Responding to Taliban Attacks on Women’s Rights

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Afghan women demonstrate for girls’ secondary schools to reopen, Kabul, Afghanistan, March 26, 2022.
© 2022 AP Photo/Mohammed Shoaib Amin

March 21: Taliban announce girls’ secondary schools will reopen March 23.

March 23: Taliban announce girls’ secondary schools will remain closed until compliant with Islamic law.

March 25: Taliban begin blocking women from air travel without a male family member.

March 27: Taliban issue new rules banning women from parks in Kabul four days a week.

These are the latest in a long string of broken promises and restrictions on the rights of women and girls the Taliban have imposed since taking control of Afghanistan last year. But this flurry appears to signal an escalation in attacks on women’s rights. More broadly, the Taliban appear to have stopped giving any pretense of appeasing donors in hopes of gaining aid and recognition.

Many countries, including Muslim-majority Indonesia, Qatar, and Turkey, as well as the 56 countries that make up the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), swiftly condemned the secondary school decision, warning it would have consequences. But what should those consequences be? Donors, notably past top donors such as the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, should consider the following:

Don’t treat Taliban officials as leaders in good global standing: Governments should advocate to end exemptions to the travel ban restricting some senior Taliban leaders. They should avoid meetings and locales that would generate prestige for the Taliban leadership, better to meet in in Kabul or Doha without photo ops. Ensure women are well represented in delegations and if it is possible to include Afghan women, do so.
Speak out for those defending the rights of women and girls: Protests erupted following the extension of the secondary school ban. The Taliban have previously engaged in brutal reprisals against women’s rights protesters. Donors should speak out quickly and loudly and take other actions in support of threatened or attacked protesters and other rights defenders.
Fund education and other services without funding discrimination: Donors should fund groups working to defend rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including alternative education options for girls shut out of schools. They should ensure that no funding goes to support programs that exclude girls, for example government secondary schools in provinces where girls are barred.
Don’t punish all Afghans for Taliban abuses. Afghanistan is reeling from a humanitarian crisis largely driven by donors’ decisions, especially the United States. Taliban abuses should not halt donors’ efforts to stem the humanitarian crisis and unblock the Afghan economy.

All governments, donors or not, should convey to the Taliban that there is no place for their abuses in 2022.

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