The scenes of thousands of Afghans desperately pleading for assistance and running for refuge as the Taliban solidified rule over Afghanistan for the first time since 2001 have been broadcast across the world and left it reeling.
As the news broke, it wasn’t long before Pakistani human rights and girls' education advocate Malala Yousafzai took to social media to raise concern over the occupation of the Taliban, knowing all too well what the group’s rule could mean for women and girls.
“We watch in complete shock as Taliban takes control of Afghanistan,” she said on Twitter. “I am deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates. Global, regional and local powers must call for an immediate ceasefire, provide urgent humanitarian aid and protect refugees and civilians,” she said.
We watch in complete shock as Taliban takes control of Afghanistan. I am deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates. Global, regional and local powers must call for an immediate ceasefire, provide urgent humanitarian aid and protect refugees and civilians.— Malala (@Malala) August 15, 2021
The Taliban takeover came after international forces withdrew from Afghanistan, with the United States officially beginning to withdraw in May 2021. The militant group has since taken over the country city by city, eventually occupying the capital Kabul on Sunday. Afghanistan’s leadership, namely President Ashraf Ghan, had fled the country and millions of Afghans are seeking asylum.
The Taliban — who first assumed control of Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul in 1996, are now enforcing their interpretation of Islamic Law and implementing strict regulations that hindered the humanitarian rights of vulnerable communities — have claimed that they are interested in an inclusive government, a peaceful takeover and writing laws that will take into consideration women’s rights.
However there have already been reports of restrictive conditions on women, and women being forced to stop working by the militant group, begging the question of whether the Taliban will do as they said and uphold certain rights for women, or whether women’s rights are in severe danger.
Women and girls are the most vulnerable now that the Taliban have taken hold of Afghanistan. Before they lost their rule over the country in 2001, the Taliban had implemented strict laws on women’s rights. Women had to cover their faces and bodies, they were not allowed to work, girls could not go to school, and if a woman needed to leave her house, she should’ve been accompanied by a male relative.
For two decades Afghanistan worked towards gains for women’s rights, including access to education and the ability to work. However there is growing fear that these gains will be entirely reversed with the recent rule of the Taliban.
Some of the world’s most important leaders have raised their voices in support of women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Former President of Liberia and Africa’s first woman president said that the future and safety of women and girls in the country hangs in the balance, and communicated her thoughts and prayers for the country in a social media post.
“Limiting basic freedoms for women and girls — as we saw under previous Taliban rule — would have devastating consequences for generations to come,” she said.
My thoughts and prayers are with #Afghanistan's women and girls, whose future and safety now hang in the balance. Limiting basic freedoms for women and girls—as we saw under previous Taliban rule—would have devastating consequences for generations to come.— Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (@MaEllenSirleaf) August 16, 2021
Also taking to social media to raise concern for women and girls in Afghanistan is UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who said: “Please spare a thought for the people, women and girls of Afghanistan. A tragedy unfolds in front of our eyes.”
Please spare a thought for the people women and girls of Afghanistan. A tragedy unfolds in front of our eyes.— Phumzile Mlambo (@phumzileunwomen) August 15, 2021
Spokesperson for the United Nations, Stephane Dujarric, highlighted the need to protect the Afghan lives and the rights of women and girls in a statement released on Sunday, where he acknowledged human rights violations occurring in the country. He said that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres "is particularly concerned about the future of women and girls, whose hard-won rights must be protected."
“The United Nations remains determined to contribute to a peaceful settlement, promote the human rights of all Afghans, notably women and girls, and provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and critical support to civilians in need," he added.
The people of Afghanistan must be supported and protected at this time, and no one can be left behind in that effort.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and as such the country’s most vulnerable communities such as refugees, children, marginalised people, and women, could become even more vulnerable as a result of the Taliban takeover.
"The people of Afghanistan must be supported and protected at this time, and no one can be left behind in that effort," said Mick Sheldrick, Global Citizen's co-founder and chief policy, impact, and government affairs officer. "Global Citizen is joining the call of the international community for Afghan nationals and foreign nationals who wish to flee the country to be allowed to do so, and for countries to open their borders to welcome refugees over the coming weeks and months.
"Relevant authorities have accountability and responsibility to protect the Afghan people," he added, "and we urge all countries to act together for the protection of human rights for all, particularly women and girls and all marginalised communities, in order to protect the progress achieved and ensure sustainable peace."
Citizens and world leaders alike need to rally together to help protect the rights of all those who are facing a crisis in Afghanistan. These are a few of the ways you can help vulnerable communities in the country.
1. Donate to support humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid and support is running scarce, as the Washington Post reports that organizations have been working to get their affiliated staff on the ground, out the country.
These organizations are working to protect those in danger, provide them with access to aid in the form of medical assistance, food, and access to shelter, and have had a presence in Afghanistan for several years.
There remains uncertainty on how long some of these sources of humanitarian aid will remain in the country, however all have expressed interest in helping protect vulnerable communities to the best of their freedom and abilities to do so.
The United Nations Refugee agency has been working to help those fleeing Afghanistan seek refuge in bordering and nearby countries. The UNHCR has been monitoring and continues to monitor the needs of refugees fleeing the country, and has been calling on neighboring countries to keep borders open for those seeking asylum.
This organization has been in contact with citizens on the ground, finding ways to assist with emergency aid in Afghanistan, and has been calling for urgent relief in the country. The German organisation has said that it is committed to help those in need, no matter how the situation may change. “The situation is constantly changing which is why we can’t yet predict how we’ll continue our projects,” the organization stated, “but we are committed to continue with our efforts.
The Afghan arm of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has committed to aiding those in need with medical assistance, stating simply on social media: “We continue to provide urgently needed medical care in Afghanistan.”
While this organisation is no longer operating in Afghanistan, their work has accumulated thousands of Afghan women and families in their care, and still seek to support them. “We are evacuating centers, pausing operations, and continually assessing risks,” the organisation said on social media, “We are working day and night to provide safe shelter, resources, and aid to the thousands of women, children, families, and staff who are under our care.”
2. Support women’s media and female reporters
Women journalists in Afghanistan face massive threats not only for working, but for working in the media, an industry that has been particularly targeted by the Taliban.
“In the last 24 hours, our lives have changed and we have been confined to our homes, and death threatens us at every moment,” says one woman journalist, speaking to the Guardian. “Firstly I am worried about myself because I am a girl, and also a woman journalist,” said another.
Women on the ground who have been reporting the news, who are journalists, who may not be able to openly work, who have had to hide their identities, need to be protected. You can help them by following Rukshana Media and Sahar Speaks, both organizations are staffed by female Afghan journalists.
In order to further support women journalists, you can donate to help women at Rukshana indirectly, by donating here.
3. Petitions You Can Sign
Add your name to these petitions in a call to protect the lives and rights of Afghan’s most vulnerable people.
- Protect Afghanistan’s human rights defenders
- President Biden and Congress: Ensure Afghan women’s rights alongside peace with the Taliban
- Raise awareness of the mistreatment of Afghan refugees in Iran
4. Show your support on social media
Keep up to date on social media and keep the conversation alive so that the fight for human rights in Afghanistan is not one that goes forgotten. To get you started you can follow the hashtags, #Afghanistan #HelpAfghanistan #AfghanLivesMatter on social media. You can also follow the following accounts to stay updated on the situation, omar.haidari, theafghan, middleeastmatters.
5. Learn more about the crisis
In order to understand the extent of the takeover and the impacts it will have on the country, it is important to educate yourself on its history and remain informed on how the situation unfolds.
You can learn more about who the Taliban are and how they achieved this takeover by reading this CNN article or this BBC article. You can also learn more about the impact on women and children by reading through this article by NBC news here.
Remain informed by reading works by trusted news sites and consuming informative social media from trusted sources.