Young women and children particularly vulnerable to Taliban violence

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As we continue to monitor the situation in Afghanistan, many are concerned about the safety of women and young children in the country. Taliban fighters are notorious for taking young women, particularly as their brides. Dean Pardis Mahdavi is the head of social sciences at ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and has family connections in Afghanistan—we talked about the ordeal earlier.

“It’s just absolutely devastating what we’re seeing transpire in Afghanistan,” Mahdavi said. “A return to Taliban rule means a return to harsh and austere interpretations of Islam.” Such a return could mean devastating consequences for the people of Afghanistan.

Mahdavi herself has family living both in Afghanistan and Iran. She said that they’re experiencing chaos on two fronts: one, of course, being the loss of control to the Taliban, and the other being the COVID-19 pandemic that is still very much being fought in the country.

“Three of my aunts who are all over 90 who live in Mashhad are COVID positive as we speak,” Mahdavi said. “And I do also have a cousin in Afghanistan who is COVID positive.”

So, as Iran and other neighboring areas prepare to take in a significantly higher amount of Afghani refugees, they also will have to brace for an influx of potential COVID-19 cases.

Mahdavi also said that her heart breaks for the women and girls of the country. “In the last twenty years, women’s rights have really made a lot of progress in the region,” she said, including feats like rights to education and driving.

“Now, all of that really threatens to backslide. As my friends and colleagues say there, ‘we’re going to slide into the dark ages’,” Mahdavi said.

Pardis Mahdavi, Dean of Social Sciences, ASU

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