August 2021 marked the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the country’s return to Taliban rule.
The Taliban first governed Afghanistan from 1997 to 2001. At that time, women were barred from most jobs, and girls were not allowed to attend school. The return of the Taliban raises fears that 20 years of gains in women’s and girls’ rights will vanish.
“After 20 years living in freedom, living in an atmosphere of hope, [girls and women] were thinking about their dreams for the future. This ending was a catastrophe,” said Aziz Royesh, founder of the Marefat High School in Kabul. Nearly half of the students were girls before the Taliban took control of the government.
Royesh has been recognized internationally for his work in education and activism, and was a finalist for the 2015 Global Teacher prize. He shares with Full Frame host Mike Walter the story of his escape from Afghanistan, with the help of friends from the 30 Birds Foundation, a group of Marefat supporters from the U.S. and UK. He also discusses the value of education and his hopes for his students at Marefat.
Afghanistan faces widespread poverty, joblessness and a broken health care system. Correspondent Toby Muse talks to Afghans who are trying to navigate the country’s economic breakdown.
Afghanistan has long been dependent on foreign aid to survive. Once the Taliban took control, much of that was shut off. In August 2021, when the Taliban took over the country, $8 billion in international aid was suddenly terminated That represents 40 percent of the country’s GDP.
“There are very few cases where there’s indications that those sanctions do not hurt the common people and a lot more than they hurt the government that they’re targeting,” said Michael Kugelman, a leading specialist on Afghanistan and the deputy director of the Asia Program for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Aid, like food shipments, are not restricted from coming into the country. But the problem is the international community is not addressing the larger economic crisis, beyond humanitarian aid, Kugelman said.
“I do fear that there’s no end in sight for the dire privations being experienced by the Afghan people. I so hope that I’m wrong, but I just really worry that this cycle of privation is just going to continue to play out for quite some time,” he said.