When the Taliban seized power on August 15, 2021, many Afghans braced for a return to the repression that marked the extremist group’s brutal rule in the 1990s.
The Taliban initially tried to assuage the concerns of Afghans and the international community by projecting itself as a more moderate force and pledging to uphold human rights and press freedom.
But two years since it overran the country and ousted the Western-backed Afghan government, the hard-line Islamists have failed to live up to their promises and have instead severely curbed women’s freedoms, waged a brutal crackdown on dissent, and reintroduced their brutal form of justice.
The Taliban’s theocratic government has imposed restrictions on every aspect of life in Afghanistan, including people’s appearances, freedom of movement, right to work or study, and access to entertainment.
Women have borne the brunt of the repressive laws, with rights groups accusing the Taliban of trying to erase women from public life and imprison them in their homes.
The Taliban has issued over 100 edicts and orders in line with its extreme and tribal interpretation of Islamic Shari’a law.
The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is responsible for enforcing the Taliban's morality laws, including its strict dress code and gender segregation in society.
Members of the ministry’s dreaded morality police have publicly punished offenders, often violently. Men and women convicted of violating the Taliban’s morality laws have been jailed or publicly flogged, often in fields or sports venues.
Many of the Taliban’s orders and restrictions are reminiscent of the group’s first stint in power from 1996-2001, when its brutal regime deprived Afghans of their most basic rights.
Since regaining power, the Taliban has scrapped Afghanistan’s constitution and criminal code and overhauled the justice system. With many of the Taliban’s laws not codified, enforcement of them has been uneven across the country. Local Taliban leaders have often issued their own edicts and restrictions.
Afghans fear the Taliban will impose more draconian edicts as it establishes what it has called a “pure” Islamic system in Afghanistan.
The militants are likely to further erode women’s rights. Women have been banned from attending university and their job opportunities have been largely restricted to the health and education sector. Female-run businesses have been prohibited in many areas of the country.
Women’s employment could be further hit if the Taliban orders a blanket ban on girls’ education, just as it did in the 1990s. So far, girls below the sixth grade have been permitted to go to school.
The militant group is also likely to expand its crackdown on the media. The few independent media outlets that still operate in Afghanistan face severe restrictions on what they can report.
With media outlets facing more censorship as well as more cases of journalists being detained and threatened, the country’s once vibrant media scene is likely to shrink further.