From Independence to Injustice: The Suppression of Women in Afghanistan

By Megan Markel

Two decades of progress have been erased and very few have blinked an eye. 

Women’s rights stripped away 

International Women’s Day was recently celebrated around the world by a host of nations, major corporations, and the general public. Social media was filled with posts celebrating the many leaps and bounds women have made. Yet, several countries failed to laud the progress of women’s rights. Afghanistan was one of these countries.  

Thousands of women have lost their right to a job, education, and avenues of public life in Afghanistan. Nearly every aspect of Afghan women’s lives is dictated by the government’s misogynistic views of women. Any disagreement or protests against these rules are met with harsh punishments. Yet this perilous situation women have been facing in Afghanistan since the reinstatement of the Taliban has gained little attention. The world remains largely ignorant as Afghan women lose decades of progress in their women’s rights movement. 

Taliban rule 

Women’s rights in Afghanistan made impressive progress in 2001 when American forces began occupying the country after ousting the Taliban. The Ministry of Women’s Rights was established and made broad sweeps to ensure equal rights, education, and jobs. Women served as members of the government as well as in the broad spectrum of the professional world. Schools and universities were filled with eager girls ready to pursue their professional dreams. 

In 2021, Afghan women were forced to live a very different reality and give up their past progress. These women’s lives radically changed when the United States chose to withdraw occupational forces and the country once again fell to the hands of the Taliban. Operating under extreme ideology, the Taliban quickly stripped women of all basic dignities and rights. 

Under the Taliban’s Rule, the rights of women have been stripped away. Young women above 6th grade are not permitted to attend secondary school and college education is forbidden for all women. Women no longer have a right to work, and most have been stripped of their jobs. This loss of work has left many women poverty stricken as they served as the primary source of income in their homes. Women that have been permitted to work, primarily in the healthcare sector, have found themselves restricted from speaking with male coworkers or from accessing helpful work technology such as smartphones.  

  Women are also forced to cover their faces when outside the home and have been forbidden from most public places. They are not permitted to travel or go outside their home without a male chaperone. Women have essentially lost any rights outside of their homes. This is a dramatic shift from the former thriving society which promoted female flourishing in every stage of life. 

Women and men alike have found these rules to be devastating and stifling. Citizens have attempted to protest the government but have found themselves under the threat of violence and capture by the government. Any brave woman who voices her true opinions will find herself on the run from the government, fearful the government will seek retribution. Many women have also begun seeking asylum in other countries to avoid becoming a slave in their homeland.  

Thousands of women are currently facing massive rights violations in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Women’s rights has now been converted to the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice dedicated to ensuring that women do not receive an education, hold jobs, and are stripped of everyday rights such as access to public spaces.  Two decades of progress have been erased and very few have blinked an eye.  

Megan Markel is a junior at Grove City College majoring in Political Science. On campus, Megan serves as Junior Class President for Student Government Association, a Student Ambassador for the Admission’s office and as a student leader for ICO Jamaica. She is a member of the Alpha Beta Tau Sorority, Orientation Board, International Justice Mission, and The Student and Faculty Academic Integrity Committee.

In the summer of 2020, Megan served as an intern for Pennsylvania State Representative Jim Struzzi. This experience allowed her to interact with constituents, work on state legislation, and gain valuable incite into the functions of state and local governments. In the summer of 2021, Megan served as an intern in the Indiana County District Attorney’s Office under the leadership of District Attorney Robert Manzi. This opportunity allowed Megan to explore her passion for criminal law. Throughout the internship, Megan gained valuable knowledge of the criminal justice system and its workings. She also worked alongside District Attorney Manzi to develop an Elder Abuse Prevention task force to protect the residents of Indiana County.

Upon graduation, Megan hopes to attend law school and study criminal law with the goal of becoming a prosecutor. In her spare time, Megan likes to travel, explore new coffee shops, and read the latest novels.