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Women’s rights continue to deteriorate in Afghanistan, MEPs say more can be done

A new map created by the Afghan Witness project shows documented evidence of women’s rights deteriorating in Afghanistan

By: EBR - Posted: Thursday, May 18, 2023

Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban have been violently chipping away at progress made over the 20 years since they were ousted in a US-led invasion. Women have been stripped of their rights and are increasingly faced with human rights violations at the hands of the regime.
Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban have been violently chipping away at progress made over the 20 years since they were ousted in a US-led invasion. Women have been stripped of their rights and are increasingly faced with human rights violations at the hands of the regime.

by Sofia Stuart Leeson

A new map created by the Afghan Witness project shows documented evidence of women’s rights deteriorating in Afghanistan, and while the EU’s vocal support and condemnation of the Taliban is an important step in the right direction, more needs to be done.

Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban have been violently chipping away at progress made over the 20 years since they were ousted in a US-led invasion. Women have been stripped of their rights and are increasingly faced with human rights violations at the hands of the regime.

On Thursday, Afghan Witness launched an interactive live map that documents verified evidence of human rights abuses in Afghanistan. Afghan Witness is a project created by the Centre for Information Resilience, a UK-based non-profit that uses open-source data and techniques to investigate human rights abuses, war crimes and disinformation in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Myanmar.

“Every entry represents an incident of violence that has been verified, analysed and investigated by our analysts over the last 18 months,” said David Osborn, team leader of Afghan Witness.

The map records open-source data of abuses, security incidents and protests since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, with data collected from 2021 until April 2023.

“There is a difficult aspect to transforming these cases of violence into data points on a map – each one is significant and it is important to not lose the people’s stories that each dot represents, in pursuit of data and trends,” he added.

“We have seen the Taliban violently suppress women’s rights protests that occurred outdoors, many of which are documented on our map. This led to many women activists staging protests indoors and posting videos online, but further intimidation led to women covering their face for fear of reprisals,” said Osborn.

“Violence and the threat of violence against women in Afghanistan is the worst it has been for many decades,” he added. His team has recorded over a hundred reported incidents of femicide over a year-long period – with some being killed by family members, husbands, or the Taliban.

Situation on the ground
In March, UN Women published a report on the public consultations done with Afghan women inside the country, which was shared with EURACTIV. The report mentions that 66% of the women consulted believe that the situation for women and girls will further deteriorate within the next three months.

The report recommends that UN member states (which includes every EU member state) coordinate pressure on the de facto authorities and negotiate directly with those authorities alongside Afghan women.

Where the EU stands

In March, the Femm Committee organised a public hearing together with the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Afghanistan chaired by Petras Austrevicius MEP to discuss the situation of Afghan girls and women.

“One of the most common demands made by Afghan women is not to recognise the Taliban, which we are committed to,” Austrevicius told EURACTIV.

“They are also asking for justice, including gender apartheid perpetrated by the Taliban; thus, we strongly support the ongoing ICC investigation,” he added.

When asked if the EU could be doing more, Austrevicius said that “EU support to the Afghan people must reach them by bypassing the de facto government. The European Parliament will continue to call on the EC to increase humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.”

“At the same time, it is our duty as Members of the European Parliament to ensure that EU aid is used effectively and delivers tangible results,” he added.

During this public hearing, “we expressed the belief that the EU and the rest of the world cannot accept this situation and remain silent,” FEMM Committee Chair and MEP Robert Biedron told EURACTIV.

In April, the Taliban banned Afghan women from working for the United Nations and its agencies. The EU condemned this ban, and while this “external pressure is not enough to bring the much-needed change,” it is “absolutely necessary” that the EU is taking action and will continue to do so, MEP Radka Maxova told EURACTIV.

According to Maxova, the EU needs to continue voicing its support because it is important for the people of Afghanistan to see “that we are on their side.” Additionally, it is important for EU citizens to see this so that they understand the situation in Afghanistan “is not getting any better and that we are obligated to help people in need,” she added.

Maxova also shared a few suggestions on what more the EU could do, like provide scholarships and work visas to eligible Afghans as well as labelling the discrimination against women under the Taliban as “gender apartheid”.

“The EU should also document current historical injustice, oppression and human rights violations, especially women’s rights violations, and be the voice of Afghan women in important international decision-making forums,” she added.

*first published in: Euractiv.com

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