Several hundred women demonstrated on the streets of the Afghan capital, Kabul on Thursday, calling on the government to improve their security and to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of five women over the past two weeks, three of them on Wednesday.
“This is shocking that in just two weeks, five women have been brutally killed in separate incidents and the government and international community have kept silent,” Urzala Ashraf, one of the demonstrators and head of local NGO, Humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children of Afghanistan (HAWCA) told IRIN. She and the other women in the protest chanted: “We want president Karzai to prosecute those criminals for killing innocent women!”
According to Suraya Parlika, the head of another NGO, the Afghan Women’s Association (AWA) the last two weeks have been among the deadliest for women since the Taliban were ousted in late 2001.
On 20 April a women was publicly executed for suspected adultery in the northeastern province of Badakhshan province. Then on 28 April a women was shot dead as she participated in a national day celebration in the western city of Heart. On Wednesday 4 May, three women were found gruesomely murdered in Baghlan province with notes attached to the bodies warning women not to work for NGOs or Western aid agencies.
“This is not only a security issue but also a political move to discourage and scare women as they are preparing to nominate themselves as candidates for the parliamentary elections,” Parlika said. She was addressing a rally in front of the women’s garden, one of the few places women can go to seek sanctuary, in the heart of Kabul city.
She said women from 26 organisations including human rights groups, women rights activists, civil society and political parties had participated. “In the past, rallies and demonstrations usually attracted thousands of women, but today it is not more than 500 and that is because women are scared of these shocking incidents. But they are also very angry,” another participant who declined to be named, said.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA), which is the leading body on women issues in Afghanistan, has confirmed that violence against women is increasing.
“These kind of incidents are increasing and our department of family violence is working to find out the symptoms and causes of these acts,” Fauzia Amini, head of MOWA’s legal department, told IRIN following the demonstration. Amini said many killings of women went unrecorded and uninvestigated. “Often people are too scared to report them,” she said.
The United Nations in Kabul urged the government to act quickly in bringing the guilty to justice.
Ariane Quentier, a senior public information officer with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Tuesday called on the government to take immediate action to protect women.
“In a context where violence against women remains too often unprosecuted and unpunished, it is particularly important that the authorities spare no effort to swiftly bring the perpetrators of these crimes [against women] to justice,” said Quentier.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions