A new report issued by a leading human rights organizations warns that continuing instability and control of Afghanistan by warlords could threaten political participation, particularly by women. Human Rights Watch (HRW) emphasizes that this is especially troubling because the Afghan government is currently soliciting public comments on a draft of the country’s new constitution, as well as preparing for the 2004 elections and voter registration. Even more worrisome is that the United States is supporting the very warlords and politicians in Afghanistan who are using violence and intimidation to keep women indoors, endangering the gains made on women’s rights since the Taliban fell, according to HRW.
“The fact is that most girls in Afghanistan are still not in school,” said Brad Adams, executive director of HRW’s Asia Division. “In many cases, returning refugee families who sent their girls to school in Pakistan or Iran are afraid to do the same in Afghanistan.” The group documents human rights abuses in Southeast Afghanistan, where members of the army and police force are raping women and girls, robbing Afghan families, extorting money from shopkeepers, and kidnapping Afghans for ransom. Journalists and political organizers report being harassed, arrested, and threatened with death.
HRW calls on the US and its allies in Afghanistan to end their support of the warlords involved in human rights abuses. In addition, it urges NATO to expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, currently limited to the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul. A recent survey found that the majority of Americans (67 percent) support expanding ISAF in Afghanistan.
The Feminist Majority continues leading the call for International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) expansion, increased reconstruction funding, and for more resources to support the work of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission in order to protect women’s rights in Afghanistan.