Law and Social/Cultural Norms in Iran and Afghanistan

By Kate Lambroza (Georgetown University ’18), Guest Contributor


The status of women under Islam has garnered significant scholarly and political attention over the last several decades. However, consistent generalizations and misunderstandings have led to common Western misperceptions that women in Islam are oppressed and that Islam itself is the oppressor. Women’s rights in Islamic states are a result of country specific histories that have led to the development of varying interpretations of Islamic law, as well as different social and cultural norms. The interaction between these norms and laws produces varying degrees of freedom enjoyed by women among Islamic states. Iran, which is Shia majority, and Afghanistan, which is Sunni majority, interpret, and implement Sharia law—the fundamental concepts of Islam found in the Quran and Hadith—to different degrees. Veiling and marriage laws, which are pillars of Iranian and Afghan society, are an illustration of how Sharia is interpreted differently among Islamic states. While Iran and Afghanistan’s laws on veiling are opposite, veiling is practiced to a similar extent. Although all women in Iran veil as instructed by the law, there is strong opposition to the practice; in Afghanistan, all women veil, though law does not require them. Conversely, marriage laws in Iran and Afghanistan have the same legal foundations but have polarized manifestations.

A paradox emerges. With the same marriage laws, the two states have vastly different divorce rates; with opposite veiling laws, Afghan and Iranian women veil at similar rates. Clearly there are forces beyond the law that affect women’s behavior in Iran and Afghanistan. I argue that the roles of women in Iranian and Afghan societies reflect more the cultural attitudes of the states than on the laws. Understanding the immense effect that culture has on behavior in these societies, to the extent that it supersedes law, informs Western perceptions of Islam and better equips those making decisions pertaining to foreign policy, military strategy, or humanitarian intervention in the region.

A History of Sharia Law

The history of Islamic law in Iran does not begin with the ousting the Shah, but this paper will focus on changes in interpretations of Islamic law from pre- to post-revolution. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 brought a dramatic shift in domestic policies as the Shah’s westernizing and modernizing agenda was replaced by an Islamization of Iran. Before the revolution, the Pahlavi dynasty instilled liberal interpretations of Islamic law in Iran. For example, women were allowed to dress in Western fashion. The government also had authoritarian characteristics, one of which was the use of secret police. The dichotomous policies of the government combined with economic instability led to multi-faceted resistance. Leftists and student organizations were tired of the social and economic discontent in Iran, and they sought a new political system and leadership to stabilize living conditions. On the other hand, Islamic organizations also resisted the Shah’s adoption of modernizing policies that were perceived as contradictory to Islam. These two politically polarized groups came together, despite separate motivations, to oust the Shah and install a new government.

In the aftermath of the revolution the religious authorities took power. While the Islamic Republic of Iran still views Islam as an ideology, malleable to change and not all encompassing, it also “is the only Muslim-majority country to restructure its government in accordance with what purport to be Islamic criteria.”[1] The installation of an Islamic Republic kept the pre-revolution hierarchical government intact but added a clergy, or ulama, as the chief legal authority. Bahman Bakitari, the Executive Director at the International Foundation for Civil Society, explains that “the assumption was that because the ulama are charged with interpreting sharia and leading the community on the right path, it followed that these scholars should guide the state as well.”[2] Although many Iranians were in support of the premise of the revolution, the results were less widely accepted and came as a surprise to many, especially Iranian women. Women saw their worlds change as laws governing their dress and limiting their rights within marriage became codified. In a matter of a decade, Iran went from modernizing policies, including encouraging Western dress for women and increasing legal protection for women in divorce and custody hearings that ensured generous women’s rights compared to other Islamic states, to a state led by religious authorities who have some of the most restrictive policies for women in the region.

Unlike in Iran, Sharia law has been implemented in Afghanistan for centuries. Islam is understood as inextricable from Afghan society; as one scholar put it, “sharia principles are the foundation of government and social life,” to the point where “few secular modernists have been willing to challenge it outright.”[3] The Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group that controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, disrupted this long tradition. The group derived their laws from “Pashtuns’ pre-Islamic tribal code and interpretations.”[4] While the Taliban claimed that they were instituting Sharia law, Thomas Barfield, a professor at Boston University focusing on the political development of Afghanistan, points out, “[d]efenders of sharia could with some justice say that this was not ‘true sharia’ but rural Pasthun cultural values masquerading as such.”[5] The Taliban eliminated national legal codes, claiming that the Sharia system was sufficient to govern Afghanistan. Under the Taliban “women were forced to veil themselves head to toe when in public. They could not deal with male shopkeepers or doctors or speak to men outside of their family.”[6] After the fall of the Taliban, women’s rights under the law improved significantly. Currently there are no codified laws in Afghanistan governing women’s behavior and role in society. Nonetheless, a report from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) argues that, despite “[o]n paper” rights, “many of the legal protections … have failed to translate into practice.”[7] Despite Afghanistan being a “place where the concept of Islamic politics is little debated, because its people assume there can be no other type,” the issue of women’s rights remains a significant topic of discussion.[8] The USIP claims, “although significant gains have been made since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2002, Afghan women still face one of the most challenging environments in the world.”[9] In an almost opposite turn of events to that in Iran, Afghanistan went from the Taliban who instituted extremist Islamic policies as though it were law to a legal system that issued a considerably higher degree of  women’s freedom. In Iran, the government and legal code officially dictate women’s behavior. In Afghanistan, which is deeply void of laws governing women’s behavior, instilled cultural norms and attitudes influence women’s roles in society.

A Brief Introduction into Laws and Norms 

Clarifying the definition of norms as it pertains to this essay aids in our understanding of the relationship between laws and norms in Afghan and Iranian society. There are disputes among scholars on how to define norms, but this essay uses the fairly broad definition that norms specify “appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and individuals are rewarded or punished as they conform to deviate from the rules.”[10] Laws make up the rigid legal code that can only be changed through certain civil procedures, whereas norms, even though they are passed down through generations, are malleable and shape the attitudes of individuals toward certain practices. The laws and cultural norms of state are interdependent; while one is not completely based on the other, they must be understood as connected in their influence on societies. Behavior violating cultural norms or laws within the context of an Islamic state can result in similar punishment—from society in the former and authorities in the latter—and therefore similar cultural practices.

Discussing the cultural norms of Islamic states and how they relate to the roles of women can be a slippery slope into what Abu-Lughod, a well-regarded feminist scholar of the Arab world, calls “the rhetoric of salvation.”[11] Western feminists are accused of suggesting that women under Islam need liberation from their particular circumstances. This assertion highlights two major misconceptions about Islam: that women who embody Islamic norms are oppressed and that Islam is the oppressor. For example, Abu-Lughod, using the example of the burka in Afghanistan, has shown that veils do not always connote oppression, just as a lack of veiling does not always imply liberation.[12] Furthermore, while some interpretations of Islamic law might be perceived as oppressive to women both by Westerners and the citizens of those states, these interpretations cannot be extrapolated to reflect Islam in a larger sense—instead they are specific to certain regions and cultures. As has been shown, the discussion of veiling in Islamic states can wane into the ethical implications of applying Western norms to non-Western practices. However, this essay does not intend to engage in the ethics of certain practices in Islamic societies, but only to illustrate the relationship between the laws on such practices and the realities for women in the respective countries. Thus, it is this relationship between norms and laws, and not “consistent resort to the cultural,”[13] that is examined in order to explain the roles of women in Afghanistan and Iran.

Laws and Attitudes on Veiling

The prevailing cultural attitude toward veiling among Iranian woman is contrary to the practice. In 1983, a bill was passed in the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, calling women to wear chadors (a long piece of fabric that rests on the head and wraps around the body to the toes) and loose clothing. However, even before the bill was officially passed, the regime increased pressure on women to wear chadors once they leave their residences. Adele K. Ferdows, a scholar of Islamic studies, explains that the logic offered by religious authorities is that “[a] woman’s dress may cause excitement and sexual desire in men and hence is regarded as unacceptable.”[14] While in 1936 the Shah issued an edict that banned veiling as part of his westernization initiative, there were certain exceptions made for especially pious individuals. Under the new religious authority, many women literally saw their realities change overnight as the liberal resistance to the Shah that they had supported was forced to succumb to victorious religious authorities. For those who wore chadors before the new law, their choice had been taken away, and for those who did not, a new way of life was enforced upon them. As a result of the law, almost all women in Iran veil; the minority which does not veil out of protest faces penalization by the authorities. As Ziba Mir-Hosseini, a well-respected Iranian scholar, says, “[t]here can be no justice for me, as a Muslim woman, as long as patriarchy of the sharia does not reflect the values and principles that I hold to be at the core of my faith.”[15] Her voice is a reflection of the response to the veiling edict, as “[t]housands of women reacted with determination” and “massive demonstrations and repeated protests,” which “testifies to the strength of women’s agency in Iran.”[16] While many women, inside and outside of Iran, share Mir-Hosseini’s view, there is also a strong contingent of women who support veiling. Thus, veiling in Iran is divisive among women, and, despite current laws, Iranian society can accommodate a modern dress agenda for women as shown by the policies of the Shah pre-revolution.

Afghanistan’s cultural attitudes illustrate why the burka is still prevalent, even though post-Taliban Afghanistan does not have laws governing women’s dress. Although the burka was worn by a minority of women in certain rural regions of Afghanistan, during the rule of the Taliban, it became mandatory for all women. The fall of the Taliban brought the end of forced veiling. While the pseudo-laws instituted by the Taliban were dissolved, the cultural attitudes of veiling in Afghanistan became the predominant mode of dictating women’s dress.[17] In a report published by the Bureau of Democracy, “credible sources reported that women and older girls could not go out alone and that, when they did go out, they wore a burqa for fear of harassment or violence.”[18] The dangers associated with not veiling in Afghanistan implies that veiling, for Afghan women, is a choice-less choice.  Not only do slightly over fifty percent of women still wear burkas when they leave their residences, but only thirty percent of Afghans said that they thought that women should have the right to choose whether or not to veil themselves.[19] This attitude results from “conservative social norms [that] continue to restrict basic freedoms.”[20] Mir-Hosseini notes that the burka reflects “traditional patriarchal values and norms that the Taliban had merely enforced in an extreme form.”[21] Thus, in the absence of laws based on patriarchal interpretations of Islamic law that are present in Iran, the traditional and patriarchal cultural attitudes of Afghanistan shape how women dress, resulting in similar veiling practices as those in Iran.

Laws and Attitudes on Marriage

Conversely to the relationship between veiling laws and practices in Iran and Afghanistan, the states’ marriage laws are similar but manifest differently in each society. The two primary factors contributing to these different outcomes are disparities in female education and opposing cultural norms around divorce. The increasing divorce rate in Iran illustrates that the conservative laws do not reflect the cultural norms of the population. Pre-revolution, Iran’s marriage laws were based on the Family Protection Act, which granted men and women the same rights to custody and divorce. Doreen Hinchcliffe, an expert in Islamic family law, describes the adoption of the act as an abandonment of “the traditional law … since a husband no longer has the right to divorce his wife without cause.”[22] After the creation of the Islamic Republic, the Supreme Leader Khamenei, in one of his first acts, dismantled the law and restored Sharia-based family law including “reinstatement of the fiqh provisions for marriage and divorce.”[23] Although the new law was “presented as a law to ‘protect the family’ and realize women’s ‘high status’ in Islam,” in reality the law took away several rights of women in marriage, depriving them of agency in their relationships.[24] The legal repercussions were felt deeply as women did not receive the high status intended by the law.[25] In interviews with women after the dismantling of the Family Protection Act, Mir-Hosseini shares that “women who came to the court were astonished to learn that their husbands could now divorce them without first securing their consent.”[26] Under the new Sharia family law, “[h]usbands can divorce at will. If the divorce is not requested by the wife and she has not failed any matrimonial duties or behaved immorally, ‘the husband is required to transfer to the wife up to half of the properties … earned during the years of the marriage.’”[27] However, unexpectedly, “[t]he Islamization of Iranian family law has also not succeeded in lowering divorce rates” or increasing marriage rates.[28] Bahman Baktiari points out that the steady marriage rate and slight increase in the mean age of marriage for women is due to “rising literacy rates, increasing urbanization, and improvements in female education.”[29] These social progressions are in part due to the Shah’s aggressive westernization policies, but the continual growth even after his reign indicates that Iranians are also motivated to modernize. Thus, the increasing divorce rate and median age of marriage is a culmination of persistent tolerant social and cultural norms despite conservative laws and an omnipotent religious authority.

Despite similar marriage laws in Afghanistan, divorce rates in Afghanistan are extremely low. The lack of female education and stigmatization of divorce not only make it difficult to navigate the court system, but even if a woman manages to get a divorce, she is then subject to societal discrimination. Similar to Iranian law, currently “under Afghan civil law, men may freely initiate a divorce without cause and may do so orally, but women may only request a divorce based on a set of prescribed reasons.”[30] Unlike in Iran, however, in Afghanistan “divorce and separation are practically invisible in marital status distribution,” with a minute divorce rate of less than 1 percent—the bulk of that from the 65 and older age group. In the same way increasing literacy rates were correlated to higher divorce rates in Iran, the converse can be observed in Afghanistan.[31] Afghanistan has a significantly lower literacy rate than Iran; only 46.1 percent of women in Afghanistan from the ages of 15 to 24 are considered literate, whereas the rate is 97 percent for the same demographic in Iran. Furthermore, only 35 percent of girls are enrolled in secondary school, which is less than half as many as in Iran.[32] Although the court systems are similar to those in Iran, women in Afghanistan are generally less educated and therefore are not as equipped to navigate divorce laws. Additionally, the lack of female education is reflective of traditional social and cultural norms that place women in domestic rather than public spheres. Afghanistan is ultimately a tribal based society, whose traditional beliefs can also be observed in attitudes toward divorce. Barfield commented, in regards to non-governmental organizations’ (NGO) actions in Afghanistan, that “helping divorces was seen by Afghans as encouraging home wrecking in a country where divorce (by a man or a woman) was socially unacceptable.”[33] Thus, stigmatization of divorce in conjunction with extremely low rates of female education explains how Iran and Afghanistan have such different divorce rates despite similar marriage laws. For these two very similar systems, cultural attitudes—progressive in Iran and conservative in Afghanistan—helped shape the effects of the laws.

The Debates

The debates on women’s rights in Iran and Afghanistan occur on two separate planes. There are the debates among Iranian and Afghan women, which often manifest in opposition to the respective regime’s policies. On the other plane, there is the debate among scholars on the reactions of women to the shifting norms and laws of the states throughout the last several decades. Debates concerning women’s rights in Iran and Afghanistan mirror the states’ different social and cultural norms. The debate among women in Afghanistan focuses on shifting cultural attitudes to protect women from discrimination when practicing freedoms that are guaranteed by law. In Iran, on the other hand, the interpretation of Sharia law itself is criticized within the feminist context and its stark contrast to Western practices. Another difference between the debates is that the debate in Iran has grown in size and intensity since the revolution, while in Afghanistan it has dwindled. Hamideh Sedghi, a renowned political scientist and gender studies expert, asserts in regard to Iran,“[w]omen’s growing awareness and resistance under the IRI have elicited more comprehensive scholarship than did pre- revolutionary women.”[34] Furthermore, “unlike Afghanistan,” in Iran “many women have responded to the policies of the Islamic regime” through voicing opposition, testifying to the “strength of women’s agency.”[35] The Iranian debate revolves around the idea of Islamic Feminism, defined by Mir-Hosseini as “a gender discourse that was and is feminist in its aspirations and demands, yet Islamic in its language and sources of legitimacy.”[36]

On the scholarly plane, Iran seems to have garnered specific attention since the state’s interpretations of Sharia law have been noted as exceptionally incompatible with modernity. Bakitari points out that, “contrary to its stated ideals, the consequences of the law have been so strikingly out of touch with contemporary social realities, popular notions of justice, and women’s aspirations that the clergy and laypeople alike have felt compelled to rethink the idea that sharia is immutable.”[37] Mir-Hosseini echoes a similar a point on the Islamic Republic’s approach to domestic policy, stating that “one paradoxical and unintended consequence of Islamists’ reintroduction of sharia in Iran and their attempt to enforce its premodern mandates has been to open a new dialogue between Islamic law and feminism.”[38] Bakitari and Mir-Hosseini identify a fascinating occurrence, where the victory of the religious authorities after the revolution has sparked a debate that could deconstruct their entire basis. Ferdows depicts the new Iranian woman under the rule of religious authority as “free, independent, and aware of her rights through her knowledge of the Qoran and all those rights that the Qoran has bestowed upon her.”[39] Women are growing more educated in interpreting religious texts and are trying to work within the framework of the clergy to guarantee freedoms. As illustrated, this framework is one of “competing visions of male-female relations,” with the patriarchal interpretations taking precedent.[40] Thus, the goal of Islamic Feminism, specifically in the Iranian context, is to rethink the rights of women under Islamic law by offering reinterpretations of Islamic texts in order to make adjustments to the law.

The rights of women in Afghanistan were of great concern during the rule of the Taliban, but since their fall in 2001, the discussion has slowed down dramatically with most of the attention coming from international organizations. Laura Bush’s weekly address given in November of 2001 about the brutality of the Taliban against women is exemplary of the kind of international attention that Taliban rule garnered. She discussed the US military advances in pushing the Taliban out and went into detail into the Taliban’s practices of brutality against women.[41] Barfield points out that although the currently implemented form of Sharia is an accepted part of Afghan society, there are still discussions on “hot-button issues, particularly family law, women’s rights, or freedom of religion.”[42] The discussions of women in Iran and Afghanistan as well as those amongst scholars, however, has moved away from confronting what the West perceived as radical Islam under the Taliban to working within the Islamic framework. Unlike the proposed approaches to legal reform in Iran, in Afghanistan “liberals today often attempt to turn the tables on their opponents by accusing them of supporting traditional customary systems that violate shari’a principles.”[43] Therefore, the cultural attitudes of Afghanistan, as opposed to the law, are perceived as the reason that women enjoy fewer rights than men. This is not surprising; women’s behavior is mostly absent from the laws, as noted before, however this observation of the cultural influence informs state reforms. Barfield points out that many who work within the Afghan legal system “argue that reforming the legal system should take back seat to changing cultural attitudes.”[44] In terms of international approaches to women’s rights in Afghanistan, Barfield asserts that “proponents of international humans rights are correct in believing that the way to instill respect for what to appear to be alien concepts is to root them in an existing Islamic tradition.”[45] Thus, both approaches to reform in Iran and Afghanistan are done within the Islamic context, but the former tries to breakdown patriarchal influence in the laws itself, while the latter attempts to deconstruct patriarchal cultural norms.


There are several limitations to this essay which restrict the conclusions that can be drawn. First, the shifting laws and norms discussed in this essay fall within a wide historical context, only a part of which has been touched on here. From the 1960s onwards, Iran and Afghanistan have experienced severe political turmoil that heavily affected the veiling and marriage laws observed today. In Iran there was the 1979 Revolution, which ousted the socially progressive Shah and resulted in the installment of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Additionally, there was the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, in which the Soviets intrusively instituted their communist agenda into an Islamic society. The Soviets’ forced secularization of Afghan society (forcing men to cut their beards and women to unveil) undoubtedly influenced the norms and laws that exist in Afghanistan today.[46] Considering that these two states share a border (which of course also influences the history of Islamic law in each state), 1979 was especially turbulent time in terms of political, social, and economic stability. Furthermore, since 1979 in Afghanistan has seen the rise and fall of the Taliban. Each one of the events mentioned above contributed significantly to the laws on veiling and marriage today in Iran and Afghanistan. While it is easier to track the effects of these events on laws, they also swayed the cultural norms of the states. 

The second limitation of this essay is that it only examined veiling and marriage measures in Iran and Afghanistan. Specifically in terms of marriage, the essay discussed only marriage rates, divorce rates, and median ages of marriage, as these indicators affect all women who marry. Hence, this essay did not discuss, for example, custody laws, which only affect women who bear children.

Despite these limits, this essay has shown that the laws in Iran and Afghanistan governing veiling and marriage are inconsistent with the predominant cultural attitudes on the issues. Furthermore, it is precisely cultural attitudes that transcend the laws and influence the ways in which women participate in these societies. Thus, the path toward a stronger connection between law and practice is two pronged, made up of a short-term and a long-term solution. In the short-term, if cultural norms dictate women’s roles in society, then such norms need reform to ensure gender equality. Once these norms are reformed, the laws can be altered to cement the newly implemented attitudes.

In terms of Iran, the majority of the population has socially progressive views on veiling and marriage—partially instilled during the Shah’s reign. Thus, in order to achieve the highly-advocated measures of optional veiling and equal rights in marriage, the religious leadership needs to accept changes in cultural attitudes through legally adopting more liberal interpretations of Sharia. In Afghanistan, there is the exact opposite situation; the leadership has shown some socially progressive beliefs in their current legal code, but the prevailing cultural attitudes are conservative and result in restricted access to society for women. Therefore, in Afghanistan, it is the cultural attitudes of the greater public that need reform. The debates surrounding these issues are correct in that the only way to change cultural norms in Iran and Afghanistan is to work within the context of Islam. In other words, cultural norms can only be changed if the current laws or practices on veiling and marriage are proven to be misinterpretations of Islamic scripture. The way to achieve this is to have experts—scholars who dedicate their life’s work to studying the rights ensured by the Qur’an—create a narrative with the corresponding groups in Iran and Afghanistan. This can be done through coordinating efforts between the United States State Department and leading non-government organizations in order to educate those who work in the region through these institutions and to offer a platform for scholars to interact with government on local and national levels. The wrong way to do this would be to have Western politicians or non-governmental organizations try to instill Western concepts of human rights in Islamic states through actors that may be well-versed in Western human rights rhetoric, but neither speak Arabic nor have read the Qur’an. Lastly, this narrative must be cooperative rather than instructional, acknowledging that there is no objective or absolute form of laws or cultural norms that shape women’s roles in societies. Effective modifications of the law can only follow change in the cultural attitudes, acting as a final consolidation of this progress as opposed to paving the way.

Ultimately, no matter the paths taken to instill gender equality in veiling and marriage in Iran and Afghanistan, this essay shows that these states present a dramatic departure from the role of laws and norms in Western societies. While Western societies experience laws as leading individuals’ behavior, Iran and Afghanistan rest on the cultural norms pervasive through their domestic population. If laws are meant to create order within a society, then what does it mean when the cultural norms seem to negate the standards set in the legal code? In the states discussed here, it is clear that their respective civil societies rest on the foundation of a complex set of social and cultural norms derived from Islamic law.


[1] Bahman Baktiari, “The Islamic Republic of Iran: Shari’a Politics and The Transformation of Islamic Law,” The Review of Faith & International Affairs 10, no. 4 (2012): 35-44, 36.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Thomas Barfield, “Afghanistan: The Local and Global Practice of Shari‘a,” in Sharia Politics: Islamic Law and Society in the Modern World, ed. Robert W. Hefner (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 179.

[4] Zachary Laub, “The Taliban in Afghanistan,” Council on Foreign Relations, last modified July 4, 2014, accessed May 8, 2017,

[5] Barfield, supra note 3, at 195.

[6] Time Luccaro and Erica Gaston, “Women’s Access to Justice in Afghanistan,” Peaceworks 98 (July 2014), 5.

[7] Anastasiya Hozyainova “Sharia and Women’s Rights in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace Special Report 347 (May 2014), 2.

[8] Barfield, supra note 3, at 188.

[9] Luccaro and Gaston, supra note 6, at 7.

[10] Leonard Broom and Philip Selznick, Sociology: A Text with Adapted Readings (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), at 68.

[11] Lila Abu-Lughod, “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others,” American Anthropologist 104, issue 3 (September 2002): 783-790, 788.

[12] Id. at 785.

[13] Id. at 784.

[14] Adele K. Ferdows, “Women and the Islamic Revolution,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 15, no. 2 (1983): 283-298, 295.

[15] Ziba Mir‐Hosseini, “Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality: Between Islamic Law and Feminism,” Critical Inquiry 32, no. 4 (Summer 2006): 629-645, 629.

[16] Hamideh Sedghi, Women and Politics in Iran: Veiling, Unveiling, and Reveiling (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 251.

[17] The use of the term “pseudo-laws” here refers to the fact that Taliban laws were not officially codified. Since the Taliban was never the legitimate government of Afghanistan – neither elected nor given legitimacy from foreign powers – their decrees were not technically law. Although the Taliban ruled almost exclusively from 1996 to 2001, their power was viewed as para-military and should not be understood to be akin to legitimate governments of Iran and Afghanistan we see today. This should not dilute the absoluteness of their power and pervasive influence on women’s behavior and punishment of those who showed digression to the rules of the Taliban.

[18] “Afghanistan.” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

2003, February 25, 2004.

[19] James Bell et al., “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society,” Pew Research Center (April 30, 2013),

[20] Luccaro and Gaston, supra note 6, at 7.

[21] Mir‐Hosseini, supra note 15, at 630.

[22] Doreen Hinchcliffe, “The Iranian Family Protection Act,” International and Comparative Law Quarterly 17, no. 2 (1968): 516-521, 519.

[23] Mir‐Hosseini, supra note 15, at 635.

[24] Baktiari, “The Islamic,” supra note 1, at 37.

[25] Mir‐Hosseini, supra note 15, at 635.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Bahman Baktiari, “Shari‘a Politics and the Transformation of Islamic Law” in Sharia Politics: Islamic Law and Society in the Modern World, ed. Robert W. Hefner (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 130.

[28] Id. at 131.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Luccaro and Gaston, supra note 6, at 12.

[31] “Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey 2013-214: National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment,” Central Statistics Organization (2016), download available at:

[32] “Gender Data Portal: Afghanistan,” World Bank, accessed May 8, 2017,

[33] Thomas Barfield, “Afghanistan Enters the Twenty-first Century,” in Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 239.

[34] Sedghi, supra note 16, at 247.

[35] Id. at 21.

[36] Mir‐Hosseini, supra note 15, at 640.

[37] Baktiari, “Shari‘a Politics,” supra note 27, at 130.

[38] Mir‐Hosseini, supra note 15, at 631.

[39] Ferdows, supra note 14, at 294.

[40] Baktiari, “Shari‘a Politics,” supra note 27, at 132.

[41] Laura Bush, “The Weekly Address Delivered by the First Lady,” online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project (November 17, 2001),

[42] Barfield, supra note 3, at 188.

[43] Id. at 196.

[44] Id. at 197.

[45] Id. at 204.

[46] John Keegan, “The Ordeal of Afghanistan,” The Atlantic, November, 1985, accessed May 8, 2017,

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