Never silent: a brief history of women’s rights movement in Afghanistan
| By Humaira Saqeb
When we analyze Afghan women’s struggle for their freedom in all its glory, we notice one key element. Despite living in a traditional patriarchal society where women are automatically seen as less, seeking equality and rights has been a shared concern for women throughout history.
Despite the status quo of silencing and isolating women, since its inception the women’s movement has become an idealistic venue for demanding equality and seriously questioning the patriarchal customs prevalent in society.
Based on historical narratives, we can trace the start of women’s advocacy from the period of King Amanullah onwards. During his rule, Queen Suraya’s serious and sustained campaign paved the way for future efforts by women. The presence of Queen Suraya and other women at events, ceremonies and trips, and the creation of an open space for women angered the traditional and religious groups of the country. They saw these as contrary to the religious and traditional habits of Afghanistan and began their efforts to presence of women and minimize their role in political and social life.
It was during this time period, a time of accomplishment for women that Mastorad Hospital opened for treating female patients. Following that, a girls’ school was opened in 1928. Probably for the first time in the history of the country, even a number of school girls were sent to Turkey for education on September 29, 1928. Women’s political participation also improved as five women joined the Loya Jirga, the national meetings, after elections. The Mullahs and religious leaders stopped these achievements in their tracks when they worked with foreign forces and overthrew the progressive King’s government. These achievements for women angered and with the help of external/foreign forces, they overthrew the government.