UNIFEM Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer this week identified lack of security as the major threat to women in Afghanistan. Factional fighting and only a limited International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) could prevent economic development, the successful establishment of democracy, and the return of women’s rights. Heyzer urged the international community to increase efforts to restore security within the country, emphasizing that stability was absolutely essential to restoring women’s rights. Women, according to Heyzer, will be key in the restoration of civil society in Afghanistan. “They are the ones that will rebuild this community out of the framework of warring tribes and out of the framework of competing ethnic groups.”
Women, however, are still fearful as conflicts continue within the country, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that factional fighting in Afghanistan has begun to increase. “If the international community doesn’t take more effective steps immediately to establish security throughout Afghanistan, the country is likely to return to the rampant human rights abuses and warlordism that characterized the last decade,” cautioned HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth. HRW is calling on the U.S. to step up international security by expanding security forces outside Kabul, civilian monitoring of human rights abuses, and efforts to disarm militias.
The Feminist Majority, along with several women’s rights groups, has been urging the Bush Administration to support an increase in peacekeeping troops in the ISAF. Currently, the ISAF is a force of about 4,800 troops concentrated in Kabul. Troops should be deployed throughout Afghanistan to help ensure women’s security as factional fighting rages and as women continue to fear the re-imposition of Taliban-like restrictions by regional warlords.