Since the Taliban seized power in 2021, Afghan women have endured increasingly harsh restrictions on their hard-won freedoms as well as physical brutality to force conformity. The most recent policy passed by the fundamentalist Islamist group consists of an order to all NGOs, local and international, to prohibit their female employees from working.

Millions of women across the country rely heavily on aid organizations to support their families, especially those whose husbands have died attempting to cross the border. Since they are banned from most jobs, and higher education, the new restrictions on NGOs have left Afghan women stranded during the harsh winter. According to the United Nations, two-thirds of the population are expected to need humanitarian assistance this year for survival. Aid organizations primarily depend on their female workers to get in touch with Afghan women and their families, as they are prohibited from contact with outside men. Many NGOs have been forced to shut down operations in the country. Najiba Rahmani, a widow who relied on the UN’s World Food Program to support her children, said, “the wound of a woman in my situation is always fresh, it never heals.”

Physical violence against women has also continued to escalate as former MP Mursal Nabizada was assassinated in her home this week. Nabizada represented the eastern province of Nangarhar and refused to flee to the United States after the Taliban takeover. A fellow female MP, Mariam Solaimankhil, described Nabizada as “a true trailblazer – strong, outspoken woman who stood for what she believed in, even in the face of danger.” The Taliban is obviously more than willing to use violence as a tactic to silence opposition and any remnants of the former Western backed government.        

Afghan women feel as though the “world has abandoned them,” said Sara Wahedi, the founder of the news alert app, Ehtesab, that provides Afghans with critical information surrounding violence in Kabul. “Afghanistan is hell on earth for women.”  

Sources: BBC 1/16/2023; NYT 1/13/2023; CNN 12/27/2022

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