Afghan Human Rights Official Calls for More Peace Troops

Speaking before a conference of human rights defenders at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Dr Sima Samar, Chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, called for an expansion in the size, range, and mandate of international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan in order to secure women’s rights and human rights.

“Even in Kabul, it is not safe and human rights violations are constant,” said Dr. Samar. Samar’s Human Rights Commission has documented over 2,000 human rights violations in the past 15 months, including illegal detentions, forced evictions, rapes, kidnapping, trafficking, and attacks on girls’ schools. “There is still no respect in Afghanistan for human rights or for human rights activists. Talking about human rights in our country was a crime in the past and continues to be a crime today,” said Samar.

For two years, the Afghan government, the United Nations, and human rights and women’s rights organizations have requested expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, which has been limited to some 5,500 troops in Kabul. With the re-emergence of the Taliban and recent bombings, factional fighting, and the murder of aid workers, the US and the international community have indicated possible shifts in their positions toward ISAF expansion. In recent months, NATO, which commands ISAF, and the United Nations Security Council authorized the deployment of peace troops beyond Kabul.

Even with these new commitments to ISAF expansion, concerns remain over whether the size of the expansion will be large enough and whether the troop size in Kabul will be reduced, a move that many experts say would destabilize the already fragile Afghan central government. The mandate of peace troops also must be expanded to include disarmament and intervention to prevent human rights abuses and threats to peace, urged Samar.

Samar also said that increased resources for reconstruction, particularly for education and health care, are necessary to create an environment for women’s rights and human rights, and that the draft constitution for Afghanistan falls far short of providing guarantees of full equal rights for women and minorities.

LEARN MORE Find out how the Bush Administration is graded on Afghanistan in the latest Global Women’s Issues Scorecard

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Ms. magazine 11/12/03

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