Afghan women’s rights activists gathered in Kabul on Wednesday to lay wreaths in honor of Independence Day and to praise the era of King Amanullah Khan as a time of progress in women’s issues in Afghanistan.
“Don’t allow our national day – our all highest honor – be taken away, do not let anyone take it from us,” women’s rights activist Mahboba Seraj told TOLOnews.
King Amanullah was the first king in his era to embrace women’s rights movement, including the dissolution of the Harem, which had been cultivated under Amir Habibullah Khan.
“Afghanistan’s women are not where they were in the King Amanullah Khan era,” another activist named Alima said. “The NUG leaders should implement their programs.”
With the help of his wife, Queen Soraya, King Amanullah established Afghanistan’s first female school, called Mastorat, in Kabul in 1920. Queen Soraya herself worked at the school in an oversight role.
Queen Soraya and the King’s mother then funded the establishment of a second girls school in the year 1921, called Esmat, but later renamed Malalai.
The Amanullah era in many ways represents an aspirational past to an Afghan society that has seen consistent devastation, war and economic issues for more than two decades. Under his administration, the 15 Afghan women sent abroad for schooling were sent to Turkey to train for nursing, and the first weekly gazette, Irshad-ul Naswan, was founded.
King Amanullah pushed through critical social reforms, such as education for women, the prohibition of child marriage, mandatory foreign language learning in schools and the elimination of domestic slavery.
The Taliban’s regime is often seen as the pinnacle era of women’s oppression in Afghanistan. But, even in King Amanullah’s time, certain religious figures opposed his reforms and sought to end the women’s education program he and his wife began.
Eventually, marriages of female minors and a man’s marrying of up to four women were made legal.