Afghanistan: Don’t turn your back on women human rights defenders
Following the 2001 US-led intervention to oust the Taliban regime, the Afghan government pledged to advance women’s rights. Today, despite the fall of the Taliban, women human rights defenders frequently come under attack and even face death for the work that they do. The number of women civilian casualties is increasing while overall civilian casualties are on the decline. This targeting of women--in particular those working in the public sphere and those defending women's human rights--must stop.
Many Afghan women human rights defenders have been killed or threatened because of their gender and because of their activities, and some have fled the country. They face intimidation and attacks by powerful and conservative elements in society, including members of the government and authorities, and the Taliban and other armed opposition groups who perceive their work as defying cultural, religious and social norms about the role of women in society. Others are threatened or attacked by family members who may be embarrassed by their outspokenness or their work.
Afghan authorities have failed to protect women human rights defenders or bring perpetrators to justice. This institutionalized indifference to the plight of women human rights defenders has resulted in threats and attacks, sometimes leading to their death.
The murder of the two most senior women police officers in Helmand, Islam Bibi and her colleague Negar Bibi, in July and September 2013, respectively clearly demonstrate an enduring challenge to justice for attacks on women human rights defenders-- as far as Amnesty International is aware, to date, no one has been brought to justice for any of these attacks to date.
Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. There is a legitimate fear among women’s groups that as international engagement wanes and donors turn their attention to other conflict regions, the Afghan government will de-prioritize or even roll back human rights. Afghan women human rights defenders play a crucial role in promoting and protecting human rights and deserve protection.
Act now and call on the Afghan government to take concrete action to protect women human rights defenders so that they can continue their important work free from intimidation, harassment or threats to their lives.
Please send an email or letter to the president without delay.
- Start with Your Excellency and a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
- Congraulate the government on enacting policies like the Elimination of Violence Against Women act, which on paper help to protect women and girls from violence and discrimination.
- Express concern that these laws and policies are not being implemented.
- Call on his government to take concrete steps to ensure that all allegations of threats or attacks against women human rights defenders reported to government authorities are appropriately responded to, fully and impartially investigated, and the perpetrators are held to account.
- Encourage his government to build the capability of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and its provincial counterparts, to respond effectively to women human rights defenders at risk throughout the country.
- And urge his government to ensure that there is no discrimination in the level of special protection provided to women elected representatives, government officials, and other women human rights defenders compared with their male counterparts and where women experience particular risks because of their gender, ensure effective protection measures that take this into account.
Address your message to:
His Excellency Sham L. Bathija
240 Argyle Avenue
Ottawa, ON K2P 1B9
- Read Amnesty International’s report, “Their Lives On The Line: Women Human Rights Defenders Under Attack in Afghanistan"
- Read our blog "Lives on the line: Stories of women human rights defenders in Afghanistan"