More than 95% of Afghans are going hungry, and find themselves forced to make unthinkable decisions to survive. Many have sold their own body parts to organ harvesters. The exponential increase of girls – at younger and younger ages – being sold into marriage is unlike anything seen in decades. Since 2021, child marriage in Afghanistan has spiked more than 500%.
In addition to the daily struggle to survive in near-famine conditions, Afghan women and girls have had their basic human rights systematically taken from them – losing their access to education, work, free movement, healthcare, and so much more – in what has become nothing short of a gender apartheid.
Afghanistan remains the only country in the world where girls are denied their right to an education as a matter of policy. The regime has banned girls nationwide from post-primary schooling – not only robbing them of future dreams, but also ensuring that the majority will be forced into child marriage.
After the US departure in August of 2021, decades of advances by women in areas of education, government, science, the arts, sports and every other notable field were wiped out almost immediately. Girls were told to leave their classrooms; women were ordered home from work. Two years into the Taliban’s takeover, the list of human rights violations against Afghan women and girls continues to grow.
This evocative series of photographs offers a personal glimpse into the agonizing everyday lives of Afghan girls and women after the Taliban’s takeover of their country.
Kiana Hayeri is a Senior TED fellow and a regular contributor to The New York Times. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Foreign Policy, Washington Post, NPR, Monocle Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, The Globe and Mail, among others.
Oriane Zerah is a French freelance photojournalist. She has been working for ten years in Afghanistan, where she is currently based. She is also the author of three books, the last of which chronicles the year spent in Afghanistan since the takeover by the Taliban. She works for the French press, and also English (Times of London).
Too Young to Wed (TYTW) is a nonprofit organization founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair with the mission to empower girls and end child marriage globally. TYTW evolved out of a documentary project of the same name that Sinclair began in Afghanistan two decades ago. TYTW runs field programs in areas where child marriage is most egregious and underreported, serving more than 10,000 direct beneficiaries globally in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Nigeria, India and Kenya.
TYTW traces its official launch back to 11 October 2012 – the first International Day of the Girl. Dignitaries from around the world gathered at the United Nations and, surrounded by Sinclair’s photographs of child brides as young as 5, pledged to do whatever it took to end child marriage. Three years later, TYTW’s international traveling photography exhibition on child marriage would serve as the backdrop for historic global policy decisions, ultimately helping to yield UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.3 which aims to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early, and forced marriage.”
Broken Promises: Navigating a World Under Taliban Rule
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