In under one week, the Taliban have removed whatever facade of legitimacy cloaked their new reign of terror in Afghanistan.
Last Wednesday, the Taliban sparked international outrage when they reneged at the last minute on promises that Afghan girls could return to secondary schools. The about-face garnered worldwide condemnation, including the cancellation of talks between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar. This did not coerce the Taliban to change course. Instead, the Taliban spent the weekend issuing, or enforcing, new rules targeting women, and furthering their media blackout.
On Sunday, the Taliban instituted a policy of gender segregation for fun parks around Kabul, stating women and girls could attend parks on three days of the week, with men and boys visiting on the remaining four days. This could effectively ban women from the parks. Taliban policy bars women from traveling more than 45 miles beyond their homes without a male relative. For months, Afghans have told me of women being assaulted for appearing without an escort in the vicinity of their homes.
Also on Sunday, the Taliban barred women from boarding domestic or international flights without a male relative. This implements guidance issued in February that additionally banned U.S. and NATO allies from leaving Afghanistan. The ruling created such external backlash that the Taliban then clarified that Afghans "who have legal documents and invitation can travel abroad." Capping off its day of strictures, the Taliban banned international broadcasts from the BBC, Voice of America, and others.
The day’s news was devastating for Afghans like Nasrin, whose name has been changed for her protection. As with up to around 130,000 Afghans, Nasrin’s evacuation has not been forthcoming. "I am the head of the family, and I have no support. I have spent all my savings since August. I do not know what to do to be able to leave Afghanistan," Nasrin told me. "Where can I find a [male relative]?"
Since August 2021, the Taliban have feigned willingness to enact whatever policies would grant them access to assets and international recognition. This latest spate of restrictions indicates that the Taliban’s search for legitimacy is a relic of the past. Recent events should be a clarion call to the nations of the world to recognize that the Taliban are unchanged. The international community should sanction the Taliban while also supporting Afghan women and girls. We must also move far more swiftly to evacuate those Afghan allies and human rights activists now living in terror.
Beth Bailey (@BWBailey85) is a freelance writer from the Detroit area, and a former intelligence analyst.