One Year of Grief: A Student’s Perspective


Krishma Haidary, Featured Writer

It’s been a year since fundamental freedoms have been withdrawn from Afghan girls and women by the actions of the Taliban.

Women and girls face the indignity of human rights violations against them by the hand of the Taliban on a daily basis. If I had not escaped to America, I would be one of those girls. Exhausted both physically and mentally from the constant stress of living under the Taliban, girls have watched their hopes be destroyed as they are forced into marriages and denied education.

As I write this in America, I imagine my sisters in Afghanistan watching their dreams being burned, their futures being drowned. The emotional toll of life under the Taliban, girls and women in Afghanistan are suffering from severe depression and mental shutdown due to stress. Imagine living with such family restrictions, social challenges, lack of fundamental freedoms, closed schools, and a hopeless future, that there is increase in their self-immolation and suicide.

The education of girls in Afghanistan must not be dependent on global politics, nor be used as a tool by the Taliban. Education is the way that leads the world from darkness to a bright future. The United Nations (UN) has not acknowledged the rights of Afghan girls to education. This is shameful and conveys to the world that Afghan girls’ fundamental rights do not matter.

While the United Nations has explicitly declared in the preamble of its charter that the members of the United Nations are determined ‘’to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.’’ (United Nations, Preamble) With no action, these words are empty. Furthermore, the UN Charter states that the UN has a responsibility to “maintain international peace and security, PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS, deliver humanitarian aid, support sustainable development and climate action, and uphold international law.”

Indeed, Afghanistan was one of the very first countries to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 13 of ICESCR and article 26 of UDHR clearly articulates the right to education as a fundamental human right.

Additionally, the Human Rights Committee is composed of representatives from nations responsible to monitor the implementation of the Covenant by its state parties. The Human Rights Committee is committed to ensure human rights, and to ensure the protection, promotion and fulfillment of these rights on the basis of equality and non-discrimination, in particular for those who are marginalized and vulnerable. In Afghanistan, women and girls fall under this definition of marginalized people, as they are under the total control of the Taliban.

I mention these international laws, regulations, and principles as a call to action for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to lead the United Nations with a unique mandate to promote and protect all human rights for all people, including the people of Afghanistan, and especially women and girls to act.

I write this to remind the world that the people of Afghanistan, especially women and girls, will never forget the cruel silence and disregard of the human rights violations inflicted on the Afghan people by the Taliban. It is shameful and unconscionable that, in the 21st century, the people of Afghanistan are suffering from a crushing economic crisis, and women and girls are banned from going to schools and universities while the whole world, including the responsible bodies of the UN mentioned above, watch silently.

We the Afghan people have international laws that govern our human rights in social, political, civil, cultural, and economic rights, however, Afghans, especially women and girls, are deprived of all these rights and protections. The enforcement of international laws should be mandatory, and it is the UN who should monitor their implementation everywhere under its jurisdiction. I ask, why is the UN silent against the violation of human rights in Afghanistan? We, the people of Afghanistan, are calling upon the UN to name a single action that they have taken which has resulted in a positive effect for Afghan women and girls. I believe the UN will continue to remain silent, as they have been silent about the Taliban crimes.

We should not forget what Afghan women and girls have tolerated in the past twenty years, even before the Taliban takeover; it was a small minority of them who enjoyed any human rights at all. During that time, a large percentage of women and girls were not granted the right to an education, the right to work, the right to make decisions about their lives, the right to basic freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, nor the right to attend political events and participate in social movements. When the Taliban took over, all the rights fought for and gained by a small fraction of women and girls were negated completely; now women and girls have no rights under the Taliban government. Today we fear a return to the kind of Taliban rule that characterized the last decade of the 20th century during which women and girls were not allowed to leave home without a man who was an immediate family member.

We expect the nations of the free world, the UN responsible bodies, and the Islamic leaders of the world, to stand with us; to raise their voices and condemn this unfair situation that the Taliban has created for Afghan women and girls. Education is not prohibited in any religion. There are many verses in the holy Quran and other Islamic source books which not only allow women and girls to learn, but encourage it. It is only the Taliban who claim that women and girls are not allowed to learn. We don’t expect the Taliban to allow women and girls to be educated because they are terrorists. We feel anger and pain when the world is passive, saying nothing and doing nothing, while the Taliban continues to abuse Afghan women and girls.

I ask you this: is it not painful to suffer economic crisis, poverty, mandatory movement and migrations, unemployment, discrimination, disrespect, torture, lack of freedom and education, and many more miseries, despairs, and sorrows in your own homeland while the whole world silently watches? Yes, it is, but the rest of the world is not feeling our pain. By ignoring our pain, you are contributing to a tragedy for which you will not be forgiven. The free world claims that they promote and protect human rights in all areas of the world, but today they have shown Afghan women and girls that this is just a claim. The free world has kept its silence against the violation of human rights in Afghanistan.

Raise your voice with the Afghan people and demand that all have basic human rights. Share your voice for women’s education, and freedom. Together our voices can end this oppression and as one we are a powerful weapon, against darkness and ignorance.