A wave of recent international media attention on the Taliban’s closure of beauty salons in Afghanistan has too often missed the point.
My colleague and women’s rights expert, Heather Barr, sets folks straight:
“This isn’t about getting your hair and nails done. This is about 60,000 women losing their jobs. This is about women losing one of the only places they could go for community and support.”
Since taking control of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban have crushed the rights of Afghan women and girls. The list of Taliban abuses against them is long and grim.
They have banned girls and women from education above the sixth-grade level. They’ve banned women from most employment. They’ve imposed severe restrictions on women and girls to travel and even leave their homes. They’ve banned women and girls from competitive sports.
The Taliban have also completely dismantled the system that had been developed to respond to gender-based violence in Afghanistan. That’s actually a key reason why the closure of beauty salons is so devastating: It was one of the last havens for mutual support among Afghan women.
The Taliban have also been conducting a brutal crackdown against women who have protested against these abuses. This includes the torture of these women.
This all adds up to the most serious women’s rights crisis in the world.
There’s been international concern about these abuses – and many others by the Taliban – but much of this concern has been weak and uncoordinated so far. Even two years after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, many governments still seem at a loss as to what to do about the Taliban’s thuggish barbarity generally and their crimes against women specifically.
One possibly hopeful move that could change things came in March with the UN Security Council mandating an independent assessment of the international approach to the country.
It seeks to address “human rights and especially the rights of women and girls,” along with other key issues the international community is trying to deal with. Remember, Afghanistan is also one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
The independent assessment should provide recommendations for an integrated and coherent approach among key international actors, in a report to the Security Council in November.
If it does its job well, the independent assessment should both help restore global attention to the situation in Afghanistan and propose concrete steps for holding the Taliban and other abusers accountable.
To be successful, it must undo the fact that, as my colleague Heather Barr says, “Afghan women and girls and others suffering under Taliban repression feel abandoned by the world.”