Women’s Day, Afghan Style: Headscarves and flowers

The other day I was on the street reporting on a suicide bombing. Policemen and even some of the male journalists at the scene kept asking what I was doing, as if I were engaged in work unbecoming of a woman. The nicer ones were worried I would be scarred by the experience, and couldn’t handle it. The ruder ones felt I was stepping out of my lane.

One official suggested that it was dangerous for me to be out that late at night.

It isn’t easy being a woman journalist in Afghanistan; it isn’t easy being a woman here, for that matter. But for many Afghan women, that is not what comes across in all these celebrations. It often appears that many institutions use Women’s Day to show a liberal face, but just for a day.

“On every International Women’s Day, I keep thinking more of how suppressed we are within this patriarchal society,” said Sahar Fetrat, a filmmaker and women’s activist. “The symbolic celebrations, flowers, gifts and some words of empathy and sympathy are always given to women every 8th of March while on the same day, sexism, inequality, harassment and violence against women screams from all the streets and corners of this country.”

Women’s activists say that donors find it easy to give money for celebrations, which no one criticizes, while it’s much harder to support programs that produce real — and therefore controversial — change.

“We do not want to get flowers and head scarves,” said Zubaida Akbar, an advocate for women’s rights. “Instead, respect us as humans.”

Nearly a billion dollars of foreign aid to Afghanistan, maybe more, has gone into programs meant to make women’s lives better. But according to a new report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, violence against women has increased 8.6 per cent this year.

Still, while many women scoff at the gift of head scarves, at least, they acknowledge, they are not being given burqas.

First anti-harassment law and why it should be amended

In November 2016, Parliament passed a law to protect women and children against harassment. A great step forward, but not enough.

Legal aid organization, Medica Afghanistan, led a Petition to His Excellency President Ashraf Ghani, to amend the anti-harassment law, in Kabul, on 19 February 2017.

Many called it a “courageous” act, to bring up the matter through an official Petition to the Presidential Palace. Medica’s Executive Director, Humaira Rasuli says:

 

 

 

“For us, it was absolutely necessary. The government has asked us to provide critical and technical reasoning. So we took up the challenge. My lawyers interviewed and spoketo lawyers and judges from India, Nepal and Singapore to learn from their experiences. We also reviewed many laws. We also learned a lot from technical meetings with the Afghanistan Ministry of Justice held between August- October, 2016.

The Petition drew from lessons learned by Medica’s legal cases, as well as, the laws of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, and their impact on women’s lives on the ground.

Like many countries, women and children in Afghanistan are sexually harassed daily, causing them to fear their surroundings, suffer mental trauma, resign from their jobs and drop out of school and social activity. Medica’s legal and psychosocial teams handle these cases on a daily basis.

“The effects of trauma from sexual harassment can last very long. Our clients say that they feel like they lose control over their bodies…” says one of Medica’s psychologists.

Medica also provides psychosocial support to women who experience violence and sees sexual harassment, as a serious public health issue.

The law seems to have been passed with good intentions. However, the Petition warns against loosely drafted laws which might end up harming women, instead of helping them. The Petition described the law as incomplete, replete with errors and largely unenforceable. It forewarns that the law, however well-intentioned, may lead to mishandling of complaints and cause harm to survivors who are depending on the law for redress and justice.

The team of lawyers who are leading the Petition, says: “The focus of the law should not just be to punish. Before and after the incident, it is necessary and important to ensure that there are protective measures for women. Also, we need to do a lot of awareness raising sessions and use the media to let people know about the law, once it is amended.”

Medica Afghanistan PRESS RELEASE

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A supporter of the Petition who does not wish to be named shared: “The law vaguely define harassment and its different types. It does not protect survivors. And the cash fine and sentences are very basic.”

It is not too late to sign the Petition, which you can do so by clicking here or copying this link into your browser:

[https://www.change.org/p/amend-the-anti-sexual-harassment-law-of-afghanistan]

For further information, please contact:

Yalda Ahmadi

Phone: +93(0)793 200 524

Email: lap.lawyers@medica-afghanistan.org

Website:www.medicaafghanistan.org

اولین قانون منع آزار واذیت جنسی زنان و اطفال در کشور که ضرورت به باز نگری دارد

قانون منع آزار واذیت جنسی زنان و اطفال به تاریخ 91 عقرب 9911 در سه فصل و 91 ماده توسط پارلمان کشور به تصویب رسید که یک قدم بزرگ به پیشروی میباشد ولی هنوز هم کافی نیست. از این رو موسسه مدیکا افغانستان در ماه فبروری از رئیس جمهور کشور جناب اشرف غنی خواست که این قانون را باز نگری کند.

بعضی ها به این باور اند که فرستادن درخواست به دفتر ریاست جمهوری به جرئت کافی ضرورت دارد. رئیس موسسه مدیکا افغانستان به این نظر است که :

“برای ما این یک اقدام کام ضروی و بجا است. حکومت باید به حرف ما گوش بدهد اما حکومت میخواهد که ما باید د ئل کافی تخنیکی داشته باشیم. ما این چالش را پذیرفتیم. حقوق دانان مدیکا افغانستان با قضات و حقوق دانان کشور های هندوستان ، نیپال، سنگاپور در مورد تجارب شان صحبت کردند. ما هم چنان در جلسات تخنیکی

با وزارت عدلیه افغانستان اشتراک نمودیم. “ این درخواستی به اساس درس های آموخته شده از قضایای حقوقی مدیکا افغانستان و قوانین هندوستان، پاکستان ، نیپال،

سنگاپور ، فلپین ، مالیزیا و تاثیر آن با ی زنده گی مردم ترتیب گردیده است.

زنان و اطفال در افغانستان مانند بسیاری کشور های دیگر بصورت روزانه مورد آزار و اذیت جنسی قرار میگیرند که باعث ترس از محیط ،صدمه روحی ، ترک وظیفه و ترک مکتب و تحصیل شده و باعث دوری آنها از فعالیت های اجتماعی میشود. همکاران بخش روانی اجتماعی و حقوقی مدیکا بصورت روزانه با چنین قضایا سرو کار دارند.

به گفته یک روان شناس موسسه مدیکا افغانستان : “آزار جنسی ممکن است باعث ضربه روانی نزد دختران و اطفال شود که تاثیرات آن برای مدت طو نی با ی آنها باقی بماند. این باعث بروز اعراض مزمن نزد بازمانده گان آزار جنسی می شود که تمام زنده گی آنها را متاثر میسازد که این خود یک مساله صحت عامه میباشد”

حقوق دانان که این درخواستی را پیشنهاد می نمایند میگویند : “ما یک قانون مکمل و همه جانبه برای مبارزه علیه آزار جنسی زنان و اطفال میخواهیم. محراق توجه قانون تنها مجازات مجرم نباشد بلکه موادی وجود داشته باشد که قربانی را نیز محافظت نماید. ”

جای شک نیست که این قانون با قصد خوب ساخته شده است. اما در درخواستی بخاطر تعدیل قانون این را یاددهانی میکند که اگر قانون نا مکمل باشد به عوض کمک به زنان باعث متضرر شدن شان خواهد شد. دراین درخواستی آمده است که قانون نامکمل بوده دارای ابهامات و مشک ت میباشد که بصورت عموم قابل تطبیق نیست. این درخواستی هشدار میدهد که باوجود که در ترتیب این قانون قصد نیک وجود دارد ولی باعث عدم رسیده گی درست شکایات شده و باعث متضرر

شدن آن عده از کسانی شود که برای رسیده گی به قضیه شان به این قانون ضرورت دارند.

1

یکی از حامیان درخواستی ما چنین مینگارد” این قانون آزار واذیت را دقیق تصریح نکرده است ، متضررین را حمایت ننموده است و نکته مهم اینکه مجازات پیش بینی شده برای عاملین ناچیز اند”

تاکنون معلوم نیست که آیا قانون متذکره توسط رئیس جمهور کشور توشیح گردیده است یا خیر، شما میتوانید که ذریعه لینک ذیل:

https://www.change.org/p/amend-the-anti-sexual-harassment-law-of-afghanistan

درخواستی ما را مطالعه و حمایت خویش را از درخواستی ما اع ن بدارید.

اکثر باز مانده گان آزار جنسی بخاطر ترس، شرم و یا تهدید که می گیرند به کدام مرجعی شکایت نمی کنند. هدف

ازخواستی تهیه شده این است تا قانونی ساخته شود که بازمانده گان آزار جنسی توانائی آنرا پیدا کنند که قضیه شان مورد

تعقیب عدلی قرار گیرد و خود شان در مقابل مجرم محافظت شوند.

موسسه حمایت از زنان – میدیکا افغانستان یک مؤسسه زنان افغان است که برای تحقق حقوق زنان به اساس مساوات و

عدم تعبیض کار میکند. ما از طریق ارائه خدمات، بلند بردن آگاهی و ظرفیت سازی در ساحات روانی- اجتماعی، صحی

، تعلیم و تربیه و مساعدت حقوقی برای محو خشونت علیه زنان و دختران و بلند بردن حیثیت اجتماعی زنان داد خواهی

مینماییم. مدیکا افغانستان همکاری و تبادله تجارب بین زنان از کشور های مختلف ، کلچر های مختلف و طرف های

مختلف در گیری را تشویق میکند تا بتواند در پروسه صلح و آشتی ممد واقع شود.

میخواهیم از موسسه AWEC, WAW, CW4AW, WAWI, AWSDC و شبکه های AWN و ACBAR

بخاطر شریک ساختن نظرات شان و حمایت شان ازاینکه قانون باید تعدیل شود ابراز امتنان نمایم تا این قانون بتواند به

بازمانده گان آزار جنسی بصورت واقعی کمک نماید.

بخاطر معلومات بیشتر به این آدرس به تماس شوید :

lap.lawyers@medica-afghanistan.org

آدرس انترنتwww.medicaafghanistan.org

Depression rampant among Afghan women

 Gender violence, poverty and associated social problems fuels widespread mental health problems.

 By Sudabah Ehrari

The razor scars on 18-year-old Leila’s hands and neck bear witness to her past attempts at suicide. The Herat teenager told IWPR that she had become deeply depressed after her marriage to a 45-year-old man.

“I married a much older man because of my parents,” she said. “Later, I realised that this was not what I wanted. I was controlled and banned from going anywhere, and his interference in every little detail of my life became unbearable. I was so aggravated that I decided to end my life by taking poison, but survived. Later, I tried again to commit suicide with a razor, but again I was rescued.”

Leila subsequently sought treatment for her mental health problems.

“Now, I feel better following medication and a long series of consultations,” she said.

Mental health issues are rampant across Afghanistan, fed by the legacy of more than three decades of conflict. Psychologists note that women bear the brunt of the problem.

Experts in the northern province of Herat say that rates of depression are rising among women, fuelled by factors including gender violence, poverty and associated social problems.

Local mental health practitioners estimate that they have dealt with 20 per cent more referrals this year than last year.

Abd Al Rahman Hamraz, an official with the Herat department of public health, told IWPR, “Our statistics show that rates of depression have risen, with more referrals to mental health services.”

Wahid Nourzad, head of mental health services in Herat Regional Hospital, said that this reflected a growing awareness of the problem among women.

“I estimate that this same high rate of depression was also true in the past, except it wasn’t reflect by statistics due to a lack of awareness and fewer mental health clinics.”

Herat psychologist Mahdi Hossaini said that the condition could be categorised as minor, mild, and major depression.

He said that symptoms included “aches and pains, feelings of sadness, reduced energy, fatigue, helplessness and crying, guilt, anger, and [social] withdrawal”.

Treatment involved a combination of counseling and medication, he added.

Nourzad said that the treatment offered in state-run clinics was tailored to the severity of the individual’s symptoms.

“Those presenting with mild depression are treated with four to five consultation,, whereas patients with symptoms of major depression are hospitalised for a six-month period where they receive medication as well as counseling,” he said.

Mohammad Asef Kabir, head of Herat’s public health department, said that psychotherapy and medication were available at all the province’s health centres.

In addition, he continued, “There are ten clinics dedicated to patients suffering minor [mental health issues] and one, located in the Herat Regional Hospital, for severely ill individuals.”

Kabir added that these clinics also raised public awareness of mental disorders and how to prevent them.

Zahra, 38, who has a long history of depression, spoke to IWPR while an in-patient at Herat Regional Hospital.

“I’ve been suffering from this illness for 15 years, trying different medications in several places like Iran and Pakistan; however, all treatment ultimately failed although sometimes I feel better. Recently, losing my sister intensified my depression. I frequently struggle with headaches, I always quarrel about nothing with my family. This is my third day of hospitalisation.”

IMPACT OF GENDER VIOLENCE

Public health minister Firoozuddin Firooz announced on World Mental Health Day last year that 72 per cent of Afghan women had experienced depression.

He said that war, poverty and displacement and lack of resources were the main causes of mental health issues in Afghanistan. Psychological services were available at some 1,500 health centres around the country, he continued, with 300 dedicated mental health clinics. The government planned to create another 200 specialist centres, he said.

But others say that the impact of Afghanistan’s conservative traditions and associated gender inequality are central to the issue of women’s mental health. Little progress was possible with a fundamental change in attitudes.

Fatemah Bagheri, director of women’s affairs at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), said, “Almost all women’s rights organisations as well as [the AIHRC] are concerned about the large number of women experiencing mental health problems.”

Madinah, who was diagnosed with depression more than a year ago, attributes her illness to the effects of poverty and her father’s drug addiction.

 “My only wish was to go to school, but I was beaten and deprived of education because of my father’s addiction,” she said. “I was in a constant state of distress, so I went to a psychologist and was told that I was suffering from depression.”

Mahboobeh Jamshidi, head of the department of women’s affairs in Herat, noted that the overwhelming majority of women who experienced domestic violence developed mental illness.

She said that her department had recently established a psychological consulting centre for women, but lamented the lack of a wider strategic plan to address mental health issues among women.

 “The initial treatment for a depressed woman is counseling, which is inefficient because medication, which is usually tried last, is more effective,” she said.

Hossniyah Nikzad, dirrector of the Afghan Women’s Network, agreed that discrimination both at home and in the wider society was the major cause of depression among women.

“The state must create a system under the auspices of the department of education, the department of information and culture and the department of haj [and religious affairs], to closely cooperate to reduce violence, since women’s depression is associated with increased violence,” she said. “If people are more are aware of the rules and regulations [governing gender discrimination], then violence and depression will be reduced.”

But with the proper treatment, some women say that they have been given new hope for the future. Leila, the 18 year-old with a history of suicide attempts, now works at a mental health centre which she said has helped her address her own trauma.

“I asked to work here since I understand what happened to these women and the pain that they went through,” she said. “I intend to help these women recover.”

This report was produced under IWPR’s Promoting Human Rights and Good Governance in Afghanistan initiative, funded by the European Union Delegation to Afghanistan.

https://iwpr.net/global-voices/depression-rampant-among-afghan-women
Distributed by:
The Network for Afghan Women List

* Information * Action * Capacity * Collaboration *

 

Maternal death rates in Afghanistan may be worse than previously thought

 Unpublished research from the UN Population Fund suggests the country’s maternal mortality figures may be higher than reported writes  Sune Engel Rasmussen in Kabul

For years, declining death rates among pregnant women have been hailed as one of the great gains of foreign aid in Afghanistan.

In reality, however, Afghan women dying in pregnancy or childbirth may be more than twice as high as numbers provided by donors would suggest.

Since 2010, published figures have shown maternal mortality rates at 327 for every 100,000 live births, a significant drop from 1,600 in 2002. Yet recent surveys give a different picture.

In one unpublished study, the Afghan government found an average level of maternal deaths between 800 and 1,200 for every 100,000 live births, according to aid workers in Kabul who have seen the research.

If accurate, this would mean that women in Afghanistan – despite more than 15 years of international aid aimed at improving maternal mortality figures – may be dying from maternal complications at rates similar to those found in Somalia and Chad, and only surpassed by South Sudan.

In another review, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) found as many as 1,800 maternal deaths a year in the remote Afghan province of Ghor. Nine out of 11 provinces had higher death rates than the number normally used by donors.

Both the UNFPA mortality numbers and the government’s own survey have yet to be released. A spokesman for the ministry of public health said the survey was not ready to be publicised yet, and declined to discuss findings.

The country’s emphasis on training midwives in recent years is slowly building numbers. Yet, despite this improved capacity, driving up numbers of health personnel is only half the solution, according to Bannet Ndyanabang, UNFPA’s Afghanistan representative: “Training is not the only thing. They have to be deployed in the areas where they are needed. It doesn’t matter that you have health centres if they’re not staffed with skilled personnel. [Midwives and nurses] have to be given incentives to work in rural areas.”

One reason for the discrepancy in the figures is a lack of reliable data. Collecting such information in Afghanistan is notoriously difficult. Worsening security prevents even officials from the ministry of public health, let alone foreigners, from travelling to rural areas.

In a recent audit of $1.5bn (£1.2bn) donated by the US to Afghan healthcare, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction – the US congressional watchdog – criticised the use of unreliable data to prop up claims of progress in Afghanistan.

According to Sigar, “missions are required to be transparent and communicate ‘any limitations in data quality so that achievements can be honestly assessed’. In all cases Sigar reviewed, USAid did not disclose data limitations.”

Sigar said similarly selective data use lay behind USAid claims that life expectancy in Afghanistan has risen by 22 years. More recent surveys by the World Health Organization show relatively modest increases of six and eight years for men and women respectively.

A USAid spokesperson said: “In Afghanistan, a country suffering from decades of conflict, reliable health and population data is scarce and difficult to obtain. USAid strives to use the best available data for programming decisions and invests to improve data quality for measuring progress. This commitment includes our continued support for independent nationwide surveys on the state of the health sector. These surveys, and the methodology they use, are publicly available.”

More reliable data is available, however.

While numbers used by international donors were based on samples from three of the 360 districts in existence at the time, the UNFPA survey was much more extensive, covering 70% of households in 11 of the country’s 34 provinces.

The UNFPA did not survey southern and eastern provinces, where rates are almost certainly high because conflict and poor infrastructure make healthcare inaccessible to millions of women.

In addition, a 2013 study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington reported 885 annual maternal deaths in Afghanistan. According to the researchers, that was an increase of 24% on a decade earlier.

In Afghanistan, reality often conflicts with official statistics. The UK government, for instance, claims that 85% of Afghans are now covered by basic health services.

Yet, in a 2014 Médecins Sans Frontières report, four out of five Afghans said they did not use their closest public clinic because they believed the quality of services and availability of staff was so poor. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 9 million Afghans are without access to basic health services.

Healthcare has also been a key priority for the British government in Afghanistan, though it’s not clear exactly how much money goes specifically to reducing mortality among pregnant women.

Since 2002, the UK has provided more than $1.7bn (£1.4bn) to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which allocates a significant portion to healthcare. Healthcare for mothers is a key priority, the UK embassy in Kabul said.

In a country where reliable data is so elusive, a stronger focus on monitoring progress, and further investment in it, is desperately needed, or the benefits of the large amount of aid going into healthcare will remain unclear.

See original article here: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jan/30/maternal-death-rates-in-afghanistan-may-be-worse-than-previously-thought

Afghan woman’s ears cut off by husband

A 23-year-old Afghan woman has described to the BBC how her husband tied her up and cut off both her ears in a domestic violence attack in the northern province of Balkh.

The woman – Zarina – is now in a stable but traumatised condition in hospital.

“I haven’t committed any sin,” she said. “I don’t know why my husband did this to me.”

The woman’s husband is on the run in Kashinda district following the attack, police have told local media.

Zarina told Pajhwok news that the unprovoked attack took place after her husband suddenly woke her up.

She was married at the age of 13, and told BBC that “relations with her husband were not good”.

Zarina complained that her husband had tried to prevent her from seeing her parents, she said in another interview, with Tolo News. She said she no longer wanted to remain married to him.“He is a very suspicious man and often accused me of talking to strange men when I went to visit my parents,” she said.

She has demanded his arrest and prosecution.

Her account is the latest in a series of high-profile domestic abuse incidents and cases of violence against women in Afghanistan.

  • In January 2016, a young woman, Reza Gul [pictured, below], had her nose cut off by her husband in the remote Ghormach district of north-western Faryab province
  • Some months later, a woman was critically ill after being nearly beaten to death by her husband
  • In November 2015, a young woman was stoned to death in Ghor province after she had been accused of adultery
  • Earlier that year, a young Kabul woman, Farkhunda, was beaten and burned to death by a mob over false allegations she had set fire to a Koran
  • In September 2014, a man cut off part of his wife’s nose with a kitchen knife, in central Daykundi Province, according to police. It is not clear whether he was ever caught
  • The case of Aisha featured on the front cover of Time magazine in 2010, after the 18-year-old was mutilated by her husband who cut off her nose and ears as punishment for running away

The Afghan government has repeatedly tried to introduce laws to protect women from domestic abuse.

But President Hamid Karzai during his time in power was unable – or unwilling – to sign off legislation even though it had been approved by both houses of parliament.

In 2014, for example, he ordered changes to draft legislation that critics said would severely limit justice for victims.

Mr Karzai’s successor, Ashraf Ghani, has also yet to give his assent to legislation passed by Afghan parliament late last year. It was drafted to protect women and children from violence and harassment.read original BBC News report HERE.

Afghanistan’s Domestic Violence Loophole

Penal code allows men to claim extenuating circumstances in cases of so-called honour killings by Zarghona Salihi

Campaigners are calling for the Afghan government to follow through on promises to change parts of Afghanistan’s penal code that they argue actually serves to legimitise violence against women.

Article 398 of the Afghan penal code states that a man who sees “his wife or other family members” in a compromising position and kills or injures one or both of them “in order to defend his dignity and respect” will not be prosecuted for violent assault or murder.

Instead, he may be liable to a term of imprisonment of no longer than two years.

“We can see that Afghan law gives men freedoms regarding domestic violence and the killing of women which they misuse,” said Latifa Sultani, head of the department of women’s rights at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

Quite apart from the human rights implications, Clause 398 showed clear gender bias, she continued. Women can already be imprisoned under the loose category of moral crimes, which encompasses actions such as running away from home, and face prison sentences of up to five years if convicted of adultery.

 “If a man discovers his wife committing adultery with another man and kills her, he will be imprisoned for two years. However, if a woman finds her husband committing adultery with another woman and kills him, she will face the most serious punishment possible, and this is clearly discrimination and a problem with the laws of Afghanistan,” Sultani said.

Clause 398 was also being exploited to punish victims of sexual violence, too.

“Unfortunately, there are some cases there have some cases that have come before the courts in which rape has been deemed to be adultery, so that the woman ends up being imprisoned because of our male-dominated society that doesn’t believe in women’s rights,” she said.

Parwin Rahimi is in charge of the department to combat violence against women at the attorney general’s office. She said that suspects often tried to exploit Clause 398 in order to minimize their sentence.

“Our investigations have shown that most murders and perpetrators of violence against women are not [related to honour killings], but there are some people who try to change their cases into ones of domestic violence in order to decrease their punishment,” she said.

Officials say that action is planned to amend the controversial clause. “The ministry of justice is planning to bring changes in the criminal law of Afghanistan,” Sayed Mohammad Hashimi, a deputy minister at the ministry, told IWPR. He said that Clause 398 would be removed from the statute books and that all cases of murder would be treated as such.

However, international and Afghan human rights groups have long campaigned for the penal code to be brought into line with the international norms and the government has previously made such assurances without making any amendments to the law.

There were high hopes for the implementation of the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was enacted by presidential decree in 2009 and prohibited a range of abuses from assault and rape to marriages that were coercive, involve minors or amount to a transaction between two families. However, the law was rejected by parliament in May 2013, and has been shelved ever since.

A culture of impunity had thus effectively encouraged sexual abuse and other forms of violence, Sultani explained, adding said that nearly 600 instances of so-called honour killings had been registered with the commission over the last five years. Most perpetrators had either evaded justice or received a lenient sentence at trial.

She said that the real figure was likely to be much higher, because of the culture of shame surrounding such cases.

 “When we hear about a case, we go to the families, to the hospitals, and speak to witnesses and document the case because honour killings are not often reported,” she said.

Shahla Farid, a lecturer of law and political science at Kabul university, said, “There are many reasons for domestic violence and women being killed; men consider women their property.”

She said that quite apart from the problems with Afghan criminal law, conservative traditions, poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance of Islamic precepts of human rights lay behind such murders.

Observers note that murders of this kind were often the result of men resorting to murder on the merest suspicions about female relatives, without even trying to establish whether their fears had any basis.

In a recent case in September 2016, 18-year-old Fariba  – a resident of Dahan Zara in Takhar province – was shot dead by her husband on her wedding night. He then escaped.

One of Fariba’s neighbours, Mirwais, said that she had not consented to the marriage. “This girl wanted to marry another boy but was forced to marry this man, and when the groom and bride were carried home, she was immediately shot by her husband,” he said.

Razm Ara Hawash, head of the provincial women’s affairs department, said that the husband should have handed his new wife over to the courts if he believed a crime such as adultery had been committed.

Calling for the suspect’s arrest, she said that men had no right to take the law into their own hands.

In a similar case, lawyer Masoma Haidari said that she was currently working on a case in which a man living in the Kampany area of Kabul city who had killed his wife in September 2016.

Having been married for 13 years, the couple had no children and the husband recently took another wife.

But when the new wife conceived, he suspected her of sleeping with another man and killed her.

MISUSE OF AUTHORITY

Officials insist that action is being taken to address domestic abuse.

Spozhmai Wardak, a deputy minister at the ministry of women’s affairs, condemned all extra-judicial violence against women.

 “As well as running awareness programmes regarding women’s rights, the ministry also works together with relevant organisations and departments to arrest and punish those who violate women’s rights,” she said. “Serious action must be taken against domestic violence.”

Sidiq Sidiqi, spokesman of ministry of interior affairs, said, “Arresting those who violate women’s right is one of the priorities of the police.”

Rahimi added that the attorney general’s office was working hard to prosecute those suspected of domestic violence.

“Over 926 cases of violence against women have been registered with our office so far and 30 out of 926 cases are related to the killings of women,” she said, adding that 545 cases have been successfully investigated and 342 were still ongoing.

But others argue that a culture of impunity surrounding those who committed so-called honour crimes meant there was no deterrent to stop others following their example.

“The reason that women are killed or raped in families is that the criminals are not seriously punished; most of them avoid any punishment,” Sultani said, adding that corruption and the intervention of powerful people also had an impact on cases of domestic violence.  

There are persistent complaints of widespread graft in the judicial system. Women are at a particular disadvantage as, without financial resources or influential connections, they have little protection.

“Corruption and the misuse of authority means the people who murder or rape women and have connections to a [militia] commander, a lawyer or a judge are not punished,” she said. “They know that they are free from punishment and so feel free to murder and rape with impunity.”

Sultani added, “It is vital to increase public awareness of this issue and punish criminals in order to lower rates of domestic violence and the murder of women in our country.”

This report was produced under IWPR’s Promoting Human Rights and Good Governance in Afghanistan initiative, funded by the European Union Delegation to Afghanistan.

https://iwpr.net/global-voices/afghanistans-domestic-violence-loophole

 

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Afghan ‘girl with green eyes’ Sharbat Gula in quest for new life

 An Afghan woman made famous by a 1985 National Geographic cover has spoken exclusively to the BBC of her hope for a new beginning, after being deported from Pakistan writes Dawood Azami, BBC World Service, Kabul16 January 2017

Sharbat Gula now lives with her five-year-old son and three daughters in Kabul, where she says she wants to live a normal life after years of tragedy and hardship.

Her portrait as a 10-year-old became an iconic image of Afghan refugees fleeing war.

The only time she has spoken to the media before now, her family says, was for a 2002 documentary after Steve McCurry, who took her original photo, tracked her down in Pakistan and found out who she was.

Sharbat Gula had no idea that her face had been famous around the world for almost 17 years.

Like many Afghans, she sought refuge in Pakistan and lived there for 35 years – but she was imprisoned and deported last autumn for obtaining Pakistani identity papers “illegally”.

“We had a good time there, had good neighbours, lived among our own Pashtun brothers. But I didn’t expect that the Pakistani government would treat me like this at the end,” Sharbat Gula told me at her temporary residence in Kabul.

Her case highlighted the arbitrary arrest and forced deportation of Afghan refugees in the current spat between the two countries.

It has been illegal for non-Pakistanis to have IDs since they were first issued in the 1970s, but the law was often not enforced.

Prison ‘the hardest’.

Now sick and frail in her mid-40s, Sharbat Gula’s haunting eyes are still piercing, full of both fear and hope.

She says she had already sold her house in Pakistan because she feared arrest there for “not having proper documents to stay”.

Two days before a planned move back to Afghanistan, her house was raided late in the evening and she was taken to prison.

Pakistan’s government has ordered all two million Afghan refugees on its soil to leave.

Sharbat Gula believes the Pakistani authorities wanted to arrest her before she left.

“I told the police that I have made this ID card for only two things – to educate my children and sell my house – which were not possible to do without the ID card.”

She served a 15-day prison sentence, the first week in prison and the second in hospital where she was treated for hepatitis C.

“This was the hardest and worst incident in my life.”

Realising the reputational damage, Pakistan later offered to let her stay – but she refused.

“I told them that I am going to my country. I said: ‘You allowed me here for 35 years, but at the end treated me like this.’ It is enough.”

Her husband and eldest daughter died in Peshawar and are buried there.

“If I wanted to go back, it will be just to offer prayer at the graves of my husband and daughter who are buried in front of the house we lived in.”

The portrait

The “Afghan Girl” picture was taken by Steve McCurry in 1984 in a refugee camp near Peshawar, when Sharbat Gula was studying in a tent school. Published in 1985, it became one of the most recognisable magazine covers ever printed.

For years she was unaware of her celebrity.

“When my brother showed me the picture, I recognised myself and told him that yes, this is my photo.”

How did she feel?

“I became very surprised [because] I didn’t like media and taking photos from childhood. At first, I was concerned about the publicity of my photo but when I found out that I have been the cause of support/help for many people/refugees, then I became happy.”

None of Sharbat Gula’s six children – another daughter died too at an early age and is buried in Peshawar – share the colour of her eyes.

But her brother, Kashar Khan, does, and the eyes of one of her three sisters were also green.

She says her maternal grandmother had eyes of a similar colour.

Sharbat Gula was a child living with her family in Kot district of eastern Nangarhar province when Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

“There was war between Russians and Afghanistan – that is why we left. A lot of damage/destruction was done.”

Her mother died of appendicitis in the village when she was eight. Like hundreds of thousands of other Afghans, her family (her father, four sisters and one brother) migrated to Pakistan and started living in a tent in a refugee camp called Kacha Garahi, on the outskirts of Peshawar.

She was married at 13. But her husband, Rahmat Gul, was later diagnosed with hepatitis C and died about five years ago. Her eldest daughter also died of hepatitis three years ago, aged 22, leaving a two-month-old daughter.

Warm welcome

Sharbat Gula met President Ashraf Ghani in the presidential palace on her return, and later former President Hamid Karzai.

“They gave me respect, warmly welcomed me. I thank them. May God treat them well.”

The government has promised to support her financially and buy her a house in Kabul.

“I hope the government will fulfil all its promises,” she told me.

Kot district is a stronghold of militants linked to the so-called Islamic State group, so she can’t go home to her village. Her green-eyed brother and hundreds of others have fled the area, fearing IS brutality.

“We cannot even visit our village now because of insecurity and don’t have a shelter in Jalalabad. Our life is a struggle from one hardship to another,” he says.

But Sharbat Gula’s priority is to stay in her country, get better and see her children be educated and live happy lives.

“I want to establish a charity or a hospital to treat all poor, orphans and widows,” she says.

“I would like peace to come to this country, so that people don’t become homeless. May God fix this country.”

Read the original BBC article HERE

Report highlights Afghan health care sector challenges

SIGAR  audit report on USAID’s efforts to rebuild Afghanistan’s health care sector.

The report notes:

Afghanistan’s health care sector faces several challenges: the Afghan government lacks funds to operate and sustain its health care facilities; hospitals are unable to provide adequate care; health care facilities lack qualified staff; and corruption throughout the system remains a concern.

USAID has obligated nearly $1.5 billion in assistance to develop Afghanistan’s health care sector and publicly cites numerous achievements – but USAID did not disclose data quality limitations, calling into question the extent of achievements claimed.

USAID reported a 22-year improvement in life expectancy from 2002-2010. The agency didn’t disclose that baseline data came from the World Health Organization, which relied on indirect estimating methods. A later WHO report shows only a 6-year increase in life expectancy for males and an 8-year increase for females.

USAID cited a decrease in maternal mortality, to 327 deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births, from 2002-2010. But the baseline survey used by USAID was conducted in only 4 of the 360 districts that existed in Afghanistan in 2002.

USAID relied on data from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health. But MOPH officials indicated their data are “not 100 percent complete,” and the World Bank found that officials rarely traveled outside provincial capitals and rarely verified reports.

USAID’s evaluations and performance reports were not linked to the broader health care assistance objectives included in USAID’s Post Performance Management Plan for Afghanistan.

In evaluating projects, USAID relied on implementing partners that may have had potential conflicts of interest because they performed the projects being evaluated. These reports could be biased, increasing the risk that USAID is using inaccurate information to influence decisions about future health care projects.

 SIGAR found that according to surveys, Afghans have little faith in their health care system; Afghans spend $285 million annually on health care services in other countries; an MOPH survey found that 72.5 percent of citizens who traveled abroad for medical care had tried first to receive treatment in Afghanistan.

Full report: https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/audits/SIGAR-17-22-AR.pdf

 

Rising drug addiction among Afghan women

Experts say a major reason is the influence of a husband or other male authority figure within the family – writes Sodaba Ahrari

Yagana spends her days and nights on the streets of Herat city, begging passersby for money to feed her drug addiction.

She doesn’t know her exact age, although thinks she might be around 18 years old. She looks well into her thirties.

“When I got married, I was very young, maybe 12 years old,” she told IWPR. “I did all the work around the house and got very tired. My brother-in-law noticed this and told me that if smoked some opium I would feel better. As I was so innocent, I started to smoke and eventually became addicted. When my husband realised this, he fought with his brother but it was useless as I was already an addict.”

That was at least six years ago. Cast out of her house, she now sleeps rough and is constantly at risk of abuse.

“I am on the streets most nights and sometimes I fight with people passing by because they abuse me, and even tell me to go with them, which means they want me for sex.”

Her husband has taken her for treatment at an addiction six times, but after each attempt she has gone back to using drugs.

“I told my husband and children not to try again because I can’t stop while I am still alive,” Yagana concluded.

Officials in Herat province warn that rates of female addiction are rising, with one estimate putting the current rate of drug use as high as one in every three women.

Health professionals say that a major reason is the influence of a husband or other male authority figure within the family. Poverty is also a factor, as drugs are cheap and easily available, fuelled by the influx of returning refugees from neighbouring Iran where addiction rates are also high.

Officials have registered between 60,000 and 70,000 addicts in Herat, out of which nearly 8,000 are women, although the real numbers may be much higher.

One of the problems is that accurate figures are hard to come by, although those working in the field say that anecdotal evidence clearly points to a growing problem.

Asif Kabir, head of Herat’s public health department, estimated that addiction rates amongst women could be as high as 35 per cent. An extensive survey was needed to properly assess the situation, he noted, as the last ministry of public health study had been carried out in 2010.

Kabir said that 886 people had come to the Herat treatment centre during the last solar year, 240 of them women.

“We can compare the first six months of this [solar] year with the first six months of last year when 785 patients were admitted, of whom 120 were women.”

Ghulam Jilani Daqiq, head of counter-narcotics in Herat province, also said he believed addiction rates among women were rising, highlighting the Kuhsan and Ghoriyan districts as areas of particular concern.

The most recent figures his department could draw on were from a 2012 UN study, which found a female addiction rate of 13 per cent. However, counternarcotic officials said they had themselves witnessed rising rates of addiction in the field, even though budgetary problems meant that they had been unable to carry out their own research.

Herat police spokesman Abdul Rauf Ahmadi said that his forces carried out arrests each day in the provincial capital, but most visible drug use was by men.

“Police investigations don’t often lead to female addicts being brought in,” he said. “Many woman use drugs at home, and this is cause for major research to be carried out.”

LACK OF TREATMENT FACILITIES

Fatima (not her real name) began using drugs five years ago.

“My husband was a drug addict,” she said. “One day he gave me some drugs, so I too became addicted.”

Fatima, however, is one of the lucky ones. Having divorced her husband, she is now 20 days into an addiction treatment programme in an attempt to turn her life around.

Monizha Wahedi, head of the Shahamat addiction treatment centre, noted that women usually began using drugs due to a male addict in their immediate family circle. Once addicted, it was particularly hard for women to seek help as they were so often mostly confined to the domestic sphere.

She also said that rates were rising year on year.

“We have had 20 to 30 female patients and 10 to 12 child patients each month this year, which is more than the numbers last year, unfortunately,” she said.

While 58 women and 43 children had been successfully treated at Shahamat in the first six months of this year, she noted that many others found it hard to give up drugs completely.

“We have had patients who have become addicted again after their treatment and have returned for even the third or fourth time,” she said.

One of the issues is the scarcity of drug treatment facilities available for women.

Ghulam Jilani Daqiq, the head of counter-narcotics in Herat, told IWPR that there were four clinics and two hospitals treating addicts in the province. Just two of the clinics accepted women, each with capacity for 50 beds.

Officials say that this provision will increase when a new addiction treatment centre, currently under construction, is completed in the next few months.

Asif Kabir, head of public health in Herat, said that 510 places will then be made available, with almost half allocated for women.

But Herat provincial council member Mehdi Hadid still accused the government of dragging their heels when it came to action against drug addiction. More treatment facilities were needed for women, as well as greater public awareness about the dangers and consequences of drug use, he said.

Hadid agreed that the main cause of addiction amongst women was the influence of their husbands, adding, “Husbands get their wives addicted to drugs so that they share the burden of blame and so their wives don’t ask for a divorce.”

Dad Mohammad Wahedi, acting director of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in the western zone, said the problem among women was fuelled by the easy access to drugs in the province and the lack of targeted government action.

The AIHRC had done some work to try and raise awareness of the problem, but had had little impact, he continued.

“The government should arrest and punish those who sell drugs,” he said. “If they ignore it the way they have done so far, it’s not only the number of female addicts that will rise but also young people and adults in general.”

This report was produced under IWPR’s Promoting Human Rights and Good Governance in Afghanistan initiativefunded by the European Union Delegation to Afghanistan.

https://iwpr.net/global-voices/afghanistan-rising-addiction-rates-among-women

More women join fight against Taliban and ISIS in North of Afghanistan

The revolt was launched under the leadership of a female militia commander to stop the Taliban militants from seizing control of the strategic areas in this province, including Darzab district.

Several women have picked arms against the Taliban insurgents and ISIS loyalists in northern Jawzjan province of Afghanistan.

The anti-ISIS and anti-Taliban uprising by women have taken shape in the remote Darzab district of Jawzjan.

Photographs of the women armed with assault rifles have emerged online on social media websites as the majority of people endorse the courage of the women to form an uprising to resist against the militants who are desperately attempting to expand foothold in the northern parts of the country.

The uprising by women first took shape earlier in the month of November last year in Darzab district.

The uprising was launched under the leadership of a female militia commander to stop the Taliban insurgents seize control of the strategic areas in this province, including Darzab district.

The group led by a 53-year-old woman, Zarmina, has risen to 45 fighters, including mainly Uzbeks and Aimaqs, a Persian-speaking minority in Jowzjan, a multiethnic province that borders Turkmenistan to the north.

The latest uprising by the Afghan women in the North comes as an Afghan woman killed at least 25 Taliban militants late in 2014 to avenge the murder of her son who was a police officer in western Farah province.

The woman, Reza Gul, was forced to pick up arms after her son was shot dead by Taliban militants in front of her eyes.

Her son was leading a small group of police forces in a check post located in a village of Farah province.

By KHAAMA PRESS – Mon Jan 02 2017

http://www.khaama.com/more-women-join-fight-against-taliban-and-isis-in-north-of-afghanistan-02600

 

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