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Timeline of Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

October 25, 2011
August 31, 1907 Russia and England fight for control of Afghanistan in a proxy war known as ‘The Great Game.’ England keeps much of Afghanistan, while Russia gets territory in what is now Turkmenistan.
February 2, 1919 Amir Amanullah Khan claims the Kingdom of Afghanistan and begins to modernize Afghanistan. He establishes diplomatic relations with other nations and passes reforms expanding woman’s rights, education and freedom of the press.
August 19, 1919 After three Anglo-Afghan wars, Afghanistan gains its independence from Britain.
January 1, 1921 Amunallah Khan’s wife, Queen Soraya, opens Afghanistan’s first school for girls in Kabul. During the early 1920s, she also starts a women’s hospital and a magazine called ERshad-E-Niswan (Guidance for Women).
August 1, 1921 Khan introduces the Family Code law, which bans child marriage and requires judicial permission for polygamy.
April 9, 1923 Afghanistan creates its first constitution, which abolishes slavery and forced labor, creates a legislature and guarantees secular education and equal rights for men and women.
Oct. 1, 1924 Khan grants women the right to choose their husbands, something previously decided by male relatives.
Jan. 1, 1929 Tribal leaders, angered by Khan’s reforms, force him flee the country. Mohammed Nadir Shah claims the throne and quickly abolishes many of Khan’s reforms. Afghanistan returns to Shariah law and remains a monarchy for the next 40 years.
Nov. 8, 1933 Nadir Shah is assassinated. Nadir’s son, Zahir, assumes the throne. His rule is defined by a period of stable but gradual modernization.
Nov. 8, 1959 During an independence day celebration, women from the royal family appear unveiled, marking the end of state-enforced veiling.
Jan 1, 1964 Marxist Anahita Ratebzad forms an offshoot of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). They pressure the Afghan government to combat illiteracy and to end forced marriages and walwar, a payment made by a prospective husband to a woman’s parents.
Oct. 1, 1964 A new constitution creates a modern democracy with free elections, equal rights, freedom of speech, universal suffrage, and allows women to enter into politics.
July 17, 1973 Shah takes an official trip overseas and Mohammed Daoud Khan seizes power in a bloodless coup. Khan installs himself as president instead of King and attempts to pass some liberalizing reforms, but they’re not enacted outside of urban areas.
Jan 1, 1977 A jirga – a traditional Pashtun council – approves a constitution that establishes a presidential one-party system of government.
Jan 1, 1978 The PDPA takes over the government, resulting in further social reforms including separation of religion and government, banning burquas and raising the minimum age of marriage.
April 28, 1978 The PDPA assassinates Mohammed Dauod. Tribal leaders incensed over social reforms begin an armed revolt in rural Afghanistan.
May 1, 1978 After a period of political infighting within the PDPA, Nur Mohammad Taraki becomes president, prime minister and general secretary of the party. The country is renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
Oct. 1, 1978 A decree from the PDPA-controlled government requires education for girls, abolishes walwar and sets the legal age for marriage at 16.
Sept. 16, 1979 Taraki and another PDPA leader struggle for power as countryside revolts continue. The Soviet Union offers military aid and personnel to the government.
Dec. 27, 1979 The PDPA government, led by leftist Babrak Karmal, encourages women “to further their education and to take jobs, often in the government.”
Dec. 29, 1979 The Soviet Union officially topples the Afghan government. Their occupation lasts nearly a decade.
Jan. 1, 1981 Afghanistan becomes a major Cold War pawn between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The CIA pours money and advanced weaponry into rural Afghanistan to support the guerilla fighters known as mujahideen.

Jan 1, 1983
The insurrection against the Soviet Union attracts young Muslim idealists from the Arab world to Afghanistan. These include Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, who later found al Qaeda network.
May 15, 1988 Soviet forces withdraw and Afghanistan falls into civil war between tribes and mujahideen.
Sept. 1, 1996 The Taliban comes to power. They institute a severe version of Shariah Law, requiring men to grow beards and women to fully veil themselves. Those who disobey are punished.

March 2, 2001
Despite international pleas, the Taliban destroys two stone carvings of Buddha dating back to 500 A.D. during a crackdown on “un-Islamic” aspects of Afghan society.
Sept, 9, 2001 Ahmad Shah Massoud is killed by suspected al Qaeda agents. Massoud is believed to have warned the international community about impending terror attacks leading up to 9/11. He is posthumously nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and the anniversary of his death becomes a national holiday.
Sept. 11, 2001 Al Qaeda operatives linked to Bin Laden hijack planes and crash them into buildings in New York and Washington, D.C.
Oct. 7, 2001 The Taliban refuses to turn in Bin Laden. British and American forces begin air strikes in Afghanistan and take Kabul.
Dec. 7, 2001 The last Taliban stronghold in Kandahar falls. Taliban rule ends as U.S. and British forces sweep across Afghanistan.
Jan. 1, 2004 A new constitution gives equal rights to men and women.
Oct. 9, 2004 Despite unrest, Afghanistan holds its first democratic elections and, for the first time in decades, women are allowed to vote. Hamid Karzai, who is backed by the U.S., wins 55% of the vote.
Nov. 1, 2006 U.N. Security Council warns that Afghanistan may become a failed state owing to a growing insurgency, increases in drug trafficking and an unstable government.
March 16, 2007 Afghanistan’s parliament passes an amnesty law preventing the prosecution of war crimes committed during conflicts in past decades. The measure is intended to begin national reconciliation.
March 31, 2009 Karzai’s government passes the Shia Family Law, which requires women to ask permission to leave the home unless under urgent business and allows a man to have sexual relations with his wife even if she objects. After international backlash, Karzai says he’ll overturn the law if it’s found to contradict the constitution or Islamic law.
Oct. 1, 2009 Amid widespread violence, Afghanistan holds midterm elections for the presidency. Karzai is re-elected, but election monitors cite serious problems with the vote.

Jan. 28, 2010
International leaders gather in London for a conference to assess the progress in Afghanistan. Karzai agrees to a number of timetables concerning police and military security and announces a program giving Taliban financial incentives to lay down their arms.

Feb 1, 2010
U.S. President Barack Obama pledges to boost troop levels in Afghanistan by 30,000, bringing the total to 100,000. He also says the U.S. will begin withdrawing forces by 2011.
March 1, 2010 The parliament approves a slightly revised Personal Status Law for Shiite Muslims. One provision of the law allows a husband to demand sex from his wife. Protests begin and one women’s rights worker is killed.
June 2, 2010 Over 1,600 tribal leaders and community activists meet to discuss the peace process. President Karzai proposes economic incentives to discourage Taliban members from fighting. Many women’s groups are outraged at the idea of negotiations with the Taliban that could leave women’s rights vulnerable.
February 2011 Afghanistan Rights Monitor reports that civilian deaths hit record levels in 2010. An estimated 2,400 civilians were killed, most at the hands of Taliban and other insurgents, and about a fifth by U.S.-led forces.
May 2, 2011 After evading capture for nearly a decade, Osama bin Laden is killed by U.S. military and CIA operatives who tracked him down in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Sept. 20, 2011 Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president and the leader of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, is assassinated in his home. Many declare the peace process dead.
Oct. 3, 2011 At the ten year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion, 2.7 million girls are in school, compared to just a few thousand in Taliban times, according to an Oxfam report. But those improvements are already slipping and could be lost in negotiations with the Taliban, the report warns. Another report marking the anniversary, by Action Aid, says that 72 percent of Afghan women believe their lives are better now than 10 years ago, while 86 percent fear a return to Taliban rule.