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The future of women in Afghanistan
Sensemaker audio

The future of women in Afghanistan

The future of women in Afghanistan

The future of women in Afghanistan


andrew, narrating:

Hi, I’m Andrew – and this is Sensemaker – from tortoisemedia.com

One story every day to make sense of the world.

Today, Kabul has fallen and thousands are trying to escape Afghanistan. But what does the return of the Taliban mean for those who can’t flee? And particularly for women and girls?


US Air Force plane takes off from airport in Kabul, with people hanging off the sides

Al Jazeera

I’m watching a video of an American military jet taking off. Hundreds of people are frantically running alongside it and some are even clinging to the bottom of it, the side, anywhere they can get a grip. 

Later, as the plane soars into the sky, you can see two tiny dots falling to the ground in the distance. It’s really disturbing footage.

The video pans back to the faces of horrified onlookers. Those two dots were two men. Both are presumed to be dead.

Those chaotic scenes unfolded at Kabul airport in Afghanistan, which became overrun with people desperate to flee the country after the Taliban had captured the capital city. 

Seven people at Kabul airport have died altogether, some shot by US troops. But, why is this happening?

What you are looking at right now is Taliban fighters inside the presidential palace.

Al Jazeera

After Joe Biden withdrew US troops and insurgents took advantage, Afghans who fear Taliban rule have been trying to escape.

America and other Nato countries were certainly caught totally off-guard and are now having to cope with this surge of people desperate to get out of the country from the airport, now the only safe way to escape for those who fear for their lives.

Good Morning America

The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has fled. And the Taliban is back in charge.

Afghanistan’s president began the day vowing to negotiate an orderly transfer of power but he didn’t stick around to do it, fleeing the country he said to avoid bloodshed though many called it cowardly.


And as the geopolitical situation worsens, people’s minds are turning to those who are most vulnerable under Taliban rule: women and girls.

So if you really ignore women rights in this process, that means democracy is not completed; that means other freedoms and values will also be undermined.

Women’s rights activist Fawzia Koofi speaking on Al Arabiya English

That’s the voice of Fawzia Koofi.

Now, the thing you should know about Fawzia Koofi is that she’s always been a fighter. She was left out to die in the blazing sun as a baby because her mother didn’t want another daughter, but she survived. 

And a few years later, as a young child, Fawzia Koofi convinced her father, who only allowed her brothers an education, that she too should be in school. 

In the 90s, when the Taliban were previously in power, she started a secret network of girls’ schools. And after the Taliban’s regime fell to US-led forces in 2001 Fawzia Koofi, armed with a masters degree and a deep sense of justice, became one of the first female politicians in Afghanistan. 

She’s now a vocal women’s rights activist. And her outspokenness has put her in danger. She’s survived two assassination attempts. In 2010 her convoy was ambushed by the Taliban. 

And the other happened just last year, when she was helping broker peace talks with the Taliban on behalf of the Afghan government. The Taliban denied their involvement in the second shooting but many people still remain skeptical. 

So now that the Taliban have taken control, Fawzia Koofi knows that she’s in a particularly precarious position. And she thinks that she’s not alone.

We have also reports of women’s rights violations. On occasion in some provinces women cannot go out without male companion to work or to even get their basic supplies.

Women’s rights activist Fawzia Koofi speaking on CNN

So what does the Taliban’s return actually mean for women and girls in Afghanistan? 

There has been huge progress for women’s rights in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. After the Taliban’s fall in 2001, girls regained their right to an education. Now millions are enrolled in schools. 

Women were winning seats in parliament and they were no longer legally obliged to wear the burqa – but could do so if they wanted to. 

This isn’t to say it’s been plain sailing for women’s rights over the last two decades: Afghanistan ranks last on the 2021 Global Gender Gap report. But all of the progress that has been made now hangs in the balance.

Some people have suggested that the Taliban might have reformed, or have the capacity to reform at least, pointing to the fact that their rhetoric and conduct has somewhat moderated in the years since their rule. But this argument doesn’t really hold up, as the Taliban continues to violently attack girls schools.

One Afghan woman has said the Taliban are marking the front doors of houses that belong to female activists and journalists with pink paint, as a reminder of who they need to deal with later.

So as more images of chaos continue to come out of Kabul, many people, including Fawzia Koofi, remain pessimistic. “I start my day looking at empty streets of Kabul,” Fawzia wrote online. “History repeats itself so quickly.”

Today’s episode was written by Nimo Omer and produced by Xavier Greenwood.