Afghan women fear the Taliban will bring back harsh restrictions like barring them from work and punish rule-breakers with stonings

Women with covered bodies and faces hold a small child as they flee the Taliban in 1996
Afghan families flee a village near Kabul in 1996 after Taliban fighters retook two nearby hills. Patrick de Noirmont/Reuters
  • The Taliban have retaken Afghanistan.
  • Women are terrified as the Taliban severely restricted their rights and freedoms when last in charge.
  • The group barred women from education, work, and solo travel, and had severe punishments.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Taliban have retaken Afghanistan, leaving women across the country terrified of reprisals and the loss of their rights and freedoms.

The group took control of Kabul, the country’s capital, on Sunday, seizing power of Afghanistan 20 years after it was driven out of power by US-led forces in 2001. The group took control of the country in the late 1990s after taking over large swaths of land.

As the Taliban took over provincial capitals and headed toward Kabul this time around, women in Afghanistan spoke about how they feared for their futures and, in the case of women who became activists and politicians, being hunted and punished.

Some went out to buy burqas to cover their faces, anticipating the return of the group’s strict rules about how women could appear.

It is not yet clear what rules the Taliban will put in place for women now. But here are some of the rules they strictly enforced the last time they were in power, according a 2001 report from the US State Department:

  • Women had to wear coverings from head to toe.
  • Women were not allowed to work, except in very limited circumstances.
  • Women were barred from attending schools.
  • Women’s healthcare was restricted.
  • Women were not allowed to leave their homes unless they were accompanied by male relatives.
  • Women could only use special buses, and were only allowed to take taxis when with male relatives.
  • Women could not be with men who were not related to them on the street.
  • The windows of houses had to painted over to stop outsiders seeing women in their homes.

Women hold hands with their children as they run across a street
Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021, in an effort to flee the country. REUTERS/Stringer

If they broke these rules, women were punished by methods including beatings, and death by stoning.

Women were also subjected to rape, abduction, and forced marriage by the Taliban.

The Taliban claimed it would protect women’s rights this time.

But, as The Guardian reported, in regions that were captured by the Taliban recently, some women have already had the old rules placed on them, like being banned from schools and leaving home without a male escort.

Women have also been forced from banking jobs, Reuters reported.

Some Afghans told The Wall Street Journal that Taliban commanders had ordered some communities to hand over unmarried women to becomes “wives” for fighters, though a Taliban commander later refuted those claims.