Afghanistan: What’s Going On?

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Pc: Getty Images

Leila Feldman, Staff Writer

In a mere three weeks, the Taliban, an extremist terrorist group, invaded and retook Afghanistan. 

What led up to this happening? This is a multi-decade-old conflict but it really began in 1919. When King Amanullah Khan and his wife Queen Soraya came into power, they modernized Afghanistan to improve gender equality. The Queen was seen as a women’s rights pioneer—she founded the first women’s school, created job opportunities in Kabul (the capital), and primarily worked with Afghan women. But when the King’s son died in 1973, the Soviets came in to conquer; after many long battles, the Soviets were forced to retreat. Then in came the most restrictive leaders Afghanistan has had in power — the Taliban. 

The Taliban is a Muslim-extremist group that follows strict Sharia (sha-re-yuh) laws. In Islam, there is the Quran (the teachings of the prophet Mohammad); however, it only provides moral, spiritual and legal guidings with little to no laws. Critics and scholars have said that the Taliban has gone too far with Sharia law but the Taliban won’t listen. The last time that the Taliban were in power; Time reported that women were required to wear a burka (which is a head-to-toe one-piece garment) and were forbidden from working, attending school, or leaving the house without a male escort. If they were accused of adultery, they would be stoned to death in public. 

From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan under a strict interpretation of the Shariah Law  and destroyed whatever progress had been made for women. Under their rule, women were required to follow an inhumane list of laws that severely restricted freedom. After 9/11, the United States hunted down Osama bin Laden, leader of another extremist group called Al-Qaeda, and US forces ended up face-to-face with the Taliban. The Americans were able to keep the Taliban out of power for two decades, but in February of 2020, Former President Trump announced that US troops would be pulled out of Afghanistan, and then President Joe Biden put a date on it (August 31, 2021). After 20 years of effort to rebuild Afghanistan’s economy and military, Afghanistan crumpled in a matter of weeks. It only took a few days for the Taliban to take over the capital of Kabul. Shortly after the Taliban began to encroach, the president Ashraf Gani fled the country. 

So what happens now?

According to The New York Times, Taliban leaders said in an interview that they were going to be more modern. However, “hours later, a prominent anchorwoman on state television said that the Taliban had suspended her and other women who worked there indefinitely.” The reporting being done is on Kabul; however, where the Taliban are already in power (the more rural areas) these laws are already being put in place with no one to stop them or report them. According to a CNN article, “Taliban leaders have refused to guarantee women’s rights will not be stripped back and many have already faced violence.”

Hosna Jalil, the former deputy minister for women’s affairs in Afghanistan, told Deutsche Welle, a network in Germany, that she had little faith that the Taliban would interpret Shariah differently now. “Shariah law for them meant lack of access to education, restricted access to health services, no access to justice, no shelter, no food security, no employment, literally nothing,” she said.

The UN (United Nations) estimates about 18 million people or half the country have fled and are looking for basic needs (water, shelter, safety).

What can you do? 

If you are interested in learning more, here are some resources; this is an NPR article for women’s advocacy in Afghanistan. You can also write to your senators to send money to Afghanistan. If you are interested in donating here are some foundations; International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee, and the UN Human Rights Committee. To keep Girls’ education from extincion you can donate here; Malala Fund, Sahar, and Afghan Women’s Educational Centre.

Finally, this Time article contains loads of places to donate to and it may be helpful to browse through it.