Nargis Nehan was Afghanistan’s acting Minister for Mines and Petroleum from 2017-2019. She fled the country after the Taliban takeover in 2021 and is now a women’s rights advocate. After the United States invasion in 2001 she worked in various government roles, including Director General of the Treasury and as a senior adviser in the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
Women are living under gender apartheid. After two years in control, girls are not allowed to attend secondary school; they are not allowed to attend universities. Women are not allowed to work in non-governmental sectors; women are being removed from the public sector. Women are not allowed to work in United Nations agencies, and there are now restrictions on women in the private sector.
Unfortunately, Afghanistan was already in poverty before August 15, 2021. We had conflict in the country for over four decades. Thousands of families are run by women. They are the breadwinners. But women have had their job opportunities taken away from them, and there are no programmes to support them
When you go on the streets of Kabul and in other provinces right now you see an unprecedented increase in the number of woman beggars. They are begging for just a little bread for themselves and for their children. You also see a massive reduction in the financial assistance that the international community was providing. So, women are actually being kind of squeezed from both sides.
Where do you see this leading for women
I have to make one thing very clear: We are not against engagement with the Taliban because at the end of the day, if we are going to end this conflict, we have to talk to each other. The only thing that we are asking is about engagement that will have accountability. It needs to hold everyone to account at every step on how they are engaging, what is the progress and what is the outcome of that
There are security, economic and geopolitical risks. For example, China is very interested in the minerals of Afghanistan. They have sent several delegations to the Ministry of Mining. They have already started their extraction activities inside of Afghanistan. Their private companies are forging partnerships with Afghan companies. Literally all the commodities that are being extracted are exported to China, Iran and Pakistan.
There is going to be an expansion of extremism and fundamentalism that nobody will be able to manage. In the new curriculum just issued by the Ministry of Education, they have pictures of the Taliban leaders and are teaching that fighting against non-Muslims is totally fine and that if you do you are going to be rewarded by God.