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We asked some of our most perceptive journalists and analysts to anticipate tomorrow, to unravel the future, to forecast what the new year could have in store for our vast broadcast region. Among their predictions:

Here, then, are our correspondents' predictions for 2024. To find out more about the authors themselves, click on their bylines.

The Ukraine War: A Prolonged Stalemate

By Vitaliy Portnikov

In September 2022, Ukrainian generals Valeriy Zaluzhniy and Mykhaylo Zabrodskiy presciently warned that Russia's aggression against Ukraine would unfold into a protracted conflict. Fast forward 15 months, and the front line is effectively frozen, with neither Ukrainian nor Russian offensives yielding substantial changes.

As 2023 comes to a close, observers find themselves revisiting themes familiar from the previous year: the potential for a major Ukrainian counteroffensive, the extent of Western aid to Kyiv, the possibility of a "frozen conflict,” security assurances for Ukraine, and the prospects for its Euro-Atlantic integration ahead of a NATO summit.

It is conceivable that, by the close of 2024, we will still be grappling with these same issues. A political resolution seems elusive, given the Kremlin's steadfast refusal to entertain discussions on vacating the parts of Ukraine its forces occupy. Conversely, Ukraine’s definition of victory is the full restoration of its territorial integrity.

Even if, in 2024, one side achieves a military victory -- whether through the liberation of part of Ukraine or Russia seizing control of additional regions -- it won't necessarily bring us closer to a political resolution. Acknowledging this impasse is crucial, as Russian President Vladimir Putin's assault on Ukraine is part of a broader agenda: a push to reestablish, if not the Soviet Empire, at least its sphere of influence.

Even if, in 2024, one side achieves a military victory, it won't necessarily bring us closer to a political resolution.

For Ukraine, resistance to Russian aggression is about not just reclaiming occupied territories but also safeguarding statehood, political identity, and national integrity. Western support is crucial for Ukraine's survival and the restoration of its territorial integrity. However, this backing aims to avoid escalation into a direct conflict between Russia and the West on Russia's sovereign territory.

The war's conclusion seems contingent on the depletion of resources on one of the two sides, with Ukraine relying on continued Western support and Russia on oil and gas revenues. Hence, 2024 might echo the patterns of 2023. Even if external factors shift significantly -- such as in the U.S. presidential election in November -- we might not witness tangible changes until 2025.

Another potential variable is the emergence of major conflicts akin to the war in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, this would likely signify the dissipation of Western resources rather than a shift in approaches to war.

In essence, the war in Ukraine will persist until the West realizes that a return to the previous world order is unattainable. Constructing a new world order demands unconventional measures, such as offering genuine security guarantees to nations victimized by aggression or achieving peace, or at least limiting the zone of military operations to the current contact line, without direct agreements with Russia.

So far, such understanding is lacking, and the expectation that Moscow will eventually grasp the futility of its ambitions only emboldens Putin. Consequently, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine will endure, potentially spawning new, equally perilous local wars worldwide.

Iran: Problems Within And Without

By Hannah Kaviani

Iran has been dealing with complex domestic and international challenges for years and the same issues are likely to plague it in 2024. But officials in Tehran appear to be taking a “wait-and-see” approach to its lengthy list of multilayered problems.

Iran enters 2024 as Israel's war in Gaza continues and the prospects for a peaceful Middle East are bleak, with the situation exacerbated by militia groups firmly supported by Tehran.

Iran’s prominent role in supporting paramilitary forces in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen has also drawn the ire of the international community and will continue to be a thorn in the side of relations with the West.

Tehran has refused to cooperate with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency over its nuclear program, resulting in an impasse in talks with the international community. And with the United States entering an election year that could see the return of Donald Trump to the presidency, the likelihood of Tehran and Washington resuming negotiations -- which could lead to a reduction in sanctions -- is considered very low.

But Iran's problems are not limited to outside its borders.

Another critical issue Iranian officials must continue to deal with in 2024 is the devastated economy.

The country’s clerical regime is still reeling from the massive protests that began in 2022 over the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody after her arrest for not obeying hijab rules. The aftershocks of the Women, Life, Freedom movement that emanated from her death were reflected in acts of civil disobedience that are likely to continue in 2024.

At the same time, a brutal crackdown continues as civil rights activists, students, religious minorities, and artists are being beaten, detained, and/or given harsh prison sentences.

With parliamentary elections scheduled for March, the government is likely to face yet another challenge to its legitimacy as it struggles with low voter turnout and general disinterest in another round of controlled elections.

Another critical issue Iranian officials must continue to deal with in 2024 is the devastated economy resulting from the slew of international sanctions because of its controversial nuclear program. After a crushing year of 47 percent inflation in 2023 (a 20-year high, according to the IMF), costs are expected to continue to rise for many foods and commodities, as well as real estate.

Iran’s widening budget deficit due to reduced oil profits continues to cripple the economy, with the IMF reporting that the current government debt is equal to three annual budgets.

With neither the international community nor the hard-line Tehran regime budging, most analysts see scant chances for significant changes in Iran in the coming year.

Belarus: Wider War Role, Integration With Russia Not In The Cards

By Valer Karbalevich

Belarus has been pulled closer into Moscow’s orbit than ever by Russia’s war in Ukraine -- but in 2024, it’s unlikely to be subsumed into the much larger nation to its east, and chances are it won’t step up its so-far limited involvement in the conflict in the country to its south.

The most probable scenario in Belarus, where the authoritarian Alyaksandr Lukashenka will mark 30 years since he came to power in 1994, is more of the same: No letup in pressure on all forms of dissent at home, no move to send troops to Ukraine. And while Russia’s insistent embrace will not loosen, the Kremlin will abstain from using Belarusian territory for any new ground attacks or bombardments of Ukraine.

But the war in Ukraine is a wild card, the linchpin influencing the trajectory of Belarus in the near term and beyond. For the foreseeable future, what happens in Belarus -- or to it -- will depend in large part on what happens in Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

Should the current equilibrium on the front persist and Western support for Ukraine persist, the likelihood is a continuation of the status quo for Belarus. The country will maintain its allegiance to Russia, marked by diplomatic and political support. Bolstered by Russian loans, Belarus's defense industry will further expand its output.

If Russia wins or scores substantial victories in Ukraine, Lukashenka will reap "victory dividends."

The Belarusian state will continue to militarize the border with Ukraine, posing a perpetual threat to Kyiv and diverting Ukrainian troops from the eastern and southern fronts. At the same time, however, Russia is unlikely to use Belarusian territory as a launching point for fresh assaults on Ukraine, as it did at the start of the full-scale invasion in 2022.

If Russia wins or scores substantial victories -- if Ukraine is forced into negotiations on Moscow’s terms, for example, or the current front line comes to be considered the international border -- Lukashenka, consolidating his position within the country, will reap "victory dividends." But relations between Belarus and Russia are unlikely to change dramatically.

Potentially, Moscow could take major steps to absorb Belarus, diminishing its sovereignty and transforming its territory into a staging ground for a fresh assault on Kyiv. This would increase tensions with the West and heighten concerns about the tactical nuclear weapons Moscow and Minsk say Russia has transferred to Belarus. However, this seems unlikely due to the absence of military necessity for Moscow and the problems it could create on the global stage.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Moscow in April
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Moscow in April

The loss of Belarusian sovereignty would pose a major risk for Lukashenka and his regime. An overwhelming majority of Belarusians oppose the direct involvement of Belarus in the war against Ukraine. This fundamental distinction sets Belarus apart from Russia, and bringing Belarus into the war could trigger a political crisis in Belarus -- an outcome Moscow would prefer to avoid.

If Russia loses the war or sustains significant defeats that weaken Putin, Lukashenka's regime may suffer economic and political repercussions. This could prompt him to seek alternative global alliances, potentially leading to an attempt to normalize relations with the West.

Russia, Ukraine, And The West: Sliding Toward World War III

By Sergei Medvedev

2024 will be a critical year for the war in Ukraine and for the entire international system, which is quickly unraveling before our eyes. The most crucial of many challenges is a revanchist, resentful, belligerent Russia, bent on destroying and remaking the world order. In his mind, President Vladimir Putin is fighting World War III, and Ukraine is a prelude to a global showdown.

Despite Western sanctions, Russia has consolidated its position militarily, domestically, and internationally in 2023. After setbacks and shocks in 2022, the military has stabilized the front and addressed shortages of arms, supplies, and manpower. Despite latent discontent, the population is not ready to question the war, preferring to stay in the bubble of learned ignorance and the lies of state propaganda.

Here are four scenarios for 2024:

Strategic stalemate in Ukraine, chaos in the international system: The West, relaxed by a 30-year “peace dividend,” lacks the vision and resolve of the 1980s, when its leaders helped bring about the U.S.S.R.’s collapse, let alone the courage of those who stood up to Nazi Germany in World War II. Putin’s challenge to the free world is no less significant than Hitler’s was, but there is no Roosevelt or Churchill in sight. Probability: 70 percent

While breakup into many regions is unlikely, the Russian empire could crumble at the edges.

Widening war, collapse or division of Ukraine: Russia could defend and consolidate its gains in Ukraine, waging trench warfare while continuing to destroy civilian infrastructure, and may consider a side strike in Georgia or Moldova -- or against Lithuania or Poland, testing NATO. A frontal invasion is less likely than a hybrid operation by “unidentified” units striking from Belarus, acts of sabotage, or unrest among Russian-speakers in the Baltic states. Other Kremlin operations could occur anywhere in the world. The collapse of Ukraine’s government or the division of the country could not be ruled out. Probability: 15 percent.

Russia loses in Ukraine: A military defeat for Russia, possibly entailing a partial or complete withdrawal from Ukraine. Consistent Western support and expanded supplies of arms, like F-16s or Abrams tanks, or a big move such as closing the skies over Ukraine, could provide for this outcome. It would not necessarily entail Russia’s collapse -- it could further consolidate the nation around Putin’s regime. Russia would develop a resentful identity grounded in loss and defeat -- and harbor the idea of coming back with a vengeance. Probability: 10 percent

Russia’s Collapse: A military defeat in Ukraine could spark social unrest, elite factional battles, and an anti-Putin coup, leading to his demotion or violent death. Putin’s natural death, too, could set off a succession struggle, causing chaos in a country he has rid of reliable institutions. While breakup into many regions is unlikely, the empire could crumble at the edges -- Kaliningrad, Chechnya, the Far East – like in 1917 and 1991. Russia’s nuclear weapons would be a big question mark, leading to external involvement and possible de-nuclearization. For all its perils, this scenario might provide a framework for future statehood in Northern Eurasia. Probability: 5 percent

The ruins of the Ukrainian town of Maryinka are seen earlier this year following intense fighting with invading Russian forces.
The ruins of the Ukrainian town of Maryinka are seen earlier this year following intense fighting with invading Russian forces.

EU: 'Fortress Europe' And The Ukraine War

By Rikard Jozwiak

2024 will see a rightward shift in the European Union, but it is unlikely to bring the deluge of populist victories that some are predicting since Euroskeptics won national elections in the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia and polled well in Austria and Germany.

The European Parliament elections in June will be the ultimate test for the bloc in that respect. Polls still suggest the two main political groups, the center-right European People's Party and the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, will finish on top, albeit with a smaller share of the vote. But right-wing populist parties are likely to fail once again to agree on the creation of a single political group, thus eroding their influence in Brussels.

This, in turn, is likely to prod more pro-European groups into combining forces again to divvy up EU top jobs like the presidencies of the European Commission, the bloc's top executive body, and the European Council, which defines the EU's political direction and priorities. Center-right European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is widely tipped to get a second term, even though she might fancy NATO's top job as secretary-general. Charles Michel, on the other hand, will definitely be out as European Council president after serving the maximum five years.

While right-wing populists may not wield major influence in the horse-trading for those top jobs, they will affect policy going forward. They have already contributed to a hardening of attitudes on migration, and you can expect to hear more of the term "fortress Europe" as barriers go up on the EU's outer border.

The one surefire guarantee in Europe isn't about the European Union at all but rather about NATO.

The biggest question for 2024, however, is about how much support Brussels can provide Ukraine going forward. Could the "cost-of-living crisis" encourage members to side with Budapest to block financial aid or veto the start of de facto accession talks with that war-torn country? The smart money is still on the EU finding a way to green-light both those decisions in 2024, possibly by unfreezing more EU funds for Budapest.

Although it seems like a remote possibility, patience could also finally wear out with Hungary, and the other 26 members could decide to strip it of voting rights in the Council of the European Union, which amends, approves, and vetoes European Commission proposals -- essentially depriving it of influence. In that respect, Austria and Slovakia, Budapest's two biggest allies right now, are the EU countries to watch.

The one surefire guarantee in Europe isn't about the European Union at all but rather about NATO: After somehow failing to join as predicted for each of the past two years, against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Sweden will become the transatlantic military alliance's 32nd member once the Turkish and Hungarian parliaments vote to ratify its accession protocol.

Caucasus: A Peace Agreement Could Be Transformative

By Josh Kucera

Could 2024 be the year that Armenia and Azerbaijan finally formally resolve decades of conflict?

This year, Azerbaijan effectively decided -- by force -- their most contentious issue: the status of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. With its lightning offensive in September, Azerbaijan placed Karabakh firmly under its control. Both sides now say they've reached agreement on most of their fundamental remaining issues, and diplomatic talks, after an interruption, appear set to resume.

A resolution of the conflict could transform the region. If Armenia and Azerbaijan made peace, a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement could soon follow. Borders between the three countries would reopen as a result, ending Armenia's long geographical isolation and priming the South Caucasus to take full advantage of new transportation projects seeking to ship cargo between Europe and Asia while bypassing Russia.

Peace between Armenia and its neighbors also could set the stage for a Russian exit from the region. Russian-Armenian security cooperation has been predicated on potential threats from Azerbaijan and Turkey. With those threats reduced, what's keeping the Russian soldiers, peacekeepers, and border guards there?

There are mounting indications that Azerbaijan may not see it in its interests to make peace.

A Russian exit would be a messy process -- Moscow still holds many economic levers in Armenia -- but Yerevan could seek help from the United States and Europe to smooth any transition. Washington and Brussels have seemingly been waiting in the wings, nudging Armenia in their direction.

But none of this is likely to happen without a peace agreement. And while there don't seem to be any unresolvable issues remaining, there are mounting indications that Azerbaijan may not see it in its interests to make peace. Baku has gotten what it wanted most of all -- full control of Karabakh -- without an agreement. And maintaining a simmering conflict with Armenia could arguably serve Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev well, as it would allow him to continue to lean on a reliable source of public support: rallying against an Armenian enemy.

But perhaps the most conspicuous indication of a broader strategy is Aliyev's increasing invocation of "Western Azerbaijan" -- a hazily defined concept alluding to ethnic Azerbaijanis who used to live on the territory of what is now Armenia and their presumed right to return to their homes. It suggests that Azerbaijan might keep furthering its demands in hopes that Armenia finally throws in the towel, and each can accuse the other of intransigence.

Hungary: The Return Of Big Brother?

By Pablo Gorondi

Critics might be tempted to believe that Big Brother will be watching over Hungarians in 2024 like at no point since the fall of communism.

A new law on the Defense of National Sovereignty will allow the Office for the Defense of Sovereignty, which the law created, to investigate and request information from almost any group in Hungary that receives foreign funding. This will apply to civic groups, political parties, private businesses, media companies -- in fact, anyone deemed to be conducting activities (including "information manipulation and disinformation") in the interests of a foreign "body, organization, or person."

The law has been criticized by experts from the United Nations and the Council of Europe over its seemingly vague language, lack of judicial oversight, and fears that it could be used by the government "to silence and stigmatize independent voices and opponents."

The head of the Office for the Defense of Sovereignty should be nominated for a six-year term by right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban and appointed by President Katalin Novak by February 1. This would allow the new authority to carry out investigations and present findings ahead of simultaneous elections to the European Parliament and Hungarian municipal bodies in early June -- possibly influencing their outcomes.

Orban has said in recent interviews that he wants to "fix the European Union" and that "we need to take over Brussels."

Asked by RFE/RL's Hungarian Service, some experts said fears of the new authority are overblown and that the government is more likely to use it as a threat hanging over opponents than as a direct tool for repression -- at least until it finds it politically necessary or expedient to tighten control.

On the international scene, meanwhile, Hungary will take over the Council of the European Union's six-month rotating presidency in July, a few weeks after voting to determine the composition of a new European Parliament.

MEPs from Orban's Fidesz party exited the center-right European People's Party bloc in 2021 and have not joined another group since then, although some observers expect them to join the more Euroskeptic and nationalist European Conservatives and Reformists.

Orban has for years predicted a breakthrough of more radical right-wing forces in Europe. But while that has happened in Italy, the Netherlands, and Slovakia, experts suggest that's not enough to fuel a significant shift in the European Parliament, where the center-right and center-left should continue to hold a clear majority.

Because of the June elections, the European Parliament's activities will initially be limited -- and its election of a European Commission president could prove complicated. Nevertheless, Orban has said in recent interviews that he wants to "fix the European Union" and that "we need to take over Brussels." So, Hungary's leadership may make progress difficult on issues that Orban opposes, like the start of EU accession talks with Ukraine or a possible reelection bid by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for an EU summit in Brussels on December 14.
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for an EU summit in Brussels on December 14.

Stability And The 'Serbian World'

By Gjeraqina Tuhina and Milos Teodorovic

Gjeraqina Tuhina
Gjeraqina Tuhina

Serbia, once again, will be a key player in the region -- and its moves could significantly shape events in the Balkans over the next 12 months.

For over a decade, the dialogue to normalize relations between Serbia and its former province Kosovo has stymied both countries. Then, in February in Brussels and March in Ohrid, North Macedonia, European mediators announced a path forward and its implementation. There was only one problem: There was no signature on either side. Nine months later, little has changed.

Many eyes are looking toward one aspect in particular -- a renewed obligation for Pristina to allow for an "appropriate level of self-management" for the Serb minority in Kosovo. This also entails creating possibilities for financial support from Serbia to Kosovar Serbs and guarantees for direct communication of the Serb minority with the Kosovar government.

Milos Teodorovic
Milos Teodorovic

In October, EU mediators tried again, and with German, French, and Italian backing presented both parties with a new draft for an association of Serb-majority municipalities. Both sides accepted the draft. EU envoy to the region Miroslav Lajcak suggested in December that the Ohrid agreement could be implemented by the end of January. If that happened, it would mark a decisive step for both sides in a dialogue that began in 2011.

"The Serbian world" is a phrase launched a few years ago by pro-Russian Serbian politician Aleksandar Vulin, a longtime cabinet minister who until recently headed the Serbian Intelligence Service. It is not officially part of the agenda of either Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic or the government, but it underscores the influence that Serbia seeks to wield from Kosovo and Montenegro to Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But how Vucic chooses to exert the implicit ties to Serb leaders and nationalists in those countries could do much to promote stability -- or its antithesis -- in the Balkans in 2024.

Another major challenge for Vucic revolves around EU officials' request that candidate country Serbia harmonize its foreign policy with the bloc. So far, along with Turkey, Serbia is the only EU candidate that has not introduced sanctions on Russia since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. It is unclear how far the Serbian president is willing to push back to foster ongoing good relations with Moscow.

But first, Serbia will have to confront the fallout from snap elections in December dominated by Vucic's Serbian Progressive Party but rejected by the newly united opposition as fraudulent. The results sparked nightly protests in the capital and hunger strikes by a half-dozen lawmakers and other oppositionists. A new parliament is scheduled to hold a session by the end of January 2024, and the margins are seemingly razor-thin for control of the capital, Belgrade.

Central Asia: Don't Write Russia Off Just Yet

By Chris Rickleton

Will the empire strike back? 2023 has been a galling year for Russia in Central Asia as it watched its traditional partners (and former colonies) widen their diplomatic horizons.

With Russia bogged down in a grueling war in Ukraine, Moscow has less to offer the region than ever before. Central Asia’s five countries have made the most of the breathing space, with their leaders holding landmark talks with U.S. and German leaders as French President Emmanuel Macron also waltzed into Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan with multibillion-dollar investments.

And China has reinforced its dominant position in the region, while Turkey has also increased its influence.

But don’t write Russia off just yet.

One of Moscow’s biggest wins in the neighborhood this year was an agreement to supply Uzbekistan with nearly 3 billion cubic meters of gas every year, a figure that could increase.

Power deficits in Uzbekistan and energy-rich Kazakhstan are the most obvious short-term sources of leverage for Moscow over those important countries.

The coming year will likely bring more in terms of specifics over both governments’ plans for nuclear power production, with Russia fully expected to be involved.

And Moscow’s confidence in a region that it views as its near abroad will only increase if it feels it is making headway on the battlefield in Ukraine.


Tajikistan’s hereditary succession has been expected for so long that people have stopped expecting it. Does that mean it is back on the cards for 2024? Probably not.

In 2016, Tajikistan passed a raft of constitutional changes aimed at cementing the ruling Rahmon family’s hold on power. Among them was one lowering the age to run for president from 35 to 30.

Turkmenistan’s bizarre new setup begs a question: If you’re not ready to let it go, why not hold on a little longer?

That amendment had an obvious beneficiary -- veteran incumbent Emomali Rahmon’s upwardly mobile son, Rustam Emomali. But Emomali is now 36 and, despite occupying a political post that makes him next in line, doesn’t look any closer to becoming numero uno.

Perhaps there hasn’t been a good time to do it.

From the coronavirus pandemic to a bloody crackdown on unrest in the Gorno-Badakhshan region and now the shadows cast by the Ukraine war, there have been plenty of excuses to delay the inevitable.


But perhaps Rahmon is considering events in Turkmenistan, where Central Asia’s first father-son power transition last year has ended up nothing of the sort. Rather than growing into the role, new President Serdar Berdymukhammedov is shrinking back into the shadow of his all-powerful father, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

And this seems to be exactly how the older Berdymukhammedov wanted it, subsequently fashioning himself a post-retirement post that makes his son and the rest of the government answerable to him.

But Turkmenistan’s bizarre new setup begs a question: If you’re not ready to let it go, why not hold on a little longer?

Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhammedov in front of a portrait of his father, former President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov
Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhammedov in front of a portrait of his father, former President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov


Writing on X (formerly Twitter) in November, a former IMF economist argued that Kyrgyzstan would be the "perfect test case" for secondary sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Robin Brooks described the country as "small, not remotely systemically important, and very clearly facilitating trade diversion to Russia."

Official statistics show that countries in the Eurasian Economic Union that Moscow leads have become a “backdoor” around the Western-led sanctions targeting Russia. Exports to Kyrgyzstan from several EU countries this year, for example, are up by at least 1,000 percent compared to 2019.

Data for exports to Kazakhstan shows similar patterns -- with larger volumes but gentler spikes -- while investigations by RFE/RL indicate that companies in both Central Asian countries have forwarded “dual-use” products that benefit the Kremlin’s military machine.

Belarus is the only Russian ally to get fully sanctioned for its support of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine -- but will that change in 2024?

Central Asian governments will argue they have resisted Russian pressure to provide political and military support for the war. They might even whisper that their big friend China is much more helpful to Russia.

But the West’s approach of targeting only Central Asian companies actively flouting the regime is failing.

So, while Western diplomats continue to credit the region’s governments for their anti-evasion efforts, their patience may wear out. And if it does, Kyrgyzstan might be first to find out.

Afghanistan: The Vicious Spiral Will Worsen

By Malali Bashir

With little internal threat to Afghanistan’s Taliban regime and the failure of the international community to affect change in the hard-line Islamist regime’s policies, the Taliban mullahs’ control over the country continues to tighten.

And that regime’s continued restrictions on Afghan women -- their rights, freedom, and role in society -- signals a bleak future for them in 2024 and beyond.

Many observers say the move by the Taliban in December to only allow girls to attend religious madrasahs -- after shutting down formal schooling for them following the sixth grade -- is an effort by the Taliban to radicalize Afghan society.

“Madrasahs are not an alternative to formal schooling because they don’t produce doctors, lawyers, journalists, engineers, etc. The idea of [only] having madrasahs is…about brainwashing [people] to create an extremist society,” says Shukria Barakzai, the former Afghan ambassador to Norway.

The crackdown on women’s rights by the Taliban will also continue the reported uptick in domestic violence in the country, activists say.

Since the Taliban shut down Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission and Women Affairs Ministry, women find themselves with nowhere to turn to and find it extremely difficult to seek justice in Taliban courts.

The Taliban seems adamant about maintaining its severe limits on women and reducing their role in society.

With no justice for victims of abuse on the horizon, women’s rights activists say violence against women will continue with no repercussions for the perpetrators.

Barakzai argues that Taliban officials have already normalized domestic violence and do not consider it a crime.

“According to [a Taliban] decree, you can [confront] women if they are not listening to [your requests]. Especially a male member of the family is allowed to use all means to punish women if they refuse to follow his orders. That is basically a call for domestic violence,” she said.

The vicious spiral for women will only worsen.

Being banned from education, work, and public life, Afghan women say the resulting psychological impact leads to panic, depression, and acute mental health crises.

Although there are no official figures, Afghan mental health professionals and foreign organizations have noted a disturbing surge in female suicides in the two years since the Taliban came to power.

"If we look at the women who were previously working or studying, 90 percent suffer from mental health issues now," said Mujeeb Khpalwak, a psychiatrist in Kabul. "They face tremendous economic uncertainty after losing their work and are very anxious about their future."

A Taliban fighter stands guard as women wait to receive food rations in Kabul in May.
A Taliban fighter stands guard as women wait to receive food rations in Kabul in May.

Heather Bar, associate director of the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch, says, "It's not surprising that we're hearing reports of Afghan girls committing suicide. Because all their rights, including going to school, university, and recreational places have been taken away from them."

Promising young Afghan women who once aspired to contribute to their communities after pursuing higher education now find themselves with no career prospects.

“I do not see any future. When I see boys continuing their education, I lose all hope and wish that I was not born a girl,” a former medical student in Kabul told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi.

Despite immense global pressure, the Taliban seems adamant about maintaining its severe limits on women and reducing their role in society. This will result in a tragic future for the women of Afghanistan with no relief in sight.

This content originally appeared on News - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and was authored by News - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.


[1] Vitaliy Portnikov - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤[2] Hannah Kaviani - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤[3] Valer Karbalevich - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤[4] Sergei Medvedev - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤[5] Rikard Jozwiak - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤[6] Joshua Kucera - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤[7] Pablo Gorondi - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤[8] News outlets and NGOs condemn Hungary's new 'sovereignty protection' law as a way to silence critics | AP News ➤[9] Gjeraqina Tuhina - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤[10] Milos Teodorovic - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤[11] Chris Rickleton - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤[12] Central Asian Companies Help Russia Bust Sanctions ➤[13] Malali Bashir - RFE/RL More By Author - RFE/RL ➤