The U.S. military conflict with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan initially began after the series of organized, violent attacks on distinguished American landmarks from the militant Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001. During that time, the Taliban refused to surrender al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, the former head of the organization, to the United States after demand which prompted an invasion in the country and overthrow the regime providing sanctuary to the terrorist group. After successfully apprehending bin Laden and ousting the Taliban, the United States, along with several allies, instated a new government to rule over the nation located in Kabul, the capital city.
Despite being ousted as the dominant ruling power, smaller, organized militias of the Taliban would continue to launch attacks as a part of larger insurgency against the new governing rule. The United States had been unsuccessful for many years to halt the attacks that came with the insurgency, and had to resort to diplomatic means to achieve peace which led to the development of the peace treaty signed between the Taliban and the United States in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020. The treaty essentially required, “The Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including Al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies,” and “Under the pact, the U.S. would reduce its forces to 8,600 from 13,000 in the next three to four months. Remaining U.S. forces would withdraw in 14 months.”.
The date of full withdrawal was changed by the current President of the United States, Joseph Biden, to August 31, 2021 instead of May 1, 2022, which had been the initial date, and true to the treaty, American military personnel were officially retracted from Afghanistan. Only a few weeks before, the Taliban launched a nation-wide attack and took over Kabul on August 15. Without the presence of the United States, many U.S. citizens and Afghans that had obtained visas were stranded.
Soon after the reinstatement of the Taliban regime, members of the organization began to enforce their version of strict Islamic tradition and law back into place. Women, in particular, have had a majority of their rights stripped away. Girls became forbidden from attending school and seeking employment. Women must also now adorn a burka, which is an item of clothing that covers them from their heads to their toes, and can only venture outside with a male relative’s supervision. Those who refused to adhere to these strict laws would be beaten or flogged. There have even been reports of coerced marriages between single girls and women between the ages of 14 and 45 to Taliban members. An anonymous Afghan woman had expressed her frustrations with the reinstatement of the Taliban rule, “I did not expect that we would be deprived of all our basic rights again and travel back to 20 years ago. That after 20 years of fighting for our rights and freedom, we should be hunting for burkas and hiding our identity.”.
During the new system of government the allied forces had implemented, and before the resurgence of the Taliban in 2021, women’s rights had significantly improved. This was largely in part due to the ratification of the “Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women” in 2003 which prohibited discrimination based on gender, and in turn, demanded for gender equal laws. This set of law was incorporated into the 2004 Afghanistan Constitution which states, “Any kind of discrimination and distinction between citizens of Afghanistan shall be forbidden. The citizens of Afghanistan, man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law.”. Then, another law protecting women from acts of violence, and coerced and underage marriages had been enacted in 2009. Guaranteed equality and protection by the new enactments, women were assuredly allowed to enroll in schools, and become part of the working class. There had also been a stark increase in the reports of crimes against the female population in the following years.
When the Taliban had taken over as the governing head in 2021, they had publicly declared that female citizens would be able to resume their studies and go to work “according to Islamic law” and guaranteed that women would be excluded from violent actions, though not many details have been revealed. Contrary to their public statements, there have already been reported cases of the Taliban sending home women and young girls from their jobs and the educational institutions they are enrolled in, yet allowing men and young boys in the same facilities.
With these setbacks in human rights, people have assembled together and formed organized protests against the Taliban’s strictly enforced policies. Even with the threat of death, men and women resume acts of defiance, whether it may be proudly waving the national flag of Afghanistan or, for women in particular, continuing to go outside, some even going back to their jobs or universities. Mariam Wardak, a former official in the Afghan government states that this is an opportunity for women to gain their rights back, “Right now, because the Taliban wants international recognition, we have to push boundaries to see how far we can go.”.
Others are desperate to leave the nation, especially women. Since mid-August, the height of the Taliban’s takeover, more than 10,000 people have fled with assistance from the United State’s military, and more are fleeing each day. Though the United States had agreed to withdraw from Afghanistan, there have been prolonged efforts of rescuing American citizens, such as journalists and other American military personnel. International efforts for further evacuation are still being debated upon, but for now future interference with the country may depend on the Taliban’s enactment of different policies.
Afghanistan’s future remains obscure for now, but there are clear intentions and efforts to gain back human rights that were promised to them after the regime’s overcoming in the early 2000s. Whether the movement is successful or not remains to be seen.