Life under Taliban rule one year later: women and girls struggle under oppressive policies

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This article is part of a Fox News Digital series examining the consequences of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan one year ago this week.

One year after Kabul fell to the Taliban, restrictive policies enforced by the insurgent group have drastically affected women and girls who have seen their liberties curtailed and daily lives brought to a halt. 

Not only has Taliban rule led to Afghanistan’s crippling economy, food shortages and diplomatic stagnation, but basic human rights for women have been striped.

“This is a man ruling country,” Meena Habib, 32, an investigative reporter and one of the few remaining female journalists still in Afghanistan told Fox News Digital. “Women do not have good opportunities.”

“But it doesn’t mean we simply [follow] their orders,” she added. “We’re trying to cope with their rules.”

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Habib has faced severe repercussions for her defiance to the Taliban including blatant intimidation, threats, arrest and several beatings. 

The U.N. this month once again called on the Taliban to reverse its oppressive policies and to take steps to ensure that human rights, particularly as they affect women and girls, are secured. 

“Nowhere else in the world has there been as wide-spread, systematic and all-encompassing an attack on the rights of women and girls – every aspect of their lives is being restricted under the guise of morality and through the instrumentalization of religion,” the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in an August statement. 

The Taliban’s oppressive measures have reached nearly every facet of female life, baring them from ordering taxis while unaccompanied by a male escort to enforcing religion-based hijab requirements.

“Everything has been changed in the lives of the Afghan people,” one 27-year-old female, who was evacuated to the U.S. during the withdrawal last year, told Fox News Digital. “They have lots of restrictions for the woman.

“If they do not wear the hijab, the Taliban will come to the house, and they will take the men,” she explained. “They will beat the men and then demand [that] they force their woman to wear the hijab.”

“Security is not good,” she added, noting that she wished to remain anonymous to protect her family still in Afghanistan.

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The Taliban have also reportedly begun instituting harsh brands of justice not widely seen since before the U.S.-led military coalition in 2001, including stoning practices and chopping off the hands of accused thieves.

Women have also once again been largely been barred from working unless they are in the medical or educational sectors, and girls are no longer allowed to attend secondary school

The 27-year-old told Fox News Digital that some women have been allowed to finish their university-level education, though she is skeptical of the Taliban’s motivation behind the move.

“I think they just allowed these girls to get their certificate and once they are graduated there will be no other girls allowed to go to university,” she said. “After the 6th grade you are not allowed to go to the higher education. 

“That’s the kind of politics the Taliban are playing,” suggesting the insurgent group is attempting to appear “good” in the eyes of the world as it looks for international financial support. 

Afghanistan was strongly dependent on international aid in the lead up to the Taliban takeover, but following the collapse of the former administration, the international community froze Afghanistan’s assets and halted program funding. 

In a warning to the Taliban, the U.N. said the insurgent group will not gain international recognition or support if it does not adhere to recognized international human rights.

“We reiterate our call to the de facto authorities to abide by their international obligations under international treaties, to which Afghanistan is a State party,” the human rights agency said. 

In addition, the U.N. warned that if the Taliban continue their oppressive polices and lack of “an inclusive and representative government,” the prospect of “peace, reconciliation and stability will remain minimal.”

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The Taliban’s refusal to allow women to work has further hindered the dire economic situation and parents struggle to earn enough to feed their families. 

Severe food and job shortages have prompted some families to start selling their daughters.

“That’s the only way that they have to find food to feed the rest of the family – the risk [is] losing all the family members,” Fox News Digital was told by the 27-year-old evacuee. 

Despite reports to suggest there has been an increase in forced marriages, wives have lost protection from the state, even in cases involving abuse. 

“Previously they could go to the government, and they could go to the court. They could talk to someone and submit a complaint against their husband,” the Afghan evacuee said referring to the Taliban’s closure of the Women’s Affairs Ministry in September 2021. “But right now the Taliban aren’t listening.”

“Despite making numerous commitments to uphold human rights, the Taliban have not only failed to deliver on their promises, they have also reversed much of the progress made in the past two decades,” the U.N. said, echoing comments made by several women Fox News Digital spoke to. 

The international agency in August said it has “no confidence that the Taliban has any intention of making good on its pledge to respect human rights” and instead called on the international community to take immediate steps.

The U.N. said that not only does humanitarian aid and resources for women and minority groups need to be immediately provided, but other financial precautions need to be taken.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights has also called on nations to review any sanctions put in place following the Taliban takeover to ensure they do not further exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

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