Photo: Sent to KabulNow

UN Report: Majority of Afghan Women Fear Taliban Recognition Will Worsen Their Suffering

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – A recent UN report shows that an absolute majority of women in Afghanistan (67%) believe that recognizing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan will significantly worsen their situation in the country. 

The joint report was released on Friday, February 16, by the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), UN Women, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). According to the report’s findings, 32% of Afghan women responded that international recognition of the Taliban regime should happen only after all restrictions on women and girls are reversed, while 28% stated that recognition should not happen under any circumstances.

The report is based on collected data through online, in-person, and telesurvey interviews with 745 Afghan women across all provinces of Afghanistan from January 27 to February 8, 2024, showing that nearly 70% of women in Afghanistan worry that any potential for recognizing the Taliban will adversely affect their life.

Since their resurgence to power, the Taliban’s severe restrictions on women’s rights have established one of the world’s most oppressive regimes for women.  

The UN report found that more than half of Afghan women (57%) felt unsafe when leaving their homes without their male guardians. Their sense of insecurity and anxiety heightened whenever a new decree specifically targeting them was announced.

In terms of their influence on decision-making at the community level, only 1% of women reported having “good” or “full” influence. This marks a significant decline from 17% in January 2023, as outlined in the report.

Similarly, the percentage of women reporting “good” or “full” influence over household decision-making has sharply decreased from 90% in January 2023 to 32% in January 2024. This decline in household influence was linked by women to their limited rights, educational opportunities, and job prospects.

The report shows that women’s experience is different across the country, validating prior instances showing Taliban’s differentiated treatment of women along ethno-linguistic lines. For example, women in Kandahar, the seat of the group’s supreme leader, reported slightly better conditions, with only 50% feeling unsafe when leaving home alone. However, no men in Kandahar reported concerns about harassment from the Taliban or other community members.

Following the Taliban’s recent crackdown related to the decree mandating women to wear the Taliban style hijab, the report says women emphasized overwhelmingly that the arbitrary, sudden, and severe enforcement of such decrees left them feeling even more unsafe.

In December of last year, the Taliban Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice started the arrest of young women and girls in Kabul, particularly in the western areas predominantly populated by the Shia/Hazara community, for ” not observing the hijab”. Subsequently, these arrests extended to many other provinces across the country.

UNAMA says it consulted 28 Afghan women in Kabul. Several of them are said to have directly witnessed the Taliban security forces rounding up women and girls in public spaces and transferring them to police stations. “There, they were instructed to call a male family member for pickup. The male relative was then required to pay a fine and sign a document vouching that the woman would wear the full hijab in the future.” 

According to the report, Afghan women expressed concern that the Taliban’s restrictive policies, along with conservative shifts in social attitudes, were becoming increasingly normalized and ingrained in society.

They warned that this could potentially “corrupt future generations of Afghans” psychologically and ideologically.

According to the report, women said that “the best way to improve women’s situation was to link international aid to better conditions for them.”