Photo: United Nations Photo/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The world must act to support Afghans, especially women and girls 

News 19.08.2021

Right Livelihood deplores the takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban forces, which is resulting in a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe. We condemn in the strongest terms the attacks directed at civilians and the Taliban’s blatant disregard for human rights.

In particular, we express our deepest concern at the severe restrictions that are likely to be imposed on the rights of women and girls. The international community must immediately act to prevent further violence and provide safety to those at imminent risk.

On August 15, 2021, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani fled the country as the Taliban concluded their offensive by entering Kabul, following the withdrawal of international military forces. The power grab comes after a year of steadily increasing violence towards civilians, women, human rights defenders, and journalists.

Since the beginning of 2021, more than 200,000 people have been forced out of their homes due to the escalation of threats and violence. Additionally, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented a steep increase of civilian casualties. With the complete withdrawal of international forces, the country is spiraling into a humanitarian and human rights disaster. All parties involved must put an immediate end to any form of violence and impunity in Afghanistan and conduct inclusive negotiations to resolve the current crisis of authority, safeguarding the respect of all human rights as a non-negotiable issue.

We are particularly concerned at the situation of human rights defenders, journalists, and members of civil society. They have been at the forefront of the efforts to build a safe and free country, respectful of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The hard-won human rights victories of the last 20 years have been achieved thanks to their work and commitment to give the Afghan people a dignified life. Right now, their safety within Afghanistan is under severe threat and they are in urgent need of protection from abroad. Governments must immediately provide all Afghans, including those who worked alongside them during the past two decades, with protection and adequate assistance, and give them opportunities to seek asylum.

This is even more true for Women Human Rights Defenders, who have been instrumental in the nation-building process. As Afghan Right Livelihood Laureate Sima Samar has said, “We need female human rights defenders in order to really change the environment on the ground and to make the environment conducive for the women to exercise their basic human rights.” Right Livelihood stands with Samar and all other women’s rights defenders.

In the past 20 years, women have played a fundamental role in achieving progress in Afghanistan and reversing the effects of Taliban rule, during which Afghan women were denied their basic rights. Today, they are at risk of facing the same fate.

Right Livelihood reiterates the calls made by the UN Secretary-General and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urging all parties involved to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law. We further urge the international community to act immediately, including by requesting an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council, to provide humanitarian assistance and all possible support to those at risk, as well as to conduct independent investigations on the crimes being committed.

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