CNN  — 

A female journalist receives a call warning that they “will come soon.” A woman lawmaker sits and waits for her killers. A little girl wonders how much longer her school gates will remain open.

For Afghanistan’s women and girls, this is the terrifying uncertainty they now find themselves in.

As Taliban leaders tell international media they “don’t want women to be victimized,” a more sinister reality is unfolding on the ground.

Girls are being forced into marriage, female bank workers marched from their jobs, and activists’ homes raided in a clear message that the freedoms of the last 20 years are coming to an end.

“Do we take them for their word and say: ‘Oh it’s going to be fine, this is Taliban 2.0, they’ve evolved.’ Or do we take them for their actions?” said Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, founder and CEO of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and director of the Centre for Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics.

Anderlini, who spearheads ICAN’s Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL), said a huge concern was what will happen to the Taliban’s apparently moderate tone once most of the international community has left Afghanistan.

“Once the diplomats leave, the journalists leave, the international NGOs leave, they are going to basically lock the doors… God knows what we’ll see then,” she said.

Here’s a look at what life could look like for women and girls under the Taliban.

Will girls go to school?

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Monday that under their rule, girls would be allowed to study. “Schools will be open and the girls and the women, they will be going to schools, as teachers, as students,” he said.

But stories from locals on the ground paint a different picture. And there’s a deep mistrust of the militants who caused such misery during their time in power – from 1996 to 2001 – when girls and young women were forbidden to attend school.

Girls still attending regular classes “are worried about the closing of the school gates,” Homeira Qadeiri, a women’s rights activist and writer in Kabul, told CNN by phone.

Education has become much more widespread in the past two decades and some experts have cast doubt over whether the Taliban would impose a national ban on girls’ education, as they did in the 1990s.

A big question mark hangs over restrictions to girls’ education after puberty, said Torunn Wimpelmann, political ethnographer focusing on gender politics and legal reform in Afghanistan, at the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway.

She said there might be a scenario where the Taliban announce: “‘We’re going to shut down all the universities until we can get female lecturers.’” The result would be “a kind of de facto exclusion of women from higher education,” Wimpelmann explained.

“The repercussions of closing down female education at higher levels, or segregating it, is still very serious,” she added.

Another way the Taliban might restrict girls’ access to education is by fining families for letting their daughters out, said Anderlini. “It’s another way that they might sort of impose their version [of schooling] without necessarily being violent,” she added.

Will women be allowed to work?

The last time the Taliban ruled, women were banned from working. After the Islamist militants were driven from power in 2001, women were free to go to university and work. As of early 2021, 27% of the seats in the nation’s Parliament were held by women.