Last update: April 2022
This subsection refers to women who are considered to have a public role in Afghanistan, such as a position in the former government, law enforcement, education, healthcare, NGOs, media or sports.
For women, there are many societal and family restrictions. Already before the takeover, most women in public roles faced intimidation, threats, violence, or killings. Women who worked outside the home, in general, encountered frequent sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace and could be considered by society as transgressing moral codes, as bringing dishonour to the family (e.g. women in law enforcement), and as being non-Afghan or Western (e.g. women in journalism).
After the Taliban takeover there were reports of professional women staying indoors. Female human rights defenders and women’s rights activists have been considered to be in a particularly difficult situation because they were not only targeted for their work, but also for challenging social and religious patriarchal norms [Anti-government elements, 220.127.116.11; State structure, 2.1.2, 3.6; Conflict targeting, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206; Society-based targeting, 3.1, 3.3.2, 3.3.3; Security September 2021, 1.1.4; Country Focus 2022, 2.1].
Female judges reportedly fear about their safety in the country, particularly after a release of prisoners by the Taliban. Moreover, female judges were claimed to be at added risk due to their gender as the Taliban do not accept that women have the right to judge men. Judges reportedly had been subjected to house searches, threatening messages and physical harassment [Country Focus 2022, 2.3.1].
Hundreds of female athletes reportedly went into hiding or were evacuated from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, inter alia, female soccer and basketball players. According to a statement of a Taliban official in September 2021, women would be banned from sports where they expose too much of their bodies. In October 2021, it was stated that there is no official ban on women’s sport and that the Taliban have no problem with women taking part in sport [Country Focus 2022, 2.3.4].
In November 2021, the Taliban’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice issued new guidelines for the media industry, banning films or shows ‘against Islamic or Afghan values’ and in which Afghan media were called to stop broadcasting ‘soap operas or dramas featuring women actors’ [Country Focus 2022, 2.3.1].
Women in public roles could be subjected to mistreatment by the Taliban and other armed groups, by the woman’s family or clan, as well as by society in general [Anti-Government Elements, 220.127.116.11; Society-based targeting, 3.3].
With regard to women judges, see also 2.1 Persons affiliated with the former Afghan government. With regard to women in media, see 2.7 Journalists and media workers. With regard to women human rights defenders see 2.8 Human rights defenders. With regard to women in education, see 2.5 Educational personnel. With regard to female humanitarian workers and healthcare practitioners, see 2.6 Healthcare professionals and humanitarian workers, including individuals working for national and international NGOs.
The acts to which women in public roles could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. violence and killings).
Women in public roles may fall under other profiles, such as: 2.1 Persons affiliated with the former Afghan government, 2.5 Educational personnel, 2.6 Healthcare professionals and humanitarian workers, including individuals working for national and international NGOs, 2.7 Journalists and media workers, or 2.8 Human rights defenders. The risk analysis of those profiles should also be consulted for the assessment of the well-founded fear of persecution.
For other women in public roles, the individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: being seen as not complying with conditions set by the Taliban, visibility of the applicant (e.g. nature of the work), conservative environment, perception of traditional gender roles by the family or network, etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is highly likely to be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion and/or religion.
See other topics concerning women: