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Afghan refugee worries situation for women in Afghanistan will be a 'nightmare'

Muska Haseeb and her mother
Posted at 9:33 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 00:33:53-04

As Taliban forces take over Afghanistan,many fear that they'll eliminate women's rights and undo two decades of progress for women and girls in the region.

The Taliban last held power between 1996 and 2001. Women were denied education and job opportunities, girls couldn't go to school and women could only be seen in public with a male escort. Their bodies had to be fully covered.

Progress has been slow but significant.

Pardis Mahdavi, the Dean of Social Sciences at Arizona State University, has written extensively about women's rights in Afghanistan.

"The women's movements in Afghanistan had been really gaining some momentum, had been working transnationally with support from feminists around the region and now all of that is being thwarted," she said. "I'm heartbroken for the progress that has been made in terms of women's rights and women's issues in the past two decades."

Mahdavi said there have been great strides in women organizing around things like the #MeToo movement. There are women-only fighting organized groups in the north, women on horseback who rally to protect villages, and a higher number of women graduates than ever before. There are also women now in government and business.

"All of that is now in danger as I see the Taliban most likely going after issues like women's rights because those are the most threatening things to the core values of what the Taliban are about," said Mahdavi.

Muska Haseeb, 25, fled Afghanistan with her mother and siblings in 2007. She moved to Phoenix in 2012. She said watching the news out of Afghanistan has been terrifying.

“Imagine if I was there right now, and if I was not married, what would happen to me?” she said.

Haseeb's mother was forced to marry when she was 13. She later divorced and was working to maintain her kids in an unstable and unsafe environment while the country transitioned. She wanted better for her family.

“There were still issues going out for women like their security and her safety. There was still a lot of danger that they were facing, there was corruption and harassment that they were facing," said Haseeb.

In Phoenix--Haseeb graduated from Camelback High School and went to college.

“It totally changed my life. Rather than just graduate from high school and not do anything, it’s different now," said Haseeb.

Haseeb is finishing her undergrad and hopes to go to medical school in Texas. She says she wants to inspire other women to achieve their goals.