The AtlanticThe Atlantic

The Taliban’s Return Is Catastrophic for Women

By Lynsey Addario

16 Aug 2021 · 9 min read

One morning in the summer of 1999, Shukriya Barakzai woke up feeling dizzy and feverish. According to the Taliban’s rules, she needed a Maharram, a male guardian, in order to leave home to visit the doctor. Her husband was at work, and she had no sons. So she shaved her 2-year-old daughter’s head, dressed her in boys’ clothing to pass her off as a guardian, and slipped on a burka. Its blue folds hid her fingertips, painted red in violation of the Taliban’s ban on nail polish. She asked her neighbor, another woman, to walk with her to the doctor in central Kabul. Around 4:30 p.m. they left the doctor’s office with a prescription. They were heading toward the pharmacy when a truckload of Taliban militants from the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice pulled up beside them. The men regularly drove around Kabul in pickup trucks, looking for Afghans to publicly shame and punish for violating their moral code.

The men jumped out of the truck and started whipping Barakzai with a rubber cable until she fell over, then continued whipping her. When they finished, she stood up, crying. She was shocked and humiliated. She had never been beaten before.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content