Contemporary World Issues

Treatment of Women in Afghanistan

Women in Afghanistan are treated unfairly due to the Taliban’s rules and men treating them as inferiors.

  Taliban restrictions and mistreatment of women include the:

1- Complete ban on women's work outside the home, which also applies to female teachers, engineers and most professionals. Only a few female doctors and nurses are allowed to work in some hospitals in Kabul.

2- Complete ban on women's activity outside the home unless accompanied by a mahram (close male relative such as a father, brother or husband).

3- Ban on women dealing with male shopkeepers.

4- Ban on women being treated by male doctors.

5- Ban on women studying at schools, universities or any other educational institution. (Taliban have converted girls' schools into religious seminaries.)

6- Requirement that women wear a long veil (Burqa), which covers them from head to toe.

7- Whipping, beating and verbal abuse of women not clothed in accordance with Taliban rules, or of women unaccompanied by a mahram.

8- Whipping of women in public for having non-covered ankles.

 9- Public stoning of women accused of having sex outside marriage. (A number of lovers are stoned to death under this rule).

10- Ban on the use of cosmetics. (Many women with painted nails have had fingers cut off).

11- Ban on women talking or shaking hands with non-mahram males.

12- Ban on women laughing loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman's voice).

13- Ban on women wearing high heel shoes, which would produce sound while walking. (A man must not hear a woman's footsteps.)

14- Ban on women riding in a taxi without a mahram.

15- Ban on women's presence in radio, television or public gatherings of any kind.

16- Ban on women playing sports or entering a sport center or club.

17- Ban on women riding bicycles or motorcycles, even with their mahrams.

 18- Ban on women's wearing brightly colored clothes. In Taliban terms, these are "sexually attracting colors."

19- Ban on women gathering for festive occasions such as the Eids, or for any recreational purpose.

20- Ban on women washing clothes next to rivers or in a public place.

21- Modification of all place names including the word "women." For example, "women's garden" has been renamed "spring garden".

22- Ban on women appearing on the balconies of their apartments or houses.

23- Compulsory painting of all windows, so women can not be seen from outside their homes.

24- Ban on male tailors taking women's measurements or sewing women's clothes.

25- Ban on female public baths.

26- Ban on males and females traveling on the same bus. Public buses have now been designated "males only" (or "females only").

27- Ban on flared (wide) pant-legs, even under a burqa.

28- Ban on the photographing or filming of women.

29- Ban on women's pictures printed in newspapers and books, or hung on the walls of houses and shops.

Afghan Women's Network


In 1995, seven Afghan women participants of the United Nations fourth World Conference on women in Beijing, China along with other Afghan women decided to establish the Afghan Women's Network (AWN). They developed a formal structure in 1996. At the present time, there are 72 NGO's and 3000 individuals who have a membership in AWN.

Goals of AWN:

It is a non-partisian Network of women and women's NGOs working to empower Afghan women and ensure their equal participation in Afghan society. The members of the Network also recognize the value and the role of children as the future of Afghanistan and, as such, regard the empowerment and protection of children as fundamental to their work. The Network seeks to enhance the effectiveness of its members, undertaking advocacy and lobbying, and building their individual capacities.


The Afghan Women's Network envisions an Afghanistan in which all members- women, children, and men- participate equally. Futhermore, the members aspire to create an Afghan community which values, respects, and encourages the tremendous capacities of women and their contributions to Afghan culture and society.


Organizations like the AWN are essential to the growth of women's rights and empowerments in Afghanistan. They provide a way for Afghan women to safely achieve the goal of equal rights with men. However, this organization, like others of its main purpose, require help from other countries and people. They are not financially able to help the women and children attain a higher place in Afghan societies, if they do not have sufficient funds to support their ideas and charities. To make a charitible donation, go to

The Taliban

 The Taliban

  The Taliban, who overran most of Afghanistan in 1996, are a militia driven by an extremely harsh Medieval interpretation of Sunni Islam. Backed by Pakistan and funded by Saudi Arabia, they promised to put an end to the factional warfare that had claimed thousands of lives in the years following the defeat of the country's Soviet puppet government in 1991. The Taliban imposed an extremely repressive, sectarian Islamic regime on the Afghan people, barring women from work and education and even killing Shiite Muslims of the Hazari minority.

Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's government, and international recognition as a legitimate government remains the movement's most important foreign policy objective. The country's seat at the United Nations is still held by representatives of the government overthrown by the Taliban in 1996, to which the opposition Northern Alliance remains loyal. The Northern Alliance is a loose anti-Taliban coalition that includes remnants of the former Soviet-backed regime, and a number of ethnic minority-based groups fiercely opposed to the Taliban's harsh rule — and also to the principle of being ruled by a government composed only of ethnic Pashtuns. The key component of these forces are the ethnic Tajiks who control the strategically important Pansjir valley. The Taliban have failed to dislodge them despite launching massive annual offensives — but they did strike a body blow last week by assassinating the Northern Alliance's key military leader, Ahmed Shah Masood, the "Lion of the Pansjir." The Northern Alliance forces only control five percent of the country, but the Taliban's harsh regime has provoked growing resentment, even among Afghans who initially welcomed their takeover.

The Taliban's War Against Women

The day was much like any other. For the young Afghan mother, the only difference was that her child was feverish and had been for some time and needed to see a doctor. But simple tasks in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan today are not that easy.

The mother was alone and the doctor was across town. She had no male relative to escort her. To ask another man to do so would be to risk severe punishment. To go on her own meant that she would risk flogging.

Because she loved her child, she had no choice. Donning the tent-like burqa as Taliban law required, she set out, cradling her child in her arms. She shouldn't have.

As they approached the market, she was spotted by a teenage Taliban guard who tried to stop her. Intent on saving her child, the mother ignored him, hoping that he would ignore her. He didn't. Instead he raised his weapon and shot her repeatedly. Both mother and child fell to the ground. They survived because bystanders in the market intervened to save them. The young Taliban guard was unrepentent -- fully supported by the regime. The woman should not have been out alone.
This mother was just another casualty in the Taliban war on Afghanistan's women, a war that began 5 years ago when the Taliban seized control of Kabul.

This is just a typical day in the life of a woman living under the control of the Taliban in Afghanistan. They have so many rules restricting their lives that they cannot even take their child to the doctor in peace. Women have come a long way in America and other progressive countries, but we cannot forget about the less fortunate women in the rest of the wolrd. Some rights have been returned to women in Afghanistan, but they are no where close to having equal rights with their male counterparts.

However, women are not taking the abuse anymore. They have started a group called RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) to try and convince women to take action against unjust laws against them. It was established in 1977, in Kabul, Afghanistan, as an independent political and social organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and for social justice in Afghanistan. They aimed at aquiring women's human rights and contributing to the struggle for the establishment of a government based on democratic and secular values in Afghanistan. Despite the suffocating political atmosphere, RAWA very soon became involved in widespread activities in different socio-political arenas including education, health and income generation as well as political agitation.

What You Can Do

There are ways that you can help the women and children in Afghanistan and protect them from rape and abuse. RAWA is facing a financial crisis, which affects tons of humanitarian projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If the funds they need to carry on are not provided, they may be forced to temporarily, or even permanently, shut down. If they shut down then many Afhgan women and children will lose the protection and funding they need to live a healthy and somewhat normal life. It is vital to the survival of RAWA that donations are made to keep the organization up and running. For more information on all their humanitarian projects and a way to contact RAWA, go to the following website:

Famous Afghan Women

There have been many influential and inspiring Afghan women over the years. They have stood up to opposition and fought for what they believe women and the citizens of Afghanistan need and deserve.

Malalai is a famous 19th century Afghan woman who is credited with turning the tide in the battle of Maiwand, against the British. When the morning of the battle began with numerous casualties and Afghans began surrendering or running away, Malalai took up a sword to fight the British herself, singing an Afghan song, and inspired her countrymen to keep fighting. A hospital in Kabul is named after her.

Aisha Durrani was the daughter of YakobAli Khan Barakzai, and the wife of Timur Shah Durrani. She was the first person to open a girl’s school in Afghanistan and played a major role in the cultural and linguistic development of Afghanistan. She was well learned in Dari grammer, Arabic, geography, and Islamic studies. A woman’s high school is named after her.

Rabia Balkhi The first woman known to compose poetry in both Arabic and Persian was Rabi’a Balkhi, whose brother ruled Balkh during the tenth century.

Zarghuna is also a famous woman poet and the mother of Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of modern day Afghanistan.


Additional Reading

Here are some books that have been written about the Taliban and the treatment of women by the Taliban. Some of the books are works of fiction, but were based on actual events.

The Bookseller of Kabul (Asne Seierstad and Ingrid Christophersen)

Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin)

The Women of Afghanistan Under the Taliban (Rosemarie Skaine)

Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future (Sunita Mehta, Esther Hyneman, Batya Swift Yasgur, and Andrea Labis)


"Some of the restrictions imposed by Taliban on women in Afghanistan." RAWA. RAWA. 11 Dec 2008

"The Taliban's War Against Women." Report on the Taliban's War Against Women. 17 Nov 2001. U.S. Department of State. 11 Dec 2008 <>. (picture),16641,20011203,00.html (picture)

Karon, Tony. "The Taliban and Afghanistan." Primer. 18 Sep 2001. Time and CNN. 11 Dec 2008,8599,175372,00.html.

"About AWN." Women for Women. Afghan Women's Network. 11 Dec 2008

"Famous Afghan Women ." Guidebook. Daughters of Afghanistan. 11 Dec 2008 <>.

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