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Closing Secondary Schools to Girls Causing Lasting Harm

“I want to go to school and become an independent woman who chooses and decides for her life,” 16-year-old Nasiba told me. “If I am educated, men wouldn’t dare to interfere but if I am not, they will decide my whole life for me.” She lives in Kabul…
Women demonstrate for their rights during a gathering for National Teachers Day in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 5, 2021.
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For Survivors of Abuse, Shelters Offered Lifeline

“My parents warned me they will kill me if I ever leave this shelter,” Najla, a woman of about 30, told me. “The worst thing is that I don’t have anyone to support me.” She has been in a shelter in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat for several years…
Afghan women sew in their bedroom at a women's shelter in Kabul, March 20, 2017. A non-descript building tucked away in a residential neighborhood is one of the few hidden sanctuaries where battered women can seek support. 
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‘They Cannot Eliminate Us from Society’

“We decided to protest to demand our basic rights: the right to education, to work, and political participation. We want the Taliban to know that they cannot eliminate us from society.” Those were the words of Arezo, a young woman from Kabul who…
Women gather to demand their rights under Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 3, 2021.
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Twenty Rights Groups Call for Justice and Accountability

Human Rights Watch today joined Afghan and international human rights organizations calling for a United Nations-mandated fact-finding mission to investigate escalating attacks on civilians in Afghanistan to promote justice and accountability.…
The mother of a schoolgirl who was among those killed in the brutal May 8, 2021 bombing of the Sayed ul-Shuhada girls' school stands inside a classroom with bouquets of flowers on empty desks as a tribute to the dead, in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 16, 2021. 
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Donors Should Sustain Vital Services While Decrying Violations

Donor countries to Afghanistan say they want to keep protecting the human rights of women and girls, even as international troops prepare to depart the country. But a bill introduced in the United States Senate last week raises tricky issues about how…
Women walking Nadir Khan Overlooking Kabul womens rights us withdrawl
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Attackers Target Girls Leaving Kabul High School

Scenes from Sayed ul-Shuhada High School in Kabul, Afghanistan, where as many as 85 people including many schoolgirls were killed in an attack this weekend, should break anyone’s heart. They certainly broke mine. In 2017 a filmmaker and I spent a week…
Books, notebooks, and other school supplies are left behind after May 8's deadly bombings near a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 9, 2021.
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International Women’s Day Should Prompt Real Reforms

As 2020 drew to a close, protesters across South Asia took to the streets, calling on their governments to take widespread sexual violence against women and children seriously, and to implement real reforms. But rather than listening to experts and…
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Government Proposal for Mosque-Based Primary Schools Raises Concerns

An Afghan government proposal that children study in mosques for the first three years of primary school raises concerns about its commitment to the right to education. “We are working to transfer the first, second, and third grades of the school…
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Rights Commission Finds Abusive Practice Continues

Imagine being arrested and taken by police to a doctor who examines your vagina and anus –without your consent. Now imagine you are sent for several of these exams, sometimes with other people watching. Now imagine that these “tests” are scientifically…
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Right to Be Named on Identification Cards A Boost for Equality During Peace Talks

Afghanistan’s president has signed a new law that will, for the first time, include mothers’ names on their children’s birth certificates and identification cards. The law is a major victory for Afghan women’s rights activists, who for several years…
Delegates attend the last day of the Afghan Loya Jirga meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, May 3, 2019.
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Pandemic Creates New Barriers for Women and Girls Already Facing Deep Inequality

On May 28, 2020, Human Rights Watch launched a survey to learn more about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on students, parents and caregivers. As of June 6, people in 54 countries had completed the survey; it’s still open here—please fill it…
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Court Allows Prosecutor to Investigate Alleged War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity

Afghans who are skeptical about whether the US-Taliban agreement and planned intra-Afghan peace talks can deliver a better future, now have reason to believe that justice might not be squandered in the process. Today, judges on the International Criminal…
Afghan family leaves site of attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 22, 2016. © 2016 Reuters
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Potential Deal Should Encourage Donor Engagement on Human Rights in Intra-Afghan Talks

After 10 months of negotiations, the United States and the Taliban have reached an agreement to end their conflict in Afghanistan. That was the easy part. The discussions that come next, a proposed intra-Afghan dialogue…
Delegates attend the fourth day of the Afghan Loya Jirga meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 2, 2019.
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UN Committee Finds New Evidence of Violence in Institutions

A recent review of Serbia finds that the government is failing to protect women with disabilities in institutions from violence. In its report, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) also…
A room in the Veternik Institution for children and adults with disabilities where 540 persons, including children with disabilities live. Up to eight people live in one room. © 2015 Emina Ćerimović for Human Rights Watch
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Afghan Justice System Fails Victims of Violence

I still feel sick when I think of Farkhunda Malikzada’s murder four years ago, on March 19, 2015, in central Kabul in broad daylight. I could not bear to watch the viral video of more than a dozen men beating and stoning the 27-year-old…
Members of civil society organizations chant slogans during a protest to condemn the killing of 27-year-old woman, Farkhunda, who was beaten with sticks and set on fire by a crowd of men in central Kabul in broad daylight on Thursday, in Kabul March 24, 2
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Accelerated Talks Mean the Stakes for Women Have Never Been Higher

A peace deal in Afghanistan – for years seeming hopelessly elusive – may now be on the horizon. After 17 years of fighting in Afghanistan, the United States is bringing new urgency to negotiating with the Taliban and is proclaiming…
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Downplays Role for Women in Talks with Taliban

After former Afghan President Hamid Karzai finished his remarks at the 2019 Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, a voice from the back of the room asked the very question on my mind: “How will you ensure the role of females in this process is…
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Policy Bans Government Doctors from Conducting Abusive Tests

A new policy in Afghanistan promises to bar government health workers from engaging in the abusive practice of forcing women and girls to undergo invasive and medically meaningless vaginal and anal exams to determine whether they are “…
A demonstrator attends a rally outside the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, Belgium, October 5, 2016.
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Groundbreaking 2009 Law Hasn’t Brought Justice for Victims

It seemed like a breakthrough. In 2009, when then-President Hamid Karzai signed Afghanistan’s Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW Law), women’s rights activists celebrated a hard-won victory. They looked to a future…
Members of civil society organizations chant slogans during a protest to condemn the killing of 27-year-old woman, Farkhunda, who was beaten with sticks and set on fire by a crowd of men in central Kabul in broad daylight on Thursday, in Kabul March 24, 2
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Afghan Government Moves to Seize Control of Women’s Shelters – Again

More than 8 out of 10 Afghan women and girls will suffer domestic and other violence in their lifetime. Before 2001, they had nowhere to run. These days there are some safe havens: the country’s tiny, but desperately important, network…
Members of civil society organizations chant slogans during a protest to condemn the killing of 27-year-old woman, Farkhunda, who was beaten with sticks and set on fire by a crowd of men in central Kabul in broad daylight on Thursday, in Kabul March 24, 2