What is the day-to-day reality for Afghan women and girls right now?

Written by Amy Beecham

Nearly six months on from the violent coup that helped the Taliban regain control of Afghanistan, what is the day-to-day reality like for its citizens?

Nearly six months after the Taliban took back control of Kabul following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict, the country continues to face violence and a humanitarian crisis.

The capital city was captured on 15 August 2021, which sparked attempts to flee from Afghan citizens, displaced troops and civilians.

The rest of the world watched as distressing images emerged from Kabul airport, where witnesses said several people died, and showed people clinging to the landing gear of taxiing planes in desperate attempts to flee. Inside the walls of the airport compound, desperate women were photographed throwing their babies over the razor wire, asking British soldiers to take them to safety.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that 1,659 civilians were killed and another 3,524 injured in the first six months of 2021 in the lead up to the collapse.

As well as increased violence, the country was experiencing an economic crisis aggravated by the conflict, as the US and other Western countries cut off direct financial assistance, and a severe drought caused a collapse in food security.

As such, at the end of 2021, the World Food Programme warned that “Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises – if not the worst”.

What is happening in Afghanistan now?

According to the United Nations, currently about 22 million people – more than half of Afghanistan’s population – face acute hunger.

Reports have emerged of desperate Afghan citizens turning to people smugglers to flee the country after evacuation flights have been largely stopped and international funding frozen.

Despite a new Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme announced by the British government, the BBC reports that around 100 ex-British Council staff are still in the country having so far been denied the right to come to the UK.

The Foreign Office, which has been previously criticised for its handling of evacuations from Afghanistan told the BBC: “Last week, the government opened the Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ARCS) which will give up to 20,000 people at risk a new life in the UK, including those British Council contractors who are most at risk.”

Under Taliban rule, women have been banned from travelling long distances by road unless accompanied by a male relative and are no longer allowed to use communal bathhouses in the northern parts of the country.

The majority of secondary schools remain shut for girls, and most women have been banned from working.

Restrictions on their freedoms, employment, education and even movement has meant that Afghan women are bearing much of the brunt of the humanitarian crisis.

As the 2021 Human Rights Watch report suggests, “Afghans are caught between Taliban oppression and the spectre of starvation.”

In December 2021, Al Jazeera reported that around 30 women marched through Kabul in a protest calling for women’s rights to be respected and accusing Taliban authorities of covertly killing soldiers who served the former United States-backed government before being stopped by Taliban forces.

Women protesting in Kabul, Afghanistan inDecember 2021

How you can help Afghanistan

Women For Afghan Women

When the coup began in August 2021, the largest women’s group in Afghanistan, Women for Afghan Women, launched an emergency campaign and continues raise funds to help protect women and children.

“Afghanistan is currently one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to identify as a woman,” the charity explains. “Political and economic insecurity, educational inequality, sexual violence, and poor health are pervasive.”

Donate to Women For Afghan Women here

United Nations Population Fund

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is a sexual and reproduction health agency working on the ground to ensure women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights are protected.

It provides lifesaving midwife services, access to accurate information and safe, effective, affordable and acceptable contraception and promotes policies, programmes and legislation designed to end child marriage amid the crisis in Afghanistan.

Donate to UNFPA here

Safe Passage

UK-based refugee charity Safe Passage is calling on the government to do all it can to support all Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban and commit to resettling at least 20,000 Afghans as soon as possible.

Join the campaign and email your MP here

Donate to Safe Passage here

Images: Getty

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