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Women’s rights defenders under attack: Watchdog

By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: Amnesty International on Tuesday in its report said that women’s rights defenders are under constant threat and attack in Afghanistan.

Amnesty International covered 50 women’s rights defenders, both men and women. The watchdog said the rights activists are facing different challenges such as threat, sexual assault, and assassination. Despite efforts of the activists the Afghan government and international community is turning their back on them.

Women’s rights defenders, who face threats, sexual assaults and assassinations, are being abandoned by the Afghan government and international community to abuses by nearly all sides including the Taliban, powerful warlords and even government officials.

The activists have suffered from 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.

Hurya Musadiq, a researcher, said the report reveals that only one case out of 50 different cases has taken place since 2009-2014 was prosecuted by the relevant organs.

Speaking at a press conference here she said that mostly attacks were carried out by the Taliban, but besides the Taliban, they were threaten and attacked by local officials and powerful figures as well.

She said the government has turned a blind eye over the issue of threats to the women’s rights activists.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said that women human rights defenders from all walks of life have fought bravely for some significant gains over the past 14 years – many have even paid with their lives. “It’s outrageous that Afghan authorities are leaving them to fend for themselves, with their situation more dangerous than ever.”

He said that with the troops’ 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. There has been significant international investment to support Afghan women, including efforts to strengthen women’s rights. But too much of it has been piecemeal and ad hoc, and much of the aid money is drying up,” Shetty said.

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, he added.

Quoting a women’s rights defender, the report said, “The threats now come from all sides: it’s difficult to identify the enemies. They could be family, security agencies, Taliban or politicians.”

The report said the defenders are doctors, teachers, parliamentarians, policewomen, journalists and other activists, who have no safety.

No woman in public life is safe – 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 underlined.

The landmark Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) Law, passed in 2009, remains unevenly enforced and has only led to a limited number of convictions. Amnesty International’s investigation found that a lack of political will on the part of Afghan authorities means that government bodies and officials charged with protecting women are under-resourced and lack the support to carry out their work.

Samira Hamidi, a women’s rights activist, said that women are facing different types of threats in Kabul as well as in provinces, but in the capital city they can given vent to their concerns and seek justice, where women in other provinces are voiceless.

Amnesty International made a number of suggestions in the report including protection, especially for those activists in rural areas, prosecutions, using appropriate legislation and end to the culture of harassment in public institutions.

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