The international community must live up to its long-term commitment to women’s rights in Afghanistan, Amnesty International said, ahead of a new campaign highlighting the achievements of 16 remarkable Afghan women.
To mark this year’s 16 Days of Gender-Based Violence Activism, an annual international campaign celebrating women from all parts of the world who are fighting gender discrimination and defending women’s rights, the human rights organization shares the stories of 16 pioneering Afghan women who overcame enormous barriers to participating in public life over the past two decades. In their own words, women from various public spheres, including law, politics, academia and the media, recount their professional backgrounds, their feelings about the return of the Taliban, their hopes and fears for the future, and their recommendations to the international community on how to continue to support women’s rights.
“These stories provide a powerful and timely reminder of how far Afghan women have come over the past two decades, in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They also provide a moving insight into the transformation in the lives of women and girls since the return of the Taliban, ”said Samira Hamidi, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International.
It is astonishing that at a time when the country faces an economic and humanitarian crisis, these women and thousands of others like them are excluded from public life.
Samira Hamidi, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International
“It is astonishing that at a time when the country faces an economic and humanitarian crisis, these women and thousands of others like them are excluded from public life. We urge the Taliban to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of women and girls. We call on the international community to engage directly with Afghan women to understand their reality, listen to their pragmatic recommendations and work with them to support women’s rights.
Since taking control of Kabul on August 15, 2021, the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions on women and girls. Aside from health workers and a few other isolated exemptions, women were told they could not return to work or travel in public without being accompanied by a Mahram (male guardian). Since September 20, girls over 12 (grade 6 and up) have not been allowed to attend school, while rigid gender segregation in universities has dramatically reduced the number of women in Higher Education.
Businesswoman Sediqa Mushtaq told Amnesty International: “When I heard that the Taliban had entered Kabul, I felt like I was falling and shattering to pieces. I fell from a bright place into darkness with no visible light.
Preventing women from working has exacerbated the economic woes of many families, who previously enjoyed stable work incomes, while the withdrawal of women from government jobs left a huge hole in the state’s ability to govern effectively. Women now also face increased threats of gender-based violence and severe restrictions on their rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, including even on their choice of clothing.
Fawzia Amini, former senior judge at the Afghan Supreme Court, said: “The Taliban have institutionalized discrimination against women; they deny our basic rights… they want to erase women from society and make us all prisoners in our own homes.
Although much remains to be done, women’s rights have improved considerably since the fall of the first Taliban regime in 2001. There are 3.3 million girls in school and women have actively participated in political life, economic and social situation of the country. Despite the ongoing conflict, Afghan women had become lawyers, doctors, judges, teachers, engineers, athletes, activists, politicians, journalists, bureaucrats, business owners, police and the military.
The Taliban institutionalized discrimination against women; they deny our fundamental rights
Fawzia Amini, former senior judge of the Afghan Supreme Court
Former police officer Zala Zazai said: “The international community must put pressure on the Taliban to guarantee women’s rights and they must do everything to ensure that women are part of the new government. The Taliban cannot wipe out half of the Afghan population.
The briefing, “They are the revolution”: Afghan women fight for their future under the Taliban regime, is available here.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign, which begins on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and continues through Human Rights Day. man on December 10. It provides a platform for individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.