As the Tailban takes control of Kabul, millions of Afghan women and girls are fearing for their lives – here's what we can do to help
After 20 years of US military presence in Afghanistan and trillions of dollars spent on attempts to eliminate the Taliban, militants declared on Sunday that they had taken the city of Kabul – the last remaining major city to fall under Taliban control, essentially confirming takeover of the country.
The extremist militant group has promised that a peaceful transfer of power will be undertaken, and that this time they will relax laws to some extent and allow girls to attend school, among other things, but these claims should be met with scepticism.
Under Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001 women were barred from work and school, forced to wear a burqa and be chaperoned by a male relative if they left the house, along with other violations of their basic human rights. Women weren’t allowed to play sport, with women’s running in Afghanistan non-existent.
Since the group was driven out of power in 2001, women have enjoyed more freedom: attending school and university, leading successful professional lives and exercising autonomy over their own bodies. In the sporting world, we’ve seen trailblazers like Khalida Popal lead the Afghan national women’s football team, and just last year we spoke to filmmaker Kate McKenzie about her incredible experience encouraging more women to run through the Secret Marathon. But already, since the extremist group’s return, women’s sport has come to a standstill and burqa prices in Kabul have risen tenfold as many Afghan women scrabble to protect themselves and their female family members from Taliban scrutiny.
Other women remain defiant, refusing to let the new regime destroy the careers and lives they’ve built for themselves. For female politicians and activists, the fear of being hunted and punished – or even killed – is very real. We’re already seeing reports that the Popal and her teammates from the national women’s football team are fearing for their lives, taking down social media profiles in an attempt to hide themselves.
If, like us, you’re finding it difficult to stand by and watch women and girls suffer in Afghanistan, here are a few ways that you can help:
1. Write to your MP
The UK government announced last night that we would be taking in 20,000 Afghan refugees over a five-year period, but there’s still a lot more that can be done. Writing to your MP to encourage them to put pressure on the government to do more can help: you could ask them to ensure safe passage to Afghan refugees or pledge to do more to help women and girls. Here’s everything you need to write to your MP.
2. Donate to a charity
It’s important to do your research when donating to a charity, but here are some that we’d recommend:
- Women For Women (your donation will help to provide practical solutions to protect women from violence)
- Afghanaid (your donation will be used to provide emergency assistance to Afghan people who have lost their homes and livelihoods)
- International Rescue Committee (your donation will help to provide life-saving aid to civilians in Afghanistan, particularly women and girls who are bearing the brunt of the violence)
- Miles4Migrants (your donation of air miles, cash or vouchers will be used to airfares for refugees and asylum seekers, including from Afghanistan)
3. Support Afghan women’s voices
Rukhshana Media, an Afghan media outlet founded by journalist Zahra Joya and named after a woman who was stoned to death by the Taliban in 2015, provides vital access to real women’s perspectives and experiences. You can donate here to help fund Rukhshana and prevent women’s voices from being silenced.
If you’re aware of any other ways to help, get in touch with us here.