brown92_Nava JamshidiGetty Images_afghanistanwomeneducation Nava Jamshidi/Getty Images

The Taliban Cannot Defeat Women

Since returning to power in Afghanistan, the Taliban have steadily eroded the rights and opportunities of women and girls, particularly their access to education. But Afghans are not taking the regime's draconian policies lying down, and nor should the rest of the world.

EDINBURGH – In the weeks since the Taliban’s December 2022 decree banning young women from attending university, Afghans have shown that they will not take this latest outrage lying down. Brave female students have launched a campaign of resistance – risking beatings, arrest, or worse – and their male counterparts (and many professors) have shown solidarity by walking out of their exams.

As much as the Taliban tries to crush girls’ and women’s rights, they are unlikely to achieve a final “victory.” Afghan girls and women enjoyed a right to education in the years prior to the Taliban’s return to power in 2021, and now neither intimidation nor prison sentences will silence them. They have experienced what it is to be free, and they will not accept the alternative.

The Taliban have already been warned that if they exclude women from work performed by NGOs providing food and health care, these organizations will have no choice but to leave the country – a message reinforced this week by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. But another way to effect change is to threaten the Taliban regime with the full force of international law. The Taliban’s brutal and inhumane treatment of women and girls warrants investigation by an international tribunal. The regime is clearly in breach of the international conventions dealing with children’s and women’s rights to which it has agreed. No other country in the world bars women and girls from receiving an education, and no other country has such draconian forms of state-led gender persecution.

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