Just the other week, on Sunday, December 2nd, a tenth grader from Mahmoud Raqi Girls High School in Kapisa Province of Afghanistan was shot seven times by a group of men while she was walking home from school.
Anisa was a volunteer for a polio vaccination campaign ran by the Ministry of Public Health. Anisa was killed for going to school. She was killed for vaccinating children. And she was killed for working outside her home.
The Public Health Deputy Minister condemned this brutality. But the office of the President, the Ministry of Education, and even the Ministry of Women’s Affairs – all have remained silent.
Several civil society organizations have spoken out to demand justice for Anisa and have criticized the governmental authorities for their silence. On Wednesday, December 5th, Afghani women activists demanded that more attention should be paid to Anisa’s case to ensure that justice is served.
Yet, over and over, the Afghan government has proven that Afghan girls’ education and women’s rights are not a priority unless they are deemed convenient bargaining chips for political agreements.
From the endorsement of misogynistic resolutions by the religious Ulema Council that demands that women shouldn’t travel alone, to the imprisonment of seven hundred young girls for running away from abusive families or getting raped, the government has shamefully neglected women’s rights and security.
More often than not, the government has remained silent when girls’ schools are burned down, and when female students and teachers are been poisoned or attacked by acid.
Anisa’s murder is one example of the many brutalities against women and girls that go on today in Afghanistan, and of the culture of impunity. Her murder is not just the women’s rights activists’ business or the governments’ business — it is the entire nation’s business. It is time that the people started speaking out against crimes towards women and standing up for the daughters of this country. These daughters can and will, provided with necessary security and education, lead the formation of a more prosperous land.
Afghan civil society organizations must focus on spurring grassroots support for the cause of justice for Anisa. This will lead to public pressure on the government and pressure to act from national and international women’s organizations.
Women are speaking out on behalf of the cause. Canadian Women for Women of Afghanistan, Safe World for Women, Women for Afghan Women, Hadia, and Road to Equality and Development recently joined together on a campaign calling for justice for Anisa (http://www.cw4wafghan.ca/justiceforanisa) .
Swiftly, a facebook page was created by Afghan youth in order to lend support to the cause of justice for Anisa (http://www.facebook.com/JusticeForAnisa?fref=ts) and an event was organized to ask everyone to take two minutes of silence to remember her (http://www.facebook.com/events/412599288809257/?ref=ts&fref=ts).
In addition, prominent Afghan poets and intellectuals have already begun writing poems and pieces to honour and remember Anisa.
Recent activism on Facebook and Twitter has had some impact thus far: the Afghan government has issued a statement that they will investigate Anisa’s case. However, it is important to remember that hundreds of such cases of violations against women and girls are announced to be under investigation. They are then conveniently forgotten within days or weeks. Without continued advocacy and pressure, Anisa’s case might suffer the same fate.
We in Afghanistan can learn from the work of women’s rights activists in different contexts. In Pakistan, local women from around the country spoke out en masse against the attack on Malala and there followed a national and international mobilization of youth and women for real change and security for women and girls. The same kind of advocacy must happen in Afghanistan. Building on the activities already underway, Afghan civil society needs to employ long-term methods in order pressure the political powers so that they can bring to justice the abject criminals who killed the girl Anisa, and who continue to persecute Afghan women and children.
Noorjahan Akbar is a women’s rights activist in Afghanistan and a junior at Dickinson College. She writes for UN Dispatch and Safe World for Women as well as many Afghan newspapers and websites.