August 30, 2023

Women Leaders: Afghanistan – The Collapse of a House of Cards

A conversation with Ilana Bet-El

At 23:59 on August 30 2021 the last US soldier left Kabul, and Afghanistan — and 20 years of international intervention came to an abrupt, final and appalling end.

Abrupt, because despite the departure date being known at least since the start of the year, the speed with which the Taliban captured territory vacated by international forces, and the speed with which the internationally trained Afghan army collapsed, meant that the withdrawal became a rapid evacuation, with scenes of chaos and shooting at the airport. On August 15 the Taliban also entered Kabul, the capital: A black day for Afghanistan, as many Afghans put it.

Final, because other than basic humanitarian agencies, all other international bodies had either left or were swiftly told to leave by the jubilant Taliban, the new masters of the state. At the same time, most international aid was halted.

Appalling, because the lives of the people in Afghanistan have become intolerable. Over 75% — some estimates say 90% — of the population now live in abject poverty, made worse by droughts, other effects of climate change, and a regime that makes little effort to provide even basic services. Within that, the situation of women is, if possible, even worse, as noted by UN Women, “Through over 50 edicts, orders and restrictions, the Taliban have left no aspect of women’s lives untouched, no freedom spared.” Women and girls are now effectively non-people.

The fall of Afghanistan has largely become obscured by the appalling war of aggression in Ukraine, but it was and remains both a bleeding international sore, and a blight upon the Afghan people, both in-country and the diaspora. Join Ilana Bet-El in a fascinating, in-depth and very human exploration of these realities with two impressive women of Afghanistan: Dr Habiba Sarābi, a Minister of Women’s affairs in Afghanistan and a member of the former government negotiating team with the Taliban, who was sitting with them in Doha as Afghanistan fell, and Dr Tabasum Akseer, Senior Advisor at the Asia Foundation who was in Kabul as events were unfolding.

This episode was recorded on 18 August 2023


This episode is sponsored by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union! Learn more about them:

Opinions expressed in this podcast reflect the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Heinrich-Böll Stiftung European Union.

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This episode features:

Ilana Bet-El

Ilana Bet-El

WIIS Advisor

Habiba Sarabi

Habiba Sarabi

Former IRA Peace Negotiation Team, Deputy Chair High Peace Council & Bamyan Governor

Tabasum Akseer

Tabasum Akseer

Senior advisor - Asia Foundation



Music: Free from copyright
Production: Florence Ferrando

Learn more about our guests & sponsor


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