President Joe Biden’s failure to prevent the catastrophic, lightning-speed collapse of Afghanistan into Taliban control now imperils the lives and freedoms of more than 18 million Afghan women and girls. This tragic outcome is opposite of Biden’s rhetoric touting his support for the Violence Against Women Act, saying he “believes women” with #MeToo allegations and touring U.S. college campuses, and speaking out against rape.
Afghan women have a median age of just 19.5 years, according to the CIA—young and vulnerable. Their prospects now range from bleak to horrendous. We have already had reports of women in provinces forced to “marry” Taliban fighters who rape them regularly. CNN reported Tuesday the Taliban demanded a mother of four in a small village in northern Afghanistan cook food for up to 15 fighters.
“My mother told them, ‘I am poor, how can I cook for you?'” her daughter reportedly said. “[The Taliban] started beating her. My mother collapsed and they hit her with their guns—AK47s.” The brutalized woman reportedly died from the beating.
Biden gave lip service Tuesday during his take-no-questions White House statement, saying “We’ll continue to speak out for the basic rights of the Afghan people, of women and girls” and, “I’ve been clear that human rights must be the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery.”
Yet Biden’s actions abandoning Afghanistan’s women speak louder than his words. Afghan journalist Nazira Karimi demanded answers on Monday from Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby, who also gave nothing but lip service.
“Everybody is upset, especially women,” Karimi said. “Women had a lot of achievement in Afghanistan. I had a lot of achievement. I left from the Taliban like 20 years ago. Now we go back to the first step again.”
The Taliban has tried a charm offensive, allowing a female presenter, journalist Beheshta Arghand, to interview a Taliban spokesperson Tuesday on Tolo News. The Taliban spokesman reportedly told Arghand, “I am still astonished that people are afraid of Taliban.”
But Karimi and millions of other Afghan women are not fearful without reason—there is compelling evidence about what they can expect. The Taliban brutalized Afghanistan during its rule from 1996 to 2001, leading Amnesty International to report women were oppressed simply for “the ‘crime’ of being born a girl.” Taliban banned women from schooling, working, leaving home without a male chaperone and denied them basic dignities and human rights.
Women were flogged for “showing an inch or two of skin under her full-body burqa, beaten for attempting to study, stoned to death if she was found guilty of adultery,” Amnesty International reported. “Women were essentially invisible in public life, imprisoned in their home.”
What can we expect in the months ahead in this vacuum of U.S. leadership under Biden? The Taliban is planning to reimpose Islamic law, as they style it. During a Tuesday press conference, a Taliban spokesman reportedly pledged its new government would protect women’s rights “within the limits of Islam,” according to Sky News and other outlets.
In practice, for many Muslim countries, sharia law for women means forcing women to wear a veil in public, saying that a wife should always obey her husband, having no right to initiate divorce against her husband, and denying sons and daughters equal inheritance rights. The number of so-called “honor killings” in Afghanistan—at least hundreds annually now—will likely rise under Taliban rule. This is the murder of a woman or girl by male family members, due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought dishonor or shame upon the family reputation. Human Rights Watch reports a woman can be targeted by her family for refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or committing adultery.
Biden and the left’s silence on misogyny in the Muslim world is deafening. Conservatives who do so are often labeled as “Islamophobic.” But working against the oppression of women in Afghanistan is not Islamophobic—it’s pro-human rights.
The U.S. government has already disbursed more than $787.4 million from 2002 to 2020 for activities primarily intended to support Afghan women and girls. But because hundreds of other U.S. programs and projects included an unquantified gender component, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported this amount significantly understates the actual level of U.S. support for women and girls. Any future funding to support Afghanistan’s women is now unlikely to reach its intended beneficiaries since any funding strategy by the U.S. government would likely be foiled by corruption, endemic in Taliban governance.
Biden squandered our credibility and hard-earned U.S. taxpayer treasure, and now Afghanistan’s women will pay the ultimate price.