On August 13, 2022, Afghan women in the capital city of Kabul gathered in front of the education ministry building, to protest human rights abuses by the Taliban including depriving women of the ability to work and participate in politics. They were also aiming to secure more aid and support from nations abroad. The Taliban swiftly responded by chasing and beating the female protestors. The international community, including the U.N. and human rights groups, have condemned the Taliban’s repression of women’s rights.
The Current Situation
The Afghan women’s protest was motivated, in part, by a desire for more humanitarian aid to be distributed to the 24 million Afghans in need. As of August 15, 2022, approximately 20 million of these Afghans are at critical risk of starvation and an estimated 1.1 million Afghan children may face severe malnutrition this year. Drought conditions and a spiraling economy have only exacerbated these issues. Furthermore, the Taliban have restricted women’s right to work and closed school to most girls after the sixth grade. As a result of these restrictions on women, Afghanistan has lost upwards of $1 billion. The government budget this year is a fraction of the 2020 budget and the economy has become increasingly dependent on foreign aid to fund public spending.
The Response from Other Countries
The deteriorating human rights situation in Afghanistan, especially for women and girls, has led to increased foreign intervention. For example, the U.S. has admitted more than 81,000 Afghans since the Taliban regained control over the country. Furthermore, on August 12, 2022, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a $30 million commitment in support of gender equality and female empowerment in Afghanistan. This money will also be allocated to organizations seeking to advance women’s rights in Afghanistan. However, the Afghan women’s protest shows that these efforts have been too far and in between and highlights the dire need for more international partnership on these issues.
The Efforts of International Organizations
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has also prompted aid from international organizations. In fact, since the Taliban takeover, U.N. agencies have stayed in Afghanistan and provided aid to nearly 23 million people. Moreover, on June 10, 2022, the U.K. provided donations to The World Food Programme (WFP), which allowed the organization to aid 17 million Afghans through cash transfers and food and nutrition support. This helped families address their most urgent needs by putting food on the table.
The Road Ahead
Afghanistan has been plagued by violence and anguish for decades now. Many children and young adults do not know of an Afghanistan that is not war-torn and barren. They do not know of the nation that was on its way to international prominence – this might be the greatest tragedy of all. Despite the havoc caused by the withdrawal of U.S. forces, humanitarian agencies such as the WFP have stayed in the country. Countries, such as the U.S. and the U.K., continue to provide aid to the Afghans in a pragmatic manner. Although this is indicative of the international community’s determination to help Afghans, as the women’s protest has emphasized, there is still a considerable amount of work left to do.
– Abdullah Dowaihy