Broken promises: Afghan women plead with UN for safety

Thursday October 14 2021
Afghan women

Afghan women shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan protest rally near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul on September 7, 2021. Women from Afghanistan say they are living under constant fear of being made “invisible” by the Taliban. PHOTO | HOSHANG HASHIMI | AFP


Women from Afghanistan say they are living under constant fear of being made “invisible” by the Taliban, including being targeted by a squad of murderers.

And the targeting involves prisoners released from jail after the Taliban took control of the country in August, who are going for the female judges who put them behind bars.

At the UN Security Council’s open debate on diversity and state building, Fawzia Koofi, Afghanistan’s former deputy President of the National Assembly, said women in her country have become second-class citizens, a reverse from the time they worked and moved freely.

“We have to hold the Taliban to account for what is happening in my country. There are serious reports that fundamental freedoms are being flouted.

“Women and girls are once again regarded as second class citizens. They are making us invisible again,” she told the session chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday.

Lack of inclusivity


The session to discuss the challenge of identity and diversity was about including women and minorities in governance, and leaders agreed that lack of inclusivity has fuelled most of the global conflicts today.

Once a member of the negotiating delegation of the Afghani government with the Taliban, Ms Koofi left the country as the Taliban stormed Kabul after the US and allied forces left the country.

But she said the Taliban are now working hard to ensure no woman, educated or not, enjoys the freedoms they did.

She urged the UN Security Council to pressure the Taliban to ensure all people, including minorities, are included in decision making in the country.

“We want direct face-to-face talks with the Taliban…only had Afghanistan women been part of decision making, we could have avoided the situation that we face now.”

Afghanistan has about 17 million women, nearly half of the country’s population, but she said the Taliban resurgence now means they “do not know what tomorrow holds for them”.

“As a woman who has lived in Afghanistan all my life, it breaks my heart to start from scratch.”

Broken promises

Since the Taliban took control, the UN says about 3.8 million people are in need of food assistance, most of who are women and girls. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Taliban had “broken promises” on respecting rights of women.

“I am particularly alarmed to see promises made to Afghan women and girls by the Taliban being broken. Broken promises lead to broken dreams for the women and girls of Afghanistan,” he told the media on Monday.

“For our part, the UN is permanently engaging with the Taliban on the safety and security of our staff, humanitarian assistance and unhindered access for all, including female staff, and human rights with particular focus on women and girls’ rights.”

The worry of Taliban reversing opportunities for women is that they are no longer allowing girls back to school.

The country, under a government supported by the US and Nato allies, had seen a rise in school enrolment, seeing about three million girls attend basic education every year.

But the danger is not just for the young girls. This week, some educated women who had served as judges in the previous government said they had fled to avoid being targeted by the prisoners freed by the Taliban.

Female judges flee

One woman, who said she jailed a man for killing his wife, left the country as the freed prisoners sent her threats. At least 220 female judges who served in the country before Taliban came to power had fled, according to a report in EuroWeekly.

The former judge, only identified by a moniker Masooma, said she had seen hundreds of men convicted during her tenure, for murder, torture and rape.

“It was midnight when we heard the Taliban had freed all the prisoners from jail. Immediately we fled. We left our home and everything behind,” she said.

“Travelling by car out of the city, I wore a burka, so no one would recognise me. Fortunately, we made it past all the Taliban checkpoints,” added Masooma, who said neighbours later told her the gang had gone to her house looking for her after she fled. The ring leader of the gang was a man jailed for 20 years for murdering his wife.

“After the case was over, the criminal approached me and said, ‘When I get out of prison, I will do to you what I did to my wife’,” she said.

Taliban had earlier pledged to give general amnesty to Afghan officials who worked for the previous government of Afghanistan. It seems that promise was broken.