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A Brief History of Afghan Women's Rights

  • New King, New Laws

    New King, New Laws
    Amir Amanullah Khan claims the Kingdom of Afghanistan after his father's death and begins to modernize Afghanistan. Khan discourages the seclusion and veiling of women, saying: "Religion does not require women to veil their hands, feet or faces. Tribal custom must not impose itself on the free will of the individual."
  • Queen's Influence

    Queen's Influence
    Khan's wife Soraya Tarzi, known as Queen Soraya, opens Afghanistan's first school for girls in Kabul. During the early 1920s, she also starts a women's hospital and a magazine called <i>Ershad-E-Niswan</i> (Guidance for Women).
  • Family Code

    Family Code
    Khan introduces the Family Code law, which bans child marriage and requires judicial permission for polygamy.
  • First Constitution

    Afghanistan creates its first constitution, which abolishes slavery and forced labor, creates a legislature and guarantees secular education and equal rights for men and women.
  • Free Husbandry

    Khan grants women the right to choose their husbands, something previously decided by male relatives.
  • Pashtuns Revolt

    Pashtuns Revolt
    Growing tensions over Khan’s reforms between religious leaders and urban dwellers lead Pashtun tribesmen to revolt, first in Jalalabad and then in Kabul.
  • First Modern Women's Organization

    Khan's sister, Kobra, creates the Organization for Women’s Protection (<i>Anjuman-E-Himayat-E-Niswan</i>).
  • King's Flee

    King's Flee
    Tribal leaders, angered by Khan's reforms, force him to abdicate the throne and flee the country. He remained in exile in Switzerland until his death in 1960.
  • Return to Sharia Law

    Return to Sharia Law
    Mohammed Nadir Shah claims the throne and bowing to tribal pressure, quickly abolishes many of the economic, social, and political reforms achieved under Khan. Afghanistan returns to religious jurisprudence, called Sharia law.
  • Education First

    Education First
    Nadir Shah opens many primary schools and establishes a school of medicine, which becomes Kabul University.
  • King Assassinated

    King Assassinated
    Nadir Shah is assassinated by a teenager of Hazara origins. An ethnic minority, the Hazara had come into conflict with Nadir Shah's regime for years. Nadir Shah's son, Zahir Shah, assumes the throne. His rule is defined by a period of stable but gradual modernization.
  • Women Unveiled

    During an independence day celebration, women from the royal family appear unveiled, marking the end of state-enforced veiling.
  • Democratic Organization for Women

    Marxist political leader Anahita Ratebzad forms the Democratic Organization of Afghan Women (DOAW) as an ofshoot of leftist political group People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The DOAW pressures the Afghan government to combat illiteracy and to end forced marriages and bride price, a payment made by a prospective husband to a woman's parents, called <i>walwar</i>.
  • New Constitution

    A new constitution creates a modern democracy with free elections, equal rights, freedom of speech, universal suffrage for both men and women and allows women to enter into politics. At this point women are actively participating in society in a variety of roles, working as professors, lawyers, judges, doctors, teachers and bureaucrats, amongst other professions
  • Daoud Khan

    Daoud Khan
    Politician Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrows Zahir Shah, and for the first time in modern Afghan history, installs himself as president instead of king. Daoud Khan attempts to pass some liberalizing reforms but they are not enacted outside of urban areas.
  • Saur Revolution

    Saur Revolution
    A faction of the PDPA leads a coup against Daoud Khan, backed by the Soviet Union. They storm Kabul's presidential palace and assassinate the president and his family.
  • DRA

    After a period of political infighting within the PDPA, Nur Mohammad Taraki becomes head of the party. The country is renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
  • Equality Law

    Equality Law
    A decree from the PDPA-controlled government requires education for girls, abolishes <i>walwar</i> and sets the legal age for marriage at 16.
  • Leftist Leanings

    Leftist Leanings
    The PDPA government, led by leftist Afghan Babrak Karmal, encourages women "to further their education and to take jobs, often in the government."
  • Soviet Occupation

    The Soviet Union officially topples the Afghan government. Their occupation lasts nearly a decade.
  • Tensions

    Afghanistan becomes a major Cold War pawn between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as the Central Intelligence Agency begins pouring money and advanced weaponry into rural Afghanistan to prop up guerilla fighters - known as mujahideen to combat the Soviet occupying forces.
  • Soviets Exit

    Soviets Exit
    The last Soviet troops leave Afghanistan, ending a 10-year occupation. Their rule is replaced by civil war among tribes and mujahideen, which creates insecurity in Kabul and provides for little social development.
  • Enter the Taliban

    Enter the Taliban
    A group of conservative tribesmen calling themselves the Taliban seize Kabul along with 90 percent of Afghanistan. By Taliban decree, women are not allowed to go outside the home without a male family member to escort them. This effectively ends women's schooling and participation in the workforce. Those who disobey are punished by the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
  • Airstrikes

    British and American forces begin airstrikes in Afghanistan when the Taliban refuses to give up Saudi terrorist Osama Bin Laden, who is linked to the September 11 attacks.
  • End of Taliban Rule

    The last Taliban stronghold in Kandahar falls and Taliban rule ends as U.S. and British forces sweep across Afghanistan.
  • Karzai

    Former mujahideen collaborator Hamid Karzai, who is backed by the U.S., is sworn in as the head of Afghanistan's interim government.
  • Bush State of the Union Address

    U.S. President George W. Bush delivers his first State of the Union address since toppling the Taliban, saying: "The last time we met in this chamber, the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school. Today women are free..." It signals the on-again, off-again focus women's rights receives as a justification for the U.S. war efforts.
  • New Constitution

    A new constitution gives equal rights to men and women.
  • Women's Participation

    Women's Participation
    Hamid Karzai wins the presidential elections, and for the first time in decades, women are allowed to vote.
  • Shia Family Law

    Shia Family Law
    Karzai's government passes the Shia Family Law, which allows a man to have sexual relations with his wife even if she objects and requires women to dress up when asked by their husbands and to ask permission to leave the home unless under urgent business. After international backlash, Karzai says he will overturn the law if it is found to contradict the constitution or Islamic law. The law is currently awaiting review from religious authorities.
  • Assurances

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assures Afghan women ministers in Washington, D.C. that the U.S. will not abandon Afghan women as the reconciliation and reintegration process gets underway. Afghan women are worried any deal cut with the Taliban and other insurgents will deepen their oppression.