News / Asia

    Afghan Women Silenced by Fear

    FILE - Women listen to a speech by Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai during a district assembly gathering in Kabul on May 30, 2013.FILE - Women listen to a speech by Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai during a district assembly gathering in Kabul on May 30, 2013.
    x
    FILE - Women listen to a speech by Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai during a district assembly gathering in Kabul on May 30, 2013.
    FILE - Women listen to a speech by Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai during a district assembly gathering in Kabul on May 30, 2013.
    Women in Afghanistan are increasingly worried about a return to the repressive policies of the past as international combat forces leave the country. Following years of outspoken activism, women are retreating into public silence to avoid being targeted by extremists.

    Even after defiantly dropping the all-covering burqa following the fall of the Taliban government a decade ago, many women in Afghanistan now are reluctant to speak their mind on camera. Many women fear a family backlash, or worse, punishment by extremists in a highly conservative society.
     
    Until recently, women activists were noticeably different.

    But as international forces start to leave Afghanistan and uncertainty hovers over the country’s political future, women’s rights activists, female politicians and women leaders are being targeted more often.
     
    Those defending women's rights are receiving death threats, said Susanne Baberg, Afghanistan project manager for Medica Mondiale, a women's rights advocacy group that works closely with Afghan activists. And they are coming under increasing pressure from their families to stop working.
     
    "Given the current circumstances, it is not very advisable or popular to give public interviews, to go into debates on television, on radio, or in other media," Baberg said. "They are really trying to keep a very low profile, particularly if you take into account the threats and the assassinations of popular, active women in society in the last two, three months."
     
    A high-ranking Afghan police woman died Monday after being shot by insurgents in southern Helmand province. Her predecessor was killed by unknown gunmen in July. The latest killing comes after a number of attacks on Afghan women lawmakers.
     
    Baberg said the fallout from attacks on high-profile women is far-reaching.
     
    "Besides keeping a low profile in the media, avoiding high level advocacy meetings, and varying routes on their way to work, our Afghan colleagues have ceased to visit their clients in their homes," she said. "They meet the women in different places in the community. Then community-level meetings with mullahs and village elders, which are part of several projects involving mediation and increasing the number of police women, are reduced to an absolute minimum."

    U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned this week that human rights achievements in Afghanistan during the past 12 years were fragile. She expressed concern that the withdrawal of international combat forces could trigger a serious deterioration in human rights, especially regarding women.
     
    “So then this is the moment for human rights to be strengthened, not weakened or sacrificed," Pillay said. "The Afghan government has made many statements proclaiming their commitment to strengthening human rights, which is reassuring, but action is needed now, more than ever."
     
    Analysts say there are concerns that Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other political leaders may be willing to surrender ground on women's rights issues in order to gain support from more conservative and extremist elements on a negotiated settlement.
     
    Pillay said in her discussions with Karzai, she emphasized that justice and human rights should not be sacrificed to political expediency.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora