International Ted Rall

The Worst Countries for Women (Afghanistan Isn’t on the List)

Which nations have the worst gender inequality, according to the United Nations? A list of staunch pals of the U.S.
Aghani women. [Marius Arnesen / CC 2.0]

By Ted Rall

Concern-trolling over the dismal plight of women in Afghanistan is powerfully appealing to liberals who look for reasons for the United States to maintain a military presence there. If and when the Taliban return to power, the warmongers argue, the bad old days of stonings, burqas and girls banned from school will come back—and it’ll be our fault because we didn’t stick around.

Outrage over women’s inequality is often only ginned up in the service of some other aim, like invading Afghanistan or banning transwomen from high school girls’ sports teams. Scratch the thin veneer of phony feminism and the true agenda, which has nothing to do with women or girls, is quickly exposed.

You may be surprised to learn that, according to a U.S. News & World Report analysis of data provided by the United Nations, Afghanistan isn’t among the ten worst countries for women. Which nations do have the worst gender inequality?

A list of staunch pals of the U.S.

But you’ll never see “woke” news media go after the U.S.’ best bros for treating women like dirt, much less the suggestion that these countries ought, like Afghanistan, to be bombed, droned, invaded and subjected to two decades of brutal occupation under a corrupt U.S.-installed puppet regime.

#1 worst nation in the world for women is the United Arab Emirates (“close friends and strong allies…with shared interests and common values,” crows the UAE’s embassy website, which showcases a cute photo of Biden). Common values that we apparently share with the UAE are its form of government (tribal autocracy), the torture and disappearance of political dissidents, female genital mutilation, wife beatings (perfectly legal), marital rape (perfectly legal) and “honor killings” (frowned upon and largely ignored). Women may vote, drive, buy property, travel and go to college. But they need signed permission from their “guardian”—who is usually their father or their husband.

Continuing down the list, we find U.S. “strategic ally” Qatar (#2), U.S. ally Saudi Arabia (#3), U.S. “treaty ally” India (#4), U.S. “partner” Oman (#5), major recipient of U.S. military aid Egypt (#6), U.S. “major non-NATO ally” Morocco (#7), U.S. ally South Korea (#8), U.S. “regional strategic ally” Sri Lanka (#9) and U.S. “key partner” Jordan (#10). Anyone who cares about the oppression of women should backburner Afghanistan, start with the UAE and work their way down this list of misogynist nightmare nations.

Not to say that the women of Afghanistan don’t have anything to worry about as the Taliban return to power. They do. Taliban spokesmen tell reporters that they’ve moderated their views about the status of women since 2001, that they would even allow women to work as judges and will now allow girls to continue their education and for women to work so long as they wear hijab. “Local sources told us the Taliban removed art and citizenship classes from the curriculum, replacing them with Islamic subjects, but otherwise follow the national [U.S.-backed government] syllabus,” the BBC reports from Balkh province near Mazar-i-Sharif. “The government pays the salaries of staff, but the Taliban are in charge. It’s a hybrid system in place across the country.”

Reality in areas controlled by local Taliban commanders hasn’t corresponded with this relatively cheery and pragmatic vision. There are reports that the Taliban have demanded that girls over 15 and widows under 45 be forcibly married and, if they aren’t Muslim, converted to Islam. Taliban rule will likely be harsher and stricter in more rural areas.

It is perfectly reasonable to worry about the future of Afghan women. Though, to be fair, many were viciously oppressed, forced to wear the burqa, denied an education and even stoned to death, throughout the last 20 years of U.S. occupation. If you don’t, you are morally deficient.

But don’t forget the hierarchy of needs: women are even worse off in a number of other countries, all of which get a pass from the American press and giant chunks of American tax dollars from the American government. So the next time you hear someone affiliated with the U.S. government or in mainstream corporate media talking about how the Taliban mistreats women, remember that their real agenda is oppression and militarism, not emancipation.

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.” Now available to order. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.


  1. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Polish Soviet-hater and US National Security Advisor who gave the Soviets their Vietnam (in Afghanistan), was more responsible for destroying lives of Afghan women than any other single person. Afghanistan was basically a Westernized, Soviet state when overthrown by the mujahideen (one strong faction was controlled by Osama bin Laden, most were supported by the CIA, and financed by the Saudis). The Wahhabi fundamentalists spread through Afghanistan, leading to the Taliban, and several other jihadist “tribes”.

    There are lots of videos on YouTube showing what life was like in Afghanistan before the CIA and Brzezinski and the US “worked their magic” starting in 1979, putting women back in medieval times.
    For example:

  2. Of course, it’s the U.S.A.’s cultivation of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan beginning in 1979 that has led to the Taliban and the matastic effects of jihadist oppression and terror throughout the global south and west. The C.I.A. – facilitated coup in Iran in ’53 and the ensuing tyranny of the Shah sparked the 1979 revolution that resulted in the current oppressive theocracy. Timber Sycamore funneled weapons and cash to “moderate rebels” attacking Syria. Though the msm scrubs the history, America has been a defacto ally of Islamic extremism for decades.

  3. Ted, you are really not getting it that the universal oppressors of women are MEN.

    The nation state represents the concretized reality of masculinist power and its institutionalised systems for maintaining dominance and oppression over women and other subject classes.

    I am no less fearful of the agendas of males who aspire to political power whether they are in America, Britain, Afghanistan, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.

    Everywhere, in every place and for all of recorded history women have been subject and constantly engaged in ongoing resistance as there is no society where we are safe, respected or have equal rights. Equal rights are still a mirage and usually granted on a sliding scale that can be wound back whenever male power feels threatened.

    Your article is patronising crap that could only be written from the perspective of a privileged male.

  4. It was sickening hearing George Bush citing concern for women if the US (faux) withdrawal from Afghanistan occurs. The same Bush who created about 2 million widows in Iraq in search of non-existent WMDs. And we wonder “why they hate us.”

  5. As prior posters have noted, the U.S. cared squat for women when it came to organizing a guerilla war against the Afghan CP government and the USSR’s support for it. This period in Afghan history is constantly ignored by the State Department feminists with good reason. “Women’s Rights” are only dragged out when useful to imperialism – otherwise they are ignored, as Ted shows.

  6. “. . . powerfully appealing to liberals who look for reasons for the United States to maintain a military presence there.”
    Neoliberals, please. Even as a radical leftist who markedly differs from both groups, I can easily distinguish my truly liberal from my neoliberal acquaintances. The former (libs) at least recognize the idiocy of urinating-away $$ in foreign colonial occupations that is far better spent domestically. The latter, the neolibs still generally maintain an image of noble America, world caretaker, rather than the reality of imperialist America war criminal.

  7. Curiously Rall left the USA off the list. A quick list of powerful women should paint the picture: Anne-Marie Slaughter, Victoria Nuland, Gina Haspel, Samantha Power, Hillary Clinton. et al.

    These women grabbed on and helped penetrate Afghanistan by force. Patriarchy without the man, but also racism, colonialism, nationalism, and other pernicious hierarchies – ugly details mostly hidden from view. Who did more evil in their hearts?

    He was probably a man but Bob Ross was known for producing beautiful landscapes.

  8. If you are not one of the oppressors then it is your purpose to be used, exploited and finally discarded when no longer of use. That goes especially for the poor, women, and people of color (although certainly not limited to them). The ideas of democracy, liberty, and equality are nothing but a smokescreen behind which those who rule play their evil games of power and control. Because to the sociopaths and opportunists who rule seemingly everywhere, power, wealth and control are the only things that matter.

    Everything else is merely abstraction and a resource to be exploited.

  9. Worthwhile and informative article. Appreciate the reference links. The previous comments bt other readers were good too.

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