It’s been two years since Kabul fell and the Taliban took over the government of Afghanistan. It’s been two years of suffering for Afghan women and girls.

As the Taliban celebrates today as a national holiday, women are effectively erased from every aspect of public life.

Where are Afghan women banned?

“We are going to allow women to study and work within our framework. Women are going to be very active in our society,” the Taliban announced in their first press conference two years ago today.

But then, in March 2022, the Taliban suddenly banned girls from schools above the sixth grade. In May 2022, women were ordered to be completely covered head to toe, with only their eyes showing. By November, women were banned from parks and gyms. On Dec. 21, they were banned from attending universities and on Dec. 24, they were banned from working with national governmental and nongovernmental organizations, a move that put millions of people at risk. In July of this year, the Taliban shut down beauty salons. As reported by The New York Times, these women-only spaces were “forbidden under Shariah law and caused economic hardship for grooms’ families during wedding celebrations.”

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“Afghanistan under the Taliban remains the most repressive country in the world regarding women’s rights,” said Roza Isakovna Otunbayeva, special representative of the Unite Nations secretary-general and head of the mission to Afghanistan in March.

The Afghan supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, has praised the changes imposed since the takeover, claiming life improved for Afghan women after foreign troops left, reports The Associated Press.

The gap between promises and practices

More than 30 human rights experts denounce the idea of a “reformed” Taliban, writing in a statement on Aug. 14 that the “gap between promises and practices by Afghanistan’s de facto authorities has widened.” The policies they have imposed have resulted in a “continuous, systematic and shocking rescinding of a multitude of human rights, including the rights to education, work, and freedoms of expression, assembly and association.” There have been “consistent credible reports of summary executions and acts tantamount to enforced disappearances, widespread arbitrary detention, torture, and ill treatment, as well as arbitrary displacement.”

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The collective practices of total domination of women and girls is so egregious, the experts continue, that they constitute “gender persecution, a crime against humanity, and has necessitated a discussion about the codification of ‘gender apartheid.’

Additionally, human rights violations continue in the form of torture, stoning, flogging and burying women alive by knocking over walls on top of them. Women are “more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to deeply entrenched discrimination and stereotypes against them, including deep-rooted stereotypes held by the exclusively male judiciary.”

What are living conditions like now?

“Increasing hunger, natural disasters, unemployment, a banking and liquidity crisis, rights-violating restrictions on women and girls, and the lack of a functioning economy mean Afghans are facing a multitude of simultaneous crises,” says Samira Sayed Rahman, International Rescue Committee Afghanistan director of advocacy.

Afghanistan is struggling through its third consecutive year of drought, the collapse in family incomes and a dramatic decrease in international money. Nearly 80% of the previous, Western-backed government’s budget came from the international community, says the AP. That money — now virtually dried up — had been used to finance hospitals, schools, factories and even government ministries.

The International Rescue Committee reports that the entire population has been pushed into poverty, with 91% of the “average Afghan household’s money spent on food.” Restrictions on women’s ability to work have produced an economic loss of up to $1 billion, about 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP.

Holly Richardson is the editor of Utah Policy.