Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai drew a powerful parallel, likening the Taliban’s restrictions on women in Afghanistan to the oppressive treatment endured by Black people during apartheid.
Malala Yousafzai unequivocally labelled the Taliban’s actions as “gender apartheid,” asserting that they had effectively “made girlhood illegal.” She emphasized the importance of not normalizing relations with the Taliban on the international stage.
Speaking during the 21st Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg, Malala Yousafzai said, “If you are a girl in Afghanistan, the Taliban has decided your future for you. You cannot attend a secondary school or university. You cannot find an open library where you can read. You see your mothers and your older sisters confined and constrained,”
Malala Yousafzai’s remarkable story includes surviving a gunshot to the head at the age of 15 in Pakistan. This attack came after her fearless campaign against the Pakistani Taliban’s efforts to deny girls access to education. Her resilience and advocacy efforts earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Since their return to power in 2021, the Taliban has imposed severe restrictions on Afghan women’s freedoms. They have halted the work of most Afghan female staff in aid agencies, shut down beauty salons, prohibited women from accessing public parks, and imposed travel restrictions on women without a male guardian.
Malala Yousafzai, a staunch advocate for girls’ education, expressed her concerns about the Taliban’s impact on education for both girls and boys. She feared that the Taliban might strip away scientific and critical thinking education, not just from girls but also from boys, highlighting the broader implications of their policies.
Since the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, they have imposed strict limitations on girls’ education, allowing them to attend school only up to the sixth grade. Furthermore, they have extended these restrictions to women, barring them from pursuing higher education and employment opportunities.
Despite widespread criticism from national and international organizations, the Taliban has remained steadfast in enforcing these stringent regulations, causing concerns about the long-term consequences for the education and empowerment of Afghan girls and women.