Women's History Resource Site

King's College History Department


Written by Gary Marcin, 1998.  See Disclaimer.

Two thirds of the country of Afghanistan, including the capital, Kabul, is ruled by a Pashtun-dominated ultra- conservative Islamic movement known as the Taliban. The Talib, or "students," developed their extremist interpretation of Islam in the refugee camps of Pakistan during the 1979-89 war against the Soviet occupation. In the political, social and economic chaos after the Soviet withdrawal and then loss of American aid, the Taliban fought against other Mujahideen for control of the country.  After the September 27, 1996 takeover of  the capital, the streets of Kabul were full of young bearded men in black turbans, high on the Koran/Qur'an and battle. Squads from the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice reportedly raced around Kabul, with whips of leather and cable, beating anyone who they felt was being un-Islamic.

The plight of women in Afghanistan is a great concern, because the law enforces strict segregation and restrictions based on gender, called by some "gender apartheid." The Taliban has put many restrictions on the women of this country.  For one, they are not permitted to go to work or school. They are considered to be under "house arrest," they are not allowed to leave their houses without a male member of their family, even when they might not have such a person, due to the past warfare in the country. On December 29, 1997 the Taliban rulers stoned a women to death who was with a man that was not one of her relatives. This points out that a women found with a man who was not a family member faces the death penalty. The Taliban closed all girl schools, and most of the other schools in the country have closed as well because 70 percent of the teachers in the country are women. Women are also unable to get immediate health care, restrictions have greatly hurt their physical and psychological health. The Physicians for Human Rights study shows that physical health of 71% of the women has deteriorated during the past two years, and 53% of women describe occasions when they were seriously ill and denied medical care. Their study also finds that mental stress and depression was common among 97% of the women studied, and 42% of the women meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, and 21% had suicidal thoughts. Another problem that was brought upon women by the Taliban is, they all must wear a garment called a "burqa," which completely covers their body under thick material, and leaves only a small mesh opening to see and breathe. Women are also not allowed to wear high heals or white socks because the Taliban considers them sexual.  Also music and movies are banned as well as the flying of kites.

Even in the eyes of some of the Islamic community the Taliban has stepped out of line in its treatment of women. Some quotes:  "The Taliban's view has no basis in the Qur'an, yet yet it has been promoted by the Taliban as Islamic." "This situation is very distressing considering that women were given rights in the Qur'an to contribute to the economy by owning and selling property 1400 years ago."

To end this article there is a quote from Eleanor Smeal from the National Organization of Women: "If this was happening to any other class of people around the world, there would be a tremendous outcry. We must make sure these same standards are applied when it is women and girls who are brutally treated."

Annotated Bibliography

Loar, Theresa. Statement on the Situation in Afghanistan, URL:  http://www.gwu.edu/~win/html/afghanistan.html. Accessed 17 November 1998.

This is a short 10-page article explaining the problems women are facing in Afghanistan. It includes some very important information and provides good insight to women's many problems. The author has great insight; she is the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues Department of State before Senator Diane Feinstein.


Amanpour, Christine. "Tyranny of the Taliban," Time Australia, 13 October 1997, 50.

A revealing visit to the capital gives the reader insight into the true problems the people of Afghanistan are going through. The article is short but gives the reader first hand accounts of the hardships women in the country.


Power, Carla. "When Women are the Enemy," Newsweek, 3 August 1998, 37.

The author of this article has first hand information information because she lived in Kabul before the Soviet invasion. Although it is a short article it has good insight, because the author was able to interview some of the people that are living under Taliban rule.


"Restore Women's Rights in Afghanistan," The Feminist Majority Foundation, 1997. available from URL: http://.feminist.org/action/action50.html. Accessed 17 November 1998.

This article is short but writen for the most basic reader, and is very insightful. The main point of the article is to inform the reader about the problems facing women in Afghanistan. And tries to get the reader to take action in trying to restore the rights of women in the country.


"Afghan Women Stoned to Death for Spending Time with Non-Relative," Feminist News March 31, 1997, taken from Associated Press March 29, 1997. URL: http://www.feminist.org/news/newsbyte/march97/0331html.

This is a one-paragraph article that gives a great example of what an Afghan woman may go through if she is not accompanied by a male relative. It is direct and to the point, and any person that reads it will understand it.


"Afghan Women Remain Prisoners in Their Homes," Feminist News, October7, 1996. taken from Washington PostOctober7, 1996. URL: http://feminist.org/news/newsbyte/october96/1007.html. Accessed 17 November 1998.

This is another short two-paragraph article, that explains the plight of the women in Afghanistan. It gives a short easy to read description of the fear that women have.


Palmer,Caitriona, "The Taliban's War on Women," The Lancet. 29 August 1998, 734.

This is a very informative article that gives the reader good information of the goings on in Afghanistan. The article gives a important study about the physical and psychological health of women under the Taliban's rule. The article is also easy to understand and could be used by the most basic reader.


"Stop Gender Apartheid In Afghanistan," The Feminist Majority Foundation Online. URL: http://www.feminist.org/afghan/facts.html. Accessed 17 November 1998.

This is a very important article in that it gives the reder good insight into what is happening in Afghanistan. The article gives the reader three main ideas,1)the origins of the Taliban; 2) that gender apartheid is a reality under Taliban Law; 3) what is being done to stop the mis-treatment.


Bonino,Emma. Tyranny of the Taliban, Time. 17 October 1997, 60.

This article gives the reader first hand information on what is happening in Afghanistan.The Author visited the country to find that the Taliban authorities did not like journalists, they were physically harassed and their film and equipmentwas taken from them. It is a easy article to understand and the facts are put in a way that anyone that reads it will get a true understanding of the problems being brought up.


"Perspective on Women's Plight in Afghanistan," Muslim Women's League Homepage. November 1996. URL: http://www.afghan~web.com/politics/talibanwomen.html. Accessed 17 November 1998.

This to me is one of the most important articles, because it is from other Islamic people, not people half-way around the world who have nothing in common with the women being mistreated. It gives valuable information, on the fact that the Qur'an has nothing in it like the Taliban is pushing for.



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URL: http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/taliba.html
Written by Gary Marcin, Copyright 1998.
Prof. Pavlac
's Women's History Resource Site:
built, maintained & Copyright
1998, MMI by
Brian A. Pavlac: All Rights Reserved.

Original Posting: December 1998
Last Revision: 17 September 2001
Questions, Suggestions, Comments? e-mail bapavlacATkings.edu