In the months since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, it has overseen a steady return to the pre-2001 status quo. Women, who previously made up a little more than a quarter of the country’s Parliament and 6.5 percent of its ministerial posts, have been excluded from the Taliban’s interim government. And despite assurances that women would still be allowed to work and study, many have yet to be invited back to their offices and classrooms, as their male peers have. In perhaps the most ominous sign of things to come for Afghan women, the building that was once the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been repurposed to house the reestablished Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Taliban’s morality police.
The Taliban hasn’t just reneged on its promises relating to women’s rights. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, the Taliban has gone back on virtually every reassurance it has made since its return to power. Among Amnesty’s findings is that the group is threatening and intimidating human-rights defenders and journalists, as well as their families. While the majority of the country’s journalists have stopped working, those who continue to do so run the risk of being arrested or beaten. Reports of revenge attacks against those who worked for the former Afghan government have also become commonplace.
“The Taliban ideological framework, the hyper-conservative standpoint—that does not seem to have shifted over the last 20 years,” Agnès Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, told me. “The pretense is gone and the reality is settling in, and it’s a very tough reality.”