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‘Erased From All Spheres of Life’, The World is Failing Women and Girls of Afghanistan

By Mara Lafontaine · July 5, 2023

In brief…

  • The Taliban recently outlawed women's beauty salons as women’s rights continue to be stripped away in Afghanistan.
  • Beauty salons provided income for women and served as sanctuaries for female social interaction, two areas severely restricted in recent years.
  • Despite years of negotiations with the Taliban, the international community has had little impact in protecting women's rights, with agreements such as The Doha Agreement which failed to address the issue.
  • Fawzia Koofi criticizes the world's indifference to the human rights crisis in Afghanistan, arguing that attention is only given when new oppressive decrees, like the ban on beauty salons, are issued.
A young girl pictured on International Women's Day in Helmand, Afghanistan.  Mette Bastholm/Helmand PRT/Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Department for International Development, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In an interview with CNN, the former deputy speaker of the Afghan parliament, Fawzia Koofi, says women in Afghanistan have  been “pushed into a corner to become invisible,” as they are systematically “erased from all spheres of life.”

The Taliban has been in the international news this week after outlawing women’s beauty salons. This decree might seem relatively trivial from a Western perspective, but its significance is enormous for Afghan women. Koofi described the salons as “the only place where women could go without being questioned.”

“My friends from Kabul tell me that when they get out of their homes, they stop them and tell them that you’re not supposed to go to university or school. You’re not supposed to go to office and work. Why are you out in the street?”

Koofi describes beauty salons in Afghanistan as businesses that provided income to women who had been forced out of other employment and as sanctuaries for female social interaction. “The whole existence of being a woman is being now kind of taken away by Taliban,” Koofi said, emphasizing the devastating psychological impact of these oppressive measures.

The grim reality is that this is just one in a series of rights being taken away from Afghan women, who are not just losing their sources of income but are being deprived of an education and the ability to move freely in public spaces.

Despite years of negotiation with the Taliban, the international community appears to have had little impact on protecting women’s rights. Koofi pointed to The Doha Agreement, which she says failed to mention women or human rights and represented, in Koofi’s words, “a submissive deal to the Taliban.”

Criticizing the seeming indifference to the unfolding human rights catastrophe, Koofi says that the world is failing the women of Afghanistan and that the international community only pays attention when new oppressive decrees are issued, such as this week’s banning of beauty salons. Koofi laments, “When these edicts come, only that is the time that the women of Afghanistan get to the headlines and the world talks about it.”