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Return of the Silent Years

When the international community intervened in Afghanistan ten years ago, part of their stated mission was to improve the rights of women there. Under Taliban rule women were denied basic human rights such as education, health care, freedom of movement and marriage. Those years have been referred to as the silent years.

In recent years, the international presence in Afghanistan has helped women enjoy a degree of freedom which has - for now - been guaranteed by the inclusion of women’s rights in the Constitution. However these hard won rights are under threat as international military forces - including New Zealand -  withdraw, and the government takes part in a peace and reconciliation process which includes negotiation on the terms of their future relationship with the ever present Taliban.

Marianne Elliott is an author and human rights advocate, who worked for the United Nations mission to Afghanistan for two years. In this ANZAC Day special she talks to Afghans who are very concerned about the future for women there, who are desperate to keep the Taliban at bay, and prevent a return of the silent years.

Women in Afghanistan
From left: an Afghan schoolgirl; a young Afghan woman with her baby; Suraya Pakzad speaking at Penn State University.