A new UN report says that most Afghan women now suffer severe mental health deterioration due to the restrictions placed upon them by the Taliban. UN Women, the International Organization for Migration, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan jointly reported that anxiety and depression have risen to 70%, up from 57% two months earlier. A total of 593 women were interviewed via online platforms, in person, and in groups, and spoke of severe isolation, fear, loss of hope, and suicidal thoughts.
The Taliban, which enforces Islamic sharia law, took control of Afghanistan when the United States withdrew its forces in 2021 following a two-decade presence there. While initially promising to impose a less harsh regime than previously, the Taliban quickly enforced oppressive measures, particularly against its female citizens.
Women and girls are barred from school, work (except in vital medical roles), and leisure facilities, including restaurants or parks, and can only receive medical attention from a female doctor, whose numbers are dwindling under the restrictions. Female doctors may only work wearing a full burka, which restricts visibility, and may not speak to or mix with male colleagues. For any woman to leave her home, she must be accompanied by a man.
The women interviewed for the UN report said they are concerned that the international community will give official recognition to the Taliban and, in doing so, effectively sanction their treatment and allow it to continue.
The Taliban regime is not formally recognized by any nation or international organization. In June, Roza Otunbayeva, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the Islamist group regularly calls for acknowledgment, but she told the UN Security Council, “I am blunt about the obstacles they have created for themselves by the decrees and restrictions they have enacted, in particular against women and girls.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said America will not lift sanctions on Afghanistan or recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government.