(New York) -- Afghan women are likely to face further suffering at the hands of warring factions in Afghanistan and to endure some of the most serious humanitarian consequences of the U.S.-led military action, Human Rights Watch said today.
In a new report released today, Human Rights Watch documents the catastrophic assault on women's human rights during a decade of conflict in Afghanistan, and under the repressive rule of the Taliban. The 27-page report, "Humanity Denied: Systematic Violations of Women's Rights in Afghanistan," urges the international community to protect women's rights during the conflict and include full respect and protection for women's human rights as an integral part of any post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan.
"Women have borne the lion's share of human rights abuses in Afghanistan throughout the conflict, and they are in particular danger now," said LaShawn R. Jefferson, executive director of the women's rights division of Human Rights Watch. "Any future political arrangements in Afghanistan have to take special account of what women have suffered - and how that can be remedied."
The Taliban's restrictions on women's movement, dress, and association may be preventing women from fleeing for safety or getting access to humanitarian aid, Human Rights Watch said. Women are forced to wear a chadari, a head-to-toe enveloping garment that literally makes it difficult for them to move quickly. Since women are not allowed to travel outside the home without a close male relative, widows and women who head households face a particularly serious humanitarian crisis.
Both Taliban forces and forces now grouped in the United Front have sexually assaulted, abducted, and forcibly married women during the armed conflict, targeting them on the basis of both gender and ethnicity. Thousands of women have been physically assaulted and have had severe restrictions placed on their liberty and fundamental freedoms.
"The Taliban have sought to erase women from public life through widespread discrimination. They punish women with public beatings," said Jefferson. "Any political solution in Afghanistan must not bargain away accountability for this systematic violence and discrimination."
Human Rights Watch called on all parties to the conflict to commit to respect international human rights and humanitarian law and to investigate and hold accountable personnel responsible for violations. The international monitoring organization urged the Taliban and the United Front to cease violations of humanitarian law, in particular gender-specific violations against women, and urged the donor community to ensure the inclusion of women both as recipients of aid and as equal partners in decision making regarding development and aid projects in Afghanistan.
The following are testimonials from the report "Humanity Denied: Systematic Violations of Women's Rights in Afghanistan:"
Zafia Akil, a widow who worked as a seamstress in Kabul:
The Taliban asked my customers, "Why are you going to her house. Are you going to gather and make plans against us?" I had a board outside which read, "Tailoring for women and children." Three times they came and warned me, and I told them, "I am a widow, what should I do?" The third time they took my board down and said that if I do not stop this work they will kill me. They accused me of making plans against the Taliban. They said, "Everyone should sew their own clothes; our wives sew their own clothes. God will assist you, if you do everything as God wishes." It was the Religious Police, and I was forced to close four months ago and leave for Pakistan.
Shokeria Ahmed, a medical doctor in Kabul:
My husband hailed a taxi to take my child and me to the hospital. Five minutes later, a Religious Police car stopped the taxi. He made me get out of the taxi. I was lucky my husband told the taxi driver I was a doctor. The taxi driver told the Taliban that he was taking me to the hospital. There were three Taliban. One of them beat the driver with a yellow cable that was pretty wide. I was scared. He asked me why the holes in my chadari were so big? Why are you alone in the taxi? I asked, "Are you going to beat me?" I put my child away in the car and told them, "Beat me, but do not hurt the child." He beat me. I hid my face. He hit me several times - on the back and arms. I had bruises.