Examining two years of Taliban rule in Afghanistan

Throughout August 2023 and beyond, CHASI highlighted the current situation in Afghanistan.

August 8, 2023

Two Years of Taliban Rule in Afghanistan In the month of August CHASI will be highlighting the current impact of the Taliban regime on people living in Afghanistan, with a focus on the ongoing resistance and resilience shown by the Afghan people.

What Happened August 15th, 2021? On August 15th, 2021, the Taliban entered Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, finalizing their takeover of the nation following the withdrawal of U.S. troops only days prior. As routes out of the country became unpredictable, hundreds of people crowded the airport trying to get on flights leaving the country. Within days, photos of women were painted over, signalling the looming collapse of women's rights. Two photos of large crowds of people at Kabul airport and on airplane. Two photos of photos from the street of Kabul showing photos of Afghan women’s faces painted over.

Topics We will Highlight: * Gender Apartheid and Women's Rights * The Hazara Genocide * Ongoing resistance * Art as a form of protest * Art and poetry by Afghan women * Timeline of events * Afghan refugees in Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley

August 10, 2023: Announcing a UFV walk-out in support of the women of Afghanistan

Poster reading: UFV Walk-Out in support of Afghan Women, featuring activist Sahar Maqsoodi. A photo shows an empty classroom in Afghanistan. The poster contains the event details listed in this post's text.

Afghan women have been banned from attending high school since September 2021 and university since December 2022. This event will demonstrate UFV’s support for women during this time of gender apartheid in Afghanistan. We will welcome Afghan activist Sahar Maqsoodi to share her perspective.

August 15, 2023: UFV walk-out supporting Afghan women

To mark two years since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, CHASI and members of the Afghan community staged a university walk-out at noon today. The focus was on supporting Afghan women, who have been banned from attending high school since September 2021 and university since December 2022. Afghan activist Sahar Maqsoodi joined the event, sharing the realities of the situation in her home country and the impact of such demonstrations of support.

Thank you for everyone who joined us and lent their support! Please visit our post about the walk-out for more.

August 16, 2023

This week as we recognize the painful two year anniversary of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, it is important to remember that this is not an isolated event. Rather, it is an ongoing crisis that is continuing to evolve, and our responses as individuals and nations must continue to evolve as well.

Graphic reading "Afghanistan is currently the only country that has formally banned women from education. It has been two years since the Taliban's orders began banning girls and women from schools and universities in a dramatic regression of human rights. This past week, the restrictions have been expanded..."
Graphic read "Previously, girls over the age of 12 were prohibited from going to school. As of this week, all girls older than the age of 10 are banned. This means that girls are prohibited from receiving more than a third-grade education." There are two photos. One shows an empty classroom, and the other shows a crowd of young Afghan girls..

August 17, 2023: Discussion with Nasrat Khalid

Screenshot of a Zoom conversation between Nasrat and CHASI's team, who are all gathered on one side of a table to speak with him.

Thank you to Nasrat Khalid for speaking to CHASI today from the Washington D.C. area. Nasrat shared his amazing work creating Aseel as a space for artisans in Afghanistan and other countries to sell their work around the world.

After the Taliban takeover in 2021, he pivoted and expanded Aseel to include providing direct aid to people in Afghanistan. We were inspired by his story and the amount of impact one innovative person can have. Please consider exploring Aseel to learn more!

August 18, 2023

Illustration of a young Afghan girl drawn in full colour wearing a school uniform and a backpack with a rainbow pattern on the side. In the background, Afghan women stand as black silhouettes against a dark red background, their heads bowed and faces covered.

“There is a child in all of us who yearns to learn, to live with freedom and dignity.” – Sharon Strauss, CHASI artist.

August 22, 2023: CHASIcast with Fatema D. Ahmadi

We were honoured to welcome Fatema D. Ahmadi to the CHASIcast for August.

Ahmadi is a Fellow and Adjunct Professor at American University, School of Public Affairs in Washington, DC, and is dedicated to advocating for human rights, particularly women’s rights, in Afghanistan. Through her work, Ahmadi aims to spotlight the difficulties faced by vulnerable groups, gather data on human rights abuses, and advocate for transformative change.

In this episode, Ahmadi joins guest host and CHASI Lead Researcher Chelsea Klassen to discuss growing up and pursuing an education as a refugee, the restrictive laws Afghan women are subjected to, and how people in Afghanistan and around the world are pushing back.

Links to listen on various podcast platforms, as well as a full transcript, are available in our post about the episode.

August 28, 2023

“In honour of Afghanistan’s hidden poets and the art of whispered rebellions.” – Sharon Strauss, CHASI artist

Illustration showing two scenes. The top shows women covered in blue burqas, their heads down, walking in a line. On either side are men in military uniforms. Two assault rifles are superimposed in the foreground, and red drops of blood form the background. The lower image shows women gathered underground in a warmly lit room with a book case. Some wear the burqas, but others wear less head coverings or have their hair showing. Two of the women are reading a book with a heart between them. One is reading a piece of paper. An adult woman is watching a young girl write in a book. The lower image has a feeling of warmth and camaraderie, contrasted with the frightening control of the top image.

August 30, 2023

Women in Afghanistan continue to risk their safety to write poetry and have their voices be heard.
Under Taliban rule, women's right to exist in society has been stripped away. Women's humanity, let alone their individuality and perspective, continues to be limited and silenced. Through art, Afghan women are continuing to express themselves and have their voices be heard.

The landay is a type of Pashtun folk poem common among women living in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These poems, consisting of only two lines, are traditionally sung or told orally, as they often are created for and by people who are illiterate.

Much like other forms of poetry, such as the Japanese haiku, landays are defined by their structure, composed of nine syllables in the first line and thirteen in the second.
Landays are often written expressing themes of life, death, war, grief, and love. The brief nature of this style of poetry lends itself to concise articulations of life experiences and social commentary.

The Afghan word 'Landay' translates to mean a ‘small venomous snake’.

Mirman Baheer: The Secret Women's Literary Society Based in Kabul

As of 2013, Mirman Baheer was the largest literary society for women in Afghanistan. Founder Saheera Sharif provides a space for women to write, transcribe, and share poetry. Girls and women who cannot physically get to one of their meeting places will call in secret to recite their poetry over the phone to someone who can transcribe it. To further hide their identities women often use pen names. Without a safe option to protest their circumstances, poetry gives girls a way to speak out.

Photo of Saheera Sharif.

Founder Saheera Sharif (pictured above) has been quoted saying,
“a poem is a sword."

Griswold, E. (2012, April 27). Why afghan women risk death to write poetry. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/magazine/why-afghan-women-risk-death-to-write-poetry.html

Many landay poems written by Afghan women are forms of protest and resistance. Here are some examples.

"Father you sold me to an old man
May God destroy your house; I was your daughter."

"In my dream I am the president
When I wake up I am the beggar of the world."

"When sisters sit together, they always praise their brothers When brothers sit together, they sell their sisters to others."

“I call. You’re stone.
One day you’ll look and find I’m gone.”

Poetry Foundation. (n.d.). Landays: Poetry of afghan women. Poetry Foundation. https://static.poetryfoundation.org/o/media/landays.html

Winning, D. (2023, March 7). Le “Landay” : La Résistance poétique des Femmes Afghanes pashtounes. Viabooks. https://www.viabooks.fr/article/le-landay-poesie-femmes-afghanes-pashtounes-mirman-baheer-daisy-winling-125737

September 7, 2023

“May the pride and fighting spirit of Afghan women burn ever brightly.” – Sharon Strauss, CHASI artist.

Illustration of a woman in a blue burqa holding a rose. She is standing in a field of red flowers. The bottom of her burqa is on fire and the fire blends into the red and orange flowers around her. The background is bright white with indications of a smoky sky.

September 15, 2023

Timeline of Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

The politics and cultural environment surrounding women’s rights has been unsteady and ever changing.

The complicated and fraught history of women’s rights in Afghanistan goes much further back than the past two years of Taliban rule.

Photo of a woman in a blue burqa with a young girl beside her.

Women enjoyed broad rights and freedoms comparable to women in other countries. Afghan women gained the right to vote in 1919, one year before women in the US.

In the year after the president was killed in a communist coup, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. While the Afghanistan civil war was occurring, more religious extremist groups gained power and restrictions against the freedoms of women increased.

Photo of three women speaking. Under the photo the caption reads: "Medical Students talking to their professor (right) in 1962." All three women are in lab coats and their hair is uncovered.

After their formation in 1994, the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996. With this came a rapid erasure of women’s rights and freedoms. Under the Taliban’s version of Sharia law, women and girls were banned from going to school, working, or leaving the house without being completely covered and accompanied by a male counterpart. Women were at risk of being brutally punished if they did not comply.

One photo captioned: “Afghan women wear Taliban-imposed burqas in Kabul.” Another photo with the caption: "Taliban rally in Kabul, October 1996."

Following the 9/11 attacks, the US invaded Afghanistan, beginning two decades of Western intervention and a Western-backed Afghan government. By the end of 2001, the Taliban had been ousted from power.

2001 - 2021:
A new constitution was put in place that supported equal rights for women, but the advances were slow due to institutional and constitutional barriers. Many people still held traditional beliefs and women continued to face violence and discrimination. In the time between 2001 and 2018 the enrolment into education increased exponentially. Literacy rates among women doubled in this time.

Photo of Afghan girls in a classroom.

August 15th, 2021: 
The Taliban takes power in Afghanistan, with their seizure of the capital city, Kabul. Within days there were signs of women being erased from public life.

March 2022:
Girls are banned from returning to secondary school after the pandemic closures lift.

September 2021: 
Universities become segregated. Women are only allowed in classes taught by other women or by elderly men. Head coverings are mandatory.

Photo with the caption: "Students attend a class with men and women separated by a curtain at a private university in Kabul.”

May 2022: 
The Taliban mandated women to be completely covered when leaving the home, including a mesh face covering. Afghan women were quoted saying that this mandate erased them from public life.

December 2022:
Women are banned from universities.

First public execution and floggings occur. Women were among the first group of 27 people subjected to floggings.

Photo captioned: "Afghan women stand outside an amusement park in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, November 10, 2022."

April 2023:
Women’s rights and their presence in public life continued to decrease. At this point, women are banned from their positions within United Nations.

July 2023:
Hair and beauty salons are ordered to close. This move not only took away one of the last spaces women could gather away from Taliban scrutiny, but it also took the jobs of approximately 60,000 women.

August 2023:
The law banning women and girls from school expands to include any girl above 10 years of age. This means that girls in Afghanistan are currently only permitted to have up to a third grade education.

Photo captioned: “Afghan women peek through the door of a vacated beauty parlour in Kabul.”