Air insecurity for women, migration perspectives in Afghanistan – Afghanistan


Kabul, August 16, 2022 – In early 2021, Wargis*, a young Hazara woman, worked as an English teacher in northern Kabul. Not far from her, Sheeba* dreamed of pursuing higher education and eventually opening her own computer center that charges low fees to women in her area.

Male jobs boomed in construction as the neighborhood expanded from an abandoned land to a new home for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees returning to their homeland. Homes, schools, and road infrastructure had developed rapidly. Beauty salons and tailor shops were set up for women as many of them had picked up these skills.

Although tension and unease for women had increased over the past two years, most women in the area expressed hope to study, work and build their lives in their community.

However, on August 15, 2021, everything changed overnight.

Immediately afterwards, the private sector collapsed and the Taliban were unable to pay public sector workers, creating insecurity and fears for the future. Many businesses closed as both employers and workers, mostly men, were forced to relocate abroad due to the impact of sanctions and rising inflation. Women often stayed behind in the areas where they lived and faced restrictions on movement, education and work under the Taliban.

“The main concern for me is not being able to work and go to university anymore. I have been restricted and I am not a free person. When I think about my past efforts, my heart bleeds. Now I’m unsuccessful,” said Resham.*

Escape became the preferred option, but there are clear limitations for women. Some women with male family members who had previously migrated expressed fear of crossing international borders alone. This was exacerbated for some, like Resham, who also had female family members with significant health conditions that they were also responsible for during the migration.

“My father is in Iran and he says if we can [we should] Traveling to Iran illegally but my sister’s health issue is serious and we cannot take the risk,” Resham added.

Many, like Wargis, have been waiting for help from their family members abroad who have been unable to obtain legal status that would allow family reunification.

In addition, many of the women remaining in Afghanistan lack information about how the diaspora could help their family members and other Afghans in the country. Others report uncertainty about accessing passport services, traveling abroad, or returning to work in the future.

For many women left behind, their everyday life changed drastically – especially their mobility. Many were too afraid to leave their homes and had abandoned all previous activities, including community groups and women’s empowerment projects. They were trapped within the four walls of their rooms again, much like the first era of Taliban rule, or at least what they had heard about it.

“Women are restricted; They cannot go outside to work or study. Public service is completely restricted. People want to get their ID cards and passports, but there is no organization that offers them services. Education centers are open, but girls are barred from school and university. Our future is completely dark and we see no light in our lives,” Wargis said.

The near-total elimination of women from the economy has had far-reaching implications for communities, as women have been the backbone of the Afghan economy and made their invaluable contributions as medical workers, educators, and entrepreneurs. You are now effectively unable to work due to new restrictions.

All women and girls in Afghanistan have the right to access education and equal opportunities. They must be empowered and involved in social, economic and political life in Afghanistan – this is crucial for the future and development of the country.

The women remaining in Afghanistan are asking, “What awaits us now?” A year later, the answer appears to be gradually deteriorating as women’s rights and freedoms — including freedom of movement — continue to be eroded.

Durable solutions are crucial to support Afghan women left behind, for example by providing legal documents, access to protection and basic services, and continuing humanitarian assistance to those most vulnerable – particularly those who are displaced or returnees.

The conversation must continue to highlight women’s voices and develop solutions based on their needs.

As Resham explained: “My message to the international community is that the situation for Afghans is very bad; we need their attention and support. You must consider women’s rights and freedom. People are dying of poverty and limited access to finance. So now is the time to step up their humanitarian activities and save us.”

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

About this research

In June 2021, a team of Samuel Hall researchers in Kabul’s northern district of Dashte Barchi, called Shahrake Mahdia, conducted research on how migration was fundamental to the city’s development and the hopes of its wives, like Wargis, Sheeba and Resham.

Everything changed on August 15, 2021. The women who told us their stories in June spoke to us again in September. This blog focuses on their voices. Data collection included key informant interviews with 17 local residents – business owners, NGO workers, government officials, police officers, teachers and youth representatives – informal interactions and observations, and four focus groups with men and women. Follow-up calls were made to several women and business owners originally interviewed in June in September 2021 to capture their thoughts and how their situation was changing under the Taliban.

*IOM collaborates with Samuel Hall on various research projects. This text is based on the article “Afghan women, migration and their future” by Samuel Hall authors Nassim Majidi, Najia Alizada, Katherine James and Marta Bivand Erdal and was published in *Special issue on the practice of migration policy on Afghanistanin June 2022.


About Author

Comments are closed.