Women’s rights in Afghanistan: 2023 overview

In 2023, women and girls in Afghanistan resorted to indoor protests to assert their rights amid escalating restrictions. From September to November, the Taliban detained four women’s rights advocates — Parisa Azadeh, Neda Parwani, Julia Parsi, and Manijeh Sediqi. Sediqi remains imprisoned under unclear charges.

This year marked a significant regression in women’s rights in Afghanistan, with the Taliban issuing over fifty stringent decrees, as reported by the United Nations Human Rights Council. These decrees led to the closure of women’s educational institutions and barred them from working in non-governmental organizations. Additionally, the Taliban shut down women’s hair salons, baths, sports facilities, and recreational centers.

Key Taliban decrees of 2023 included:

University closures for women

Work restrictions

Travel bans

Closing of hair salons

Shutting down baths, sports, and recreation areas

Bushra, 25, is among the many affected, finding herself jobless and unable to pursue her career despite holding two university degrees. “I lost my job last year due to Taliban restrictions. Being the sole breadwinner for a family of nine, it’s been devastating,” she shared.

Women’s protests continued, often facing violent repression by the Taliban. Since 2021, several women’s protest movements have emerged, including:

Purple Saturdays Movement

Afghanistan’s Powerful Women’s Movement

Takhar Women’s Movement

Women’s Movement for Justice and Freedom

Afghanistan Panjare Omid Women’s Movement

Women’s Movement Towards Freedom

Solidarity Movement of Protesting Women of Afghanistan

Wave of Unity and Solidarity of Takhar Women

Women’s Movement for Peace and Freedom

Participation and Justice Seeking Group

Self-immolation Movement of Protesting Women of Afghanistan

Afghan Women’s Voice Movement

Afghan Women’s Movement for Equality

“Every protest ended in beatings, and we were ultimately coerced into silence,” said Mozhgan Feraji, a women’s rights activist. Despite international outcry, the arrest of protesters like Manizha Siddiqui by the Taliban continues.

Notable activists arrested this year include Parisa Mubarez, Bahare Karimi, Parisa Azadeh, Neda Parwani, Julia Parsi, and Manizha Seddiqi.

“2023 has been a year of unprecedented challenges and setbacks for Afghan women, marked by over 50 restrictive Taliban decrees,” stated Shafiqa Razmanda, founder of the Afghan National Women’s Alliance.

Afghan women and girls report being stripped of basic rights and freedoms. A UNESCO report highlights the dire educational situation: 2.5 million girls out of school and 100,000 barred from university. The United Nations warns of a bleak future for Afghanistan if these trends continue.