Afghanistan is a country in which women and girls have paid the price of war and conflict. During the last two decades women and girls in my country have fought for their rights to education, political participation, equality, access to social and economic rights. We have fought for our ability to become who we want to be, and lead dignified and fulfilled lives.
And we had made notable progress. Progress which, in the blink of an eye, was taken from us.
In 2001 Afghanistan became a land of possibility for me and girls in my generation who wished to hold a pen and notebook and go to school. After the fall of first regime of the Taliban and the end of civil war, the white scarf and black dresses of girl’s school uniforms became a symbol of peace and hope. Despite countless challenges, in the two decades that followed, Afghan women secured 69 out of 249 seats in parliament. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and an independent human rights commission were established and led by women, and a law criminalizing gender-based violence was passed and being implemented. By August 2021 the number of women in higher education increased almost 20-fold, from 5000 to 100,000 students. More than 35% of services were delivered by women led non-governmental organizations across the country. There were 4984 women across the Afghan Security Forces.
For me, as a young girl, the participation of women in different sectors showed possibilities and gave hope.
But on 15 of August 2021 that hope collapsed and the lives or so many women and girls in Afghanistan changed completely. The Doha agreement was supposed to bring peace to my country. It did the opposite. It brought a drastic regression of rights and freedoms. And, as so many Nobel Peace Prize laureates have said, there is no peace without rights, justice, and dignity. Peace can never be achieved just through an absence of war. This “peace” agreement brought in tyranny.
Since 15 August 2021 the Taliban regime has issued 80 edicts. 54 of these directly target women and girls. We have been banned from education beyond the sixth grade, from public bathing houses and parks, from traveling without a Mahram (a male guardian). Women are banned from working as aid workers and in government institutions, women-owned businesses have been closed.
The Taliban’s treatment of women and girls is the most shocking example of gender apartheid in the world. Afghan women and girls are prisoners in their homes and under direct control of their male family members. The international community has expressed shock at the dramatic rollback in rights. But it has remained passive in terms of action. Solidarity alone is not enough. Your words have to translate into actions to ensure that the futures of Afghan women and girls are not erased from existence.
Written By Negina Yari
Negina Yari is a peace and women’s rights activist. She is the founder of Afghanistan Peace House, Chair of Women Advisory Group to the Humanitarian Country Team of Afghanistan, and the Elected Alternative Board Member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom to South Asian Countries.
Born in Ghor Province of Afghanistan, Negina Yari graduated from Kardan University. Negina Yari advocated for women's participation in peace negotiations, women’s empowerment, gender equality and education in Afghanistan and worked on developing civil society in the country. Her efforts earned her the opportunity to advocate directly at the United Nations Human Rights Council.