Afghanistan 1 year later after the takeover 

On August 15th, 2021, the Taliban seized the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul. This marked a critical point in history for the Afghan people. A year later, we explore what the Taliban takeover has meant for the men, women and children living in the country and how the attitude and policies of the de facto Taliban regime has impacted millions of people. 

Freedom of the Press 

One year after the takeover, Afghanistan finds itself highly restrained and limited in certain areas of society,.  including enforced restrictions on media freedoms. Such restrictions have allowed for less transparency on behalf of the de facto regime, as well as more oppression against journalists, which have translated into beatings, detention and torture. This led several journalists to flee the country and has caused a significant scale back in reporting. The arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists also had a chilling effect on civic activism, as HRW reports. The restrictions on media freedom are of serious concern, especially when it comes to monitoring the situation in the country, as evidence of possible human rights infringements by the Taliban is extremely limited and dangerous to obtain. Additionally, the lack of accurate and factual reporting may entail less information coming through regarding the actual struggles and challenges ordinary people face in Afghanistan, such as severe poverty and malnutrition. 

Women’s rights 

With the Taliban taking over the country, women found themselves particularly vulnerable due to the repressive policies and attitudes directed at them. In fact, despite the Taliban’s affirming their support for girls’ education, most secondary girl-schools were closed shortly after the takeover. At the end of August 2021, the acting minister of higher education announced that women were allowed to participate in higher education – but separate from men. This proved to be challenging for women wanting to  pursue higher education, due to the lack of female teachers in the field. Access to employment for women was also severely curtailed. In August 2021, women in government positions were sent home and their salaries were  hugely reduced. Women in such positions have also reported being asked by the Taliban to recommend a male relative that could take up their job since the workload had increased. Sima Bahous, executive director of UN Women, affirmed in May that women unemployment resulted in an immediate economic loss of up to $1bn, which is equivalent to Afghanistan’s 5% GDP. This is an element of serious concern since the country is facing almost universal poverty and since malnutrition and food insecurity are threatening an entire generation. 

According to a HRW report, after the takeover, the Taliban also looked for high-profile women and denied them freedom of movement outside their homes. The Taliban have severely restricted the human rights of Afghan women, excluding them from most aspects of everyday and public life. The situation for women in Afghanistan is a serious and concerning one, filled with insecurity about what the future holds for them. The international community and relevant agencies must keep on monitoring the situation and provide as much support as possible. 

Children’s rights 

After the Taliban takeover, things have been going “steadily worse” for children’s rights, as affirmed by UNICEF’s Samantha Mort. In fact, as of today, being a child in Afghanistan is extremely challenging. As the Taliban took overpower, sanctions were imposed, and donors started pulling out of standard funding pools. Afghanistan has since been in severe economic decline , which is having serious impacts on children. There have been reports of parents having to sell their children due to the extreme poverty they were facing. In some instances, selling one’s child was not enough, and individuals had to put their organs up for sale. 

The situation has become exponentially worse for children, with 3 million children facing acute malnutrition and many children dying from preventable diseases such as measles. With a catastrophic humanitarian crisis fueled by an unprecedented food crisis, violence, droughts and Covid-19, Afghan children are left vulnerable and at risk. UNICEF warns of millions of children, particularly girls, being permanently shut out of education. The role of international agencies and NGOs is as important as ever. 

Humanitarian aid  

Delivering humanitarian aid in Afghanistan is not met without any challenges  for agencies and NGOs. In March 2022, OCHA carried out its first bi-annual Access Severity Exercise. After conducting the overview, key findings were gathered and showed different levels of access constraints across different districts. In 5% of the districts, it resulted to be high, in 23% of the districts it resulted to be moderate, and in 72% of the districted it resulted to be lower. The most common impediment faced by all humanitarian partners was navigating new relations with the de facto Taliban authorities. 

Final remarks 

Humanitarian aid is of vital importance in a country where one of the worst humanitarian crises is taking place. Selling one’s child or organs should not become a common practice for people suffering from hunger and lacking essential needs. Women should not be confined to their homes, but rather, they should be participating in every aspect of society, their autonomy must be protected and without them a country cannot succeed or develop fully. Human rights should also be placed at the basis of every policy taken by any government or regime, including by the de facto Taliban authorities.  

It is pivotal that the international community does not turn its back to the millions of lives currently at risk in Afghanistan, and that it continues to deliver aid and provide support to vulnerable communities, especially women and children. By assisting and supporting people who need it the most, the burden of this extreme humanitarian crisis may be marginally relieved in the short-term.