This blog post was created by a woman, lawyer and activist who experienced life in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s regime.
The situation of women and girls in Afghanistan
I was a woman like millions of others living in Afghanistan, who benefited from an education and a career until two years ago. The Taliban took power in my country in 2021 and they have issued more than 50 decrees, through which they have systemically discriminated against women and erased them completely from public life.
The girls in my country are not allowed to go to school over grade 3, depending where they live.
Women are not allowed to pursue any kind of education, even university or other training.
Women are not allowed to work outside of the home.
Women are not allowed to leave home alone.
Women have to dress according to what they (the Taliban) want.
Women are not allowed to go to the gym, public places, public baths restaurants, now even the beauty salons are closed.
Everything was banned to us. I used to start my day watching the walls around me and end my day in that same room, watching those same walls.
Once, I had to leave my house, to go to the shop and buy something essential. On the way there, a man hit me with his car. He hurt my leg – I had to go to the hospital. I contacted the traffic police, to ask for help, all they had to say was, “Well, why did you leave the house?”
How I tried to find a solution
I saw that many countries like Finland, Sweden, Denmark and others had announced that they would grant asylum for Afghan women and girls because of the Taliban’s restrictions and bans which were and still are violating women’s rights in Afghanistan.
At that time I was happy and grateful for the gesture, and indeed I still am, but still I started thinking that this is not the solution. Half of the population of Afghanistan are women, how can all these millions of women all possibly leave the country? It is not possible. It is not the solution.
I tried to find another solution, and thought about how I could find a position or an organisation that might have the power to do something. Someone who could at least investigate what is happening in Afghanistan and what is happening to us. Because, for someone like me, who grew up in freedom and democracy and had the opportunity to study, the situation was unbearable. I graduated from school and university and had the opportunity to work and that was all taken from me, which was an incredibly difficult time.
I tried to find the highest position that might be able to do something, and I found the International Criminal Court (ICC). They investigate crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocides. And I thought – this is what is happening to women and girls in Afghanistan – this is a crime against humanity. It is a crime against me and millions of other women and girls in the country, because we all are human beings and we must at least have our basic human rights, just like every other human being in this world.
Women are banned from everything. And so I believe that the ICC must investigate the crimes that are happening.
After doing extensive research I found that it is extremely difficult to submit a complaint to the ICC due to the amount of paperwork and evidence. I thought it was not going to be possible to do it that way.
So I changed my approach and I wrote up my complaint in an article for the media. This, also, was not easy. I reached out to many media publications and asked them to publish my complaint. Eventually, the Jurist accepted and published my article.
It was not enough.
The reaction to my article
When my article was published in the Jurist and I published it on my social media, I was so happy – it was one of my first ever articles to be published.
But then the criticism started pouring in. People were telling me that the ICC was not the correct organisation to help people in Afghanistan or investigate any crimes there. Or that the crimes against women and girls that are happening cannot be proven! And many, many other comments. It felt like an attack. I was very sad. I even felt some regret – why did I even write this article and call upon the ICC to help?
But later I saw that Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists released a joint report in which they were also calling upon the ICC to investigate the crimes that are happening against women and girls in Afghanistan. So I felt like I had been vindicated.
When I tell my story, most people understand the gravity of the situation in which the women and girls in my country still find themselves. But, similarly to when I publicised my article, there can be hostile reaction from a minority. For example, I have recently heard from a woman in Pakistan who stated that what I was describing was not the case only in Afghanistan and they have the same situation in Pakistan.
What I would say to comments like that is:
• Are there any women working in your government?
• Are all women in your country banned from working?
You will find that in most countries, including Pakistan, there are women in government, and women are allowed to work. While women’s rights have a long way to go around the world, the situation of women in Afghanistan is unique. No other women around the world are experiencing such a situation on a national scale.