For Afghanistan’s women and girls, this is the terrifying uncertainty they now find themselves in.
As Taliban leaders tell international media they “don’t want women to be victimized,” a more sinister reality is unfolding on the ground.
Anderlini, who spearheads ICAN’s Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL), said a huge concern was what will happen to the Taliban’s apparently moderate tone once most of the international community has left Afghanistan.
“Once the diplomats leave, the journalists leave, the international NGOs leave, they are going to basically lock the doors… God knows what we’ll see then,” she said.
Here’s a look at what life could look like for women and girls under the Taliban.
Will girls go to school?
Girls still attending regular classes “are worried about the closing of the school gates,” Homeira Qadeiri, a women’s rights activist and writer in Kabul, told CNN by phone.
Education has become much more widespread in the past two decades and some experts have cast doubt over whether the Taliban would impose a national ban on girls’ education, as they did in the 1990s.
She said there might be a scenario where the Taliban announce: “‘We’re going to shut down all the universities until we can get female lecturers.'” The result would be “a kind of de facto exclusion of women from higher education,” Wimpelmann explained.
“The repercussions of closing down female education at higher levels, or segregating it, is still very serious,” she added.
Another way the Taliban might restrict girls’ access to education is by fining families for letting their daughters out, said Anderlini. “It’s another way that they might sort of impose their version [of schooling] without necessarily being violent,” she added.
Will women be allowed to work?
Now, with the Taliban taking control of the country, many women with careers worry they will be punished or even killed in retribution.
“There is no one to help me or my family. I’m just sitting with them and my husband. And they will come for people like me and kill me. I can’t leave my family. And anyway, where would I go?” she said.
At a national level, the Taliban have said women can work as long as they do so within an Islamic framework — but how that will play out in the provinces is another question, said Wimpelmann.
“It’s likely that they will have all these kind of frameworks — that men and women shouldn’t be alone together, or they shouldn’t be in the same room,” she said, adding that this “excludes women from a lot of positions.”
Will female journalists appear on TV?
Female journalists will still be able to practice their profession as long as they adhere to rules such as wearing the niqab and not engaging with men outside of their family, one Taliban fighter told CNN on Monday.
Barring women reporters from speaking to, or even being in the same room as, men would severely restrict their ability to do their jobs effectively. For now, some female journalists are continuing their work.
Two female reporters from Afghan news organization TOLO were back out working on the streets of Kabul on Tuesday morning, according to a tweet from the media group’s director, Saad Mohseni.
“We resumed our broadcast with female anchors today,” said another tweet from TOLO’s head of news, Miraqa Popal, who shared a photo of a woman anchor on air.
But several female journalists told a CNN source that they had received threatening calls from the Taliban, with the calls increasing over recent days.
In a chilling indication of what life could soon be like for women reporters in Afghanistan, one prominent female journalist in Kabul said she had received a call telling her they “will come soon.”
What clothing will women have to wear?
In recent years Afghan women “have been able to just go out wearing a headscarf and hair showing,” particularly in the cities, said Anderlini.
It’s a stark contrast to when the Taliban were last in power.
In summary, the human rights NGO said, “Women were essentially invisible in public life, imprisoned in their home.”
“Kunduz is not a place to be at this moment. Nobody should be there,” she said.
“I am connected with many of my former colleagues that are still stuck in Kunduz. Women are not leaving their homes; everyone is staying put at home,” she added.
“Those who had jobs are scared to go outside. Everyone is afraid of the likelihood that the Taliban will stop them outside or put their lives in some form of danger.”
It’s still not clear just how extreme restrictions around coverings will be under the new Taliban leadership.
The Taliban have said “women can do this and that if they’re covered in the hijab,” said Anderlini. “Now what do they mean by the hijab? Do they mean the burqa? Do they mean a sort of heavy covering like a chador? Or is there some freedom?”
Will women have freedom of movement?
Even if the Taliban don’t end up imposing such a policy on a national level, “there’s a lot of other ways that women’s movement can be restricted,” said Wimpelmann.
She noted that even since the Taliban fell from power in 2001, the Afghan state had prosecuted women for what it called ‘moral crimes’ — often amounting to little more than travel without a male chaperone.
“So it’s very possible that these kind of prosecutions will now increase massively,” Wimpelmann added.
And that could have a huge impact on women’s ability to escape abuse.
“You can imagine scenarios where women are arrested for being alone with a male in a taxi, or in a restaurant, or in a private home, or traveling from one town to another on their own,” she explained.
Will women and girls be forced into marriages?
There are already reports of militants “taking little girls away from their families, or demanding that they hand over their daughters,” said Anderlini. She added that these were “prepubescent or adolescent girls, for basically forced marriage or rape.”
It’s unclear where the orders, if any, are coming from. It could be that these incidents are happening by “ragtag” elements of the Taliban that “aren’t necessarily connected to the leadership,” said Anderlini.
She said the leadership could even be “giving different messages” to its fighters, while giving an official line to international journalists of “Oh no no, we’re going to respect women’s rights.'”
Meanwhile, on the ground, “something else is happening,” said Anderlini.
CNN’s Clarissa Ward, Brent Swails, Vasco Cotovio and Sarah Dean contributed to this report.
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