Afghanistan

Reprising a legendary 1985 National Geographic cover, this week's Time magazine cover girl is another beautiful young Afghan woman. But this time there is a gaping hole where her nose used to be before it was cut off under Taliban direction. A stark caption reads: "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan". A careful editorial insists that the image is not shown "either in support of the US war effort or in opposition to it". The stated intention is to counterbalance damaging the WikiLeaks revelations – 91,000 documents that, Time believes, cannot provide "emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land".

Here in Afghanistan, Samia's story is typical – its happy ending is not. Samia is a rape victim, but now it's the morning of her wedding. By late afternoon, she will be married in a private ceremony in Karte Se, Kabul. One of the 150 guests at this extraordinary marriage ceremony will be the activist and suspended MP Malalai Joya: Samia's handsome husband-to-be, Faramarz, has been one of Ms Joya's bodyguards for more than four years.

"If the conflict is to be wound down, real compromises will have to be made on the constitution, women's rights and civil liberties." These are the words of an editorial comment in Afghan Scene, a magazine written by and mainly for the international community in Afghanistan. After years of fierce fighting and numerous counterinsurgency initiatives, the Afghan government and some of its international allies seem to have reached to the peak of desperation. They are now even exploring whether Afghan women's rights can be sacrificed in order to declare "mission accomplished".

Work outside the home in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province has become almost impossible for women due to constant threats and intimidation by insurgents. Convinced she will be killed if she continues to defy the threats, 39-year-old Ranna Tareen, director of Kandahar’s women’s affairs department and a well-known women’s rights activist, has decided to leave Kandahar and run for parliament in Kabul.

The Afghan authorities have cancelled the operating licences of 152 national and 20 international NGOs, accusing them of not being accountable. “All NGOs have to report [their activities] to the Ministry of Economy [MoE] every six months but these NGOs have not reported for almost two years and therefore they [their operating licences] have been annulled,” Seddiq Amarkhil, MoE’s spokesman, told IRIN, adding that the NGOs had the right of appeal. 

One of the most contentious issues within Islam today is the role of women in society. Conservatives endorse a narrow reading of Islamic texts to justify restrictions on women's mobility, legal rights and access to the public sphere, including health care, education and the workplace. Extremists among them use violence to impose their views. Moderate Muslims, on the other hand, find plenty within the Qur'an to support a full role and equal rights for women.

The shooting of a female Afghan politician on Monday demonstrates the fragility of the modest gains made by Afghan women after the fall of the Taleban, Amnesty International said on Thursday. Nida Khyani, a female Provincial Council member, was left in critical condition after being attacked in a drive-by shooting in Pul-e-Khumri, the provincial capital of Baghlan in northern Afghanistan. "Nida Khyani is yet another casualty of the systematic violent targeting of women in public life in Afghanistan," said Sam Zarifi, Director of Amnesty International's Asia Pacific programme.

Alors que le monde célèbre la Journée internationale de la femme, l’ambivalence, l’impunité, le manque d’application des lois et la corruption continuent à porter atteinte aux droits des femmes en Afghanistan, malgré une loi votée en juillet 2009 interdisant la violence envers les femmes, d’après des activistes des droits humains.

Afghanistan’s hard-won post-Taliban human rights achievements are being eroded due to the persistent immunity from prosecution of powerful figures, the intensifying conflict, and the adoption of laws which undermine justice and human rights, a UN official warns. Norah Niland, the outgoing representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Afghanistan, called on the Afghan government to repeal a controversial law which gives blanket immunity to perpetrators of mass atrocities committed over the past three decades.

As the world marks International Women’s Day, ambivalence, impunity, weak law enforcement and corruption continue to undermine women’s rights in Afghanistan, despite a July 2009 law banning violence against women, rights activists say. A recent case of the public beating of a woman for alleged elopement - also shown on private TV stations in Kabul - highlights the issue. In January domestic violence forced two young women to flee their homes in Oshaan village, Dolaina District, Ghor Province, southwestern Afghanistan.

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