims of oppression. The dawn of a new era of education and freedom is near, and this time our people will be more motivated, stronger, and better equipped to build and expand the local and sustainable foundations of development in the country. We honor International Women‘s Day on March 8th, in anticipation of a brighter future.