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This article is part of a Fox News Digital series examining the consequences of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan one year ago this week.
Decades of progress for Afghan women’s rights rolled back in a matter of months. Widespread hunger and malnutrition exacerbated by an international freeze on aid. A draconian crackdown on any public expression that doesn’t conform with a hard-line interpretation of Islam. Violent attacks that have rocked the capital of Kabul.
This is day-to-day life one year after the Taliban entered Kabul and took Afghanistan back following the withdrawal of U.S. troops last August.
Women and girls have been especially hard hit by the Taliban’s rise to power. The country’s new religious rulers have restricted women from working outside the home aside from a few sectors, banned girls from attending secondary school, ordered women to cover their faces in public, and implemented rules that limit a woman’s ability to travel without a male chaperone.
Widespread hunger has also increased drastically amid a worsening economic crisis, with about half of Afghanistan’s 38 million people experiencing acute food insecurity.
These two issues – the revocation of women’s rights and a cratering economy – have compounded to create one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world right now, according to Phillipe Kropfe, a spokesperson who is based in Kabul for the United Nations World Food Program.
“After four decades of conflict, many households are led by widows, and they are the only breadwinner. Without the full participation of women and girls in all aspects of public life there is little chance of achieving lasting peace, stability and economic development,” Kropfe told Fox News Digital.
An Afghan man with a family of 12 people and lost his job at a local NGO last August said he has struggled to bring food home on a daily basis since the Taliban took over, but his more pressing concern is for the future of his daughters.
“My biggest worry right now is uncertain future of my children especially girls,” the man, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal from the Taliban, told Fox News Digital. “My eldest daughter is in 7th class and whenever she asks me about when she will return to school it makes my heart full of pain because no one has the answer.”
The Taliban’s takeover last year is not the first time that women in Afghanistan have seen their hard-fought rights rolled back.
The 20th century saw steady progression of basic rights for women, but that came to an abrupt halt when the Taliban first rose to power in 1996; a rule that would continue until the United States and allies launched Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001.
“Women of Afghanistan were able to take advantage of the opportunities offered to them following the 2001 removal of the Taliban to continue their democratization efforts of the earlier decades, particularly during the 1970s and 1980s, which included extensive gender equality provisions, like women’s greater access to higher education,” Mona Tajali, a professor of international relations and women’s studies at Agnes Scott college and an executive board member for Women Living Under Muslim Laws, told Fox News Digital.
Women inside and outside of Afghanistan voiced their concerns when the Trump administration began negotiating with the Taliban in 2019 and 2020.
“Women’s warnings however fell on deaf ears, and the Biden administration implemented the Trump administration’s timeline of troops withdrawal, while neither administration had reached any safeguards on human rights, peace, security, or even girls’ education,” Tajali said.
“Many Afghan women activists and leaders feel betrayed by the U.S government, since addressing their rights served as a justification for the occupation in 2001, only to be fully ignored in 2021.”
While women and other Afghans have protested for their rights over the last year, the Taliban has cracked down on freedom of expression with extrajudicial killings and detainment of activists.
The Taliban’s Government Media and Information Center issued an order in September 2021 that prohibited journalists from publishing stories “contrary to Islam” or “insulting to national figures,” leading to the arrest and torture of more than 80 journalists over the past year, according to a report this month by Amnesty International.
The Afghan father who expressed fear about the future of his children also said that his ability to discuss his country’s challenges has been severely curtailed by the Taliban.
“I could talk and write about situation, problems and solutions of politics, economy and country. Now I am deprived of all [those] rights and privileges,” he said. “The Taliban can arrest, torture and even kill me any moment for any reason or without a reason and there is no one [asking] them why you arrest or kill a human being.”
Despite the daily challenges that women, girls, and other Afghans face one year after the Taliban’s takeover, the country is anything but a lost cause, according to Zuhra Bahman, the Afghanistan Director for Search for Common Ground who is based in Kabul.
“There are women who work in ministries resisting from within; there are women marching for their rights; and most importantly there are women who are leading humanitarian efforts and making a change in their community,” Bahman told Fox News Digital.