The United States recently celebrated a grim milestone: the one-year anniversary of the incompetent disaster that was the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Still fresh in the minds of Americans are harrowing images of Afghan citizens hanging on to the wheels of a plane as it took off, towards freedom, and away from the impending horrors of living under Taliban rule.
There wasn’t an American soul who didn’t know who would suffer even more: Afghanistan’s women and girls. Has anything changed for the better? What is life like for women and girls under Taliban rule one year later?
As the Taliban took control of the war-torn country, they made all sorts of promises. Promises that they would “respect women’s rights,” and “be more permissive.” Yes, things would be much better than they were in 2001 before Americans arrived.
None of that happened. Recently, a report from The Guardian gave an inside look at what life is like for women under Taliban rule. In addition to not being allowed to go to school, not being allowed to work, and not being allowed to leave the house without a male guardian, women are subjected to being forced at gunpoint to wear hijabs.
They are accused of being prostitutes if they do not. One woman said, “I can’t bear to look at all my colourful clothes in my closet as they remind me of everything I have lost.”
Another woman was caught without her hijab. She was escorted home and her family was told if she was caught again she would be arrested. She says, “Since then, my father has rarely allowed me or my sisters to leave the house, and says we can’t go to university.”
Imagine being a widow and not being allowed to work. One woman describes life for herself and her children:
“The Taliban has given me and other widows a card to claim a sack of wheat, three litres of cooking oil and 1,000 Afghani [£9] every three months, but this is not enough to keep our family going. I live with three other widowed women and their children, but our rent is 40,000 Afghani a month and we can’t pay it. If we can’t work, I’m worried we will starve.”
Americans watching the events in Afghanistan unfold knew that the withdrawal was a total debacle. But a new report from Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee paints an even larger picture of total incompetence by the Biden administration.
Roughly 1,450 children were evacuated from the country without parents or a guardian. The offices of First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked several private veterans’ groups to assist in getting certain people out of the country.
And again, Afghanistan’s women and girls bore much of the brunt of America’s humiliating exit. Towards the end of the U.S. departure, more than 1,000 women and girls waited more than 24 hours on buses, continually circling the Kabul airport, trying to avoid Taliban checkpoints.
They were told several times that they were not allowed into the airport. Now a year later, fewer than one third of them have managed to escape.
As long as the Taliban remains in power, life for women and girls in Afghanistan will be bleak. Earlier this month, the United Nations issued a statement that essentially said what we already know.
Last fall, the one thing that brought both Democrat and Republican female Senators together was the plight of Afghan women. They urged Joe Biden and his administration to form a plan to ensure the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan by establishing “an interagency plan” to ensure basic human rights were being afforded to women.
That request seems to have fallen on deaf ears. If the Biden administration refuses to rescue Americans still trapped in Afghanistan, the conditions for Afghan women are bleak indeed.
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