South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, calls on the Taliban to respect and protect the rights of Afghan women and girls and not to let history repeat itself.
We are deeply concerned about what Taliban rule will mean in practice, especially for women and girls considering the unfolding situation in Afghanistan. The Taliban has given assurances that women would enjoy equal rights within the framework of Islam, including being able to work and receive education. They also gave the impression that they have become more moderate and that they are ready to be more inclusive and protect minority rights. Even though it appears to be an encouraging sign, life under the Taliban remains difficult to predict as they remain vague on rules and restrictions, and how Islamic law will be implemented. Taliban vowed to follow Islamic law without specifics and yet to know their interpretation of access to education and roles women will be able to play in the workforce, rights denied to women when they were last in power.
We are also concerned about the ongoing targeted attacks on women and girls including academics, human rights defenders, journalists and many other religious minorities. For the women and religious minorities of Afghanistan, it has been a month of fear and uncertainty. Religious minorities are also at risk of violence given the Taliban’s history and reports of killings and targeted attacks in the past few months.
For 20 years, Afghan women have gone to school, pursued careers, and contributed immensely to the development in Afghanistan while they fought to achieve a social standing equal to men. However, despite the promises made by the Taliban, local reports are emerging from different parts of the country of abuse and women being ordered to cover themselves or wear burqas and barred from leaving home without a male companion. Working women have been asked to stay at home until proper systems are in place and they are refrained from being involved in any governance structure. Further, many women who tried to flee in fear and failed are now forced to return to their villages and lead a life under the Taliban. SAHR believes that women represent more than half of the population and it will be impossible for Afghanistan to see a better future without their involvement or their active participation.
Women from the Muslim Women’s Collective, while welcoming the removal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, calls for national and international vigilance against a return of Taliban brutality toward women.
SAHR urges the Taliban to protect the rights of women, including their right to work, right to education, access to public space and a role in governing the country. All initiatives should be gender inclusive in full respect for international law.
We therefore, call on the Taliban leadership to:
- Assure Afghan citizens, especially women and girls, security and safety and guarantee equality for all citizens.
- Promote and protect the rights of Afghan women and children and address the needs of victims of sexual and gender-based violence in the conflict.
- Women must be fully included at all levels of decision making and their voices must be heard.
- Protect the rights of minorities and the vulnerable in Afghan society.
- Abide by international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and facilitate humanitarian access.
- Ensure safe passage to all Afghans who wish to leave.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights,
Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy
Dr. Roshmi Goswami