Afghanistan: women still under attack

Violence against women and girls in Afghanistan is pervasive, says Amnesty International today, releasing its latest report “Afghanistan: Women Under Attack.”

“Throughout the country, few women are exempt from violence or safe from the threat of it,” the report finds. Afghan women remain at daily risk of abduction and rape by armed men, forced marriage and being traded in settlement of disputes and debts. They face discrimination from all segments of society as well as by state officials. Violence against women is widely accepted by the community and inadequately addressed at the highest levels of the government and the judiciary. Investigations by the authorities into complaints of violent attacks, rape, murders or suicide of women are neither routine nor systematic, and few result in prosecutions.

“Societal codes, invoked in the name of tradition and religion, are used as justification for denying women the ability to enjoy their fundamental rights. Perceived transgressions of such codes have led to the imprisonment and even killing of some women. Some authorities treat women who run away to escape these situations as criminals and imprison them.” said Amnesty International.

The report blames both unofficial “parallel justice systems” and “institutions of the state itself such as the police and the justice system.” There are reported increases in forced marriages and some women have killed themselves to escape, including by self-immolation.

Amnesty International provides a quote from a September 2004 interview with the governor of Kandahar to sum up the position of Afghan authorities on the question: “At the moment, there are more pressing issues….a civil servant has too much on his mind to deal with women’s rights. It is a matter of priorities.” (AI, May 30)

Meanwhile, suspected Taliban militants May 29 shot dead a leading Islamic cleric. Maulvi Abdullah Fayyaz, chief of Kandahar’s Islamic Council, was killed in front of his office by unidentified gunme. The Taliban guerillas claimed responsibility by telephone. One of the cleric’s aides, Haji Qari, said Fayaz died while being taken to a hospital.

Fayaz was a supporter of President Hamid Karzai. A week ago he led a meeting in Kandahar of about 500 clerics from across Afghanistan that condemned the Taliban and called on people to support the government. He said Taliban insurgents were killing innocent civilians, while the government was trying to rebuild the country and bring peace.

Also the 29th, an Afghan television station aired a brief video showing an Italian aid worker kidnapped in Kabul 13 days ago. The video showed Clementina Cantoni, 32, in a sitting position wrapped in a blanket. Two armed men with their faces covered pointed guns at her head.

On the 27th, gunmen fired at a vehicle in Kunar province, killing 11 civilians. (CBC News, The Hindu, May 30)

A May 4 al-Jazeera story on the explosion of a warlord’s arms dump at a village in Baghlan province that left 29 dead noted: “Afghanistan remains awash with weapons and powerful faction leaders still rule much of the country, with the central government’s power barely extending beyond capital Kabul.”

Freedom’s on the march, dude.

See our last post on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.