Home Business The Up and Down History of Afghan Women’s Rights

The Up and Down History of Afghan Women’s Rights


King Amanullah Khan, who ruled for a decade starting in 1919, pushed for Western-style reforms intended to modernize the country. Inspired by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, he introduced a new constitution that sought to guarantee rights for women as well as men. Child marriage was banned, polygamy discouraged, and the jurisdiction of religious leaders narrowed. Women were no longer required to wear the veil. Queen Soraya, who opened the first girl’s school in Kabul, became a champion of women’s rights. The fast pace of change was lauded abroad but rattled conservatives in the largely tribal society, provoking revolt. The king was eventually forced to abdicate in 1929. His successor, Mohammed Nadir Shah, repealed the most progressive policies, but the backlash was short-lived. Zahir Shah, who ruled from 1933 to 1973 and was the last king of Afghanistan, reintroduced many of Amanullah’s initiatives, albeit more cautiously. In 1964, women helped draft a new constitution, which gave them the right to vote and allowed them to seek elected office. They got jobs, ran businesses and entered politics. Tensions with traditionalists never went away, but women protested any attacks on their rights. 

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