MAHMUD-E RAQI, Afghanistan — Women’s precarious rights in Afghanistan have begun seeping away. Girls’ schools are closing; working women are threatened; advocates are attacked; and terrified families are increasingly confining their daughters to home.
For women, instability, as much as the Taliban themselves, is the enemy. Women are casualties of the fighting, not only in the already conservative and embattled Pashtun south and east, but also in districts in the north and center of the country where other armed groups have sprung up.
As Afghan and Western governments explore reconciliation with the Taliban, women fear that the peace they long for may come at the price of rights that have improved since the Taliban government was overthrown in 2001.
“Women do not want war, but none of them want the Taliban of 1996 again; no one wants to be imprisoned in the yards of their houses,” said Rahima Zarifi, the Women’s Ministry representative from the northern Baghlan Province.
Interviews around the country with at least two dozen female members of Parliament, government officials, activists, teachers and young girls suggest a nuanced reality — fighting constricts women’s freedoms nearly as much as a Taliban government, and conservative traditions already limit women’s rights in many places.