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Amnesty: Afghanistan Turning Its Back on Women’s Rights

  • Ayaz Gul

The international human rights group Amnesty International says the Afghan government is doing nothing to stop a trend of escalating violence, sexual assaults and assassinations targeting women human rights activists in the country.

“While Taliban are responsible for the majority of attacks against women defenders, government officials or powerful local commanders with the authorities’ backing are increasingly implicated in violence and threats against women,” Amnesty International said in a report titled "Their Lives On The Line", launched in Kabul Tuesday.

Those facing threats and violence range from rights activists, politicians, lawyers, journalists, teachers. Even women in the police force are under threat, where sexual harassment and bullying is rife and almost always goes unpunished, the report says.

Not far enough

It says that international governments have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into projects supporting women’s rights since 2001 but the approach has not gone far enough.

Amnesty International says its researchers interviewed more than 50 women defenders and their family members across the country and found a consistent pattern of authorities ignoring or refusing to take seriously threats against women.

It went on to assert that few investigations were carried out, while prosecutions and convictions were even rarer. In many cases, women defenders who reported violence or attacks were put at further risk, facing stigmatization or threats simply for speaking out.

“Rights defenders have suffered car bombings, grenade attacks on homes, killing of family members and targeted assassinations. Many continue their work despite suffering multiple attacks, in the full knowledge that no action will be taken against the perpetrators,” the report read.

"It’s outrageous that Afghan authorities are leaving them to fend for themselves, with their situation more dangerous than ever," the report quotes Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General, as saying.

“With the [international] troop withdrawal nearly complete, too many in the international community seem happy to sweep Afghanistan under the carpet. We cannot simply abandon this country and those who put their lives on the line for human rights, including women’s rights.”

No concrete measures

The group’s Afghanistan Researcher, Horia Mosadiq, told VOA they have held meetings with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to inform them of the dangerous situation facing women rights defenders but have yet to see any concrete measures to protect those who have bravely fought for the significant gains Afghanistan has made in recent years.

She said a legal framework to protect women in Afghanistan is in place but a lack of implementation and enforcement has turned these laws into mere paper promises.

Mosadiq fears female activists are likely to face increased violence in the wake of international military withdrawal, increasing Taliban attacks and emergence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.

“These are all unfortunately not good signals for the future of Afghanistan and more particularly for the protection of women human rights defenders. We are quite concerned that if concrete steps are not taken the situation may get worse in the coming months and years," she said.

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