By Asma Nemati (in Afghanistan)
Even nine years after the ousting of the Taliban, major sectors of Afghan society are in dire need of continuing help. The status of women under the Taliban was highlighted over and over again through pictures of burqa-clad women, public beatings, and – worst of all – the notorious video of a woman being shot at point-blank range in the middle of Ghazi stadium here in Kabul. In fact, I visited Ghazi stadium for an event a few weeks ago and it was a chilling moment for me to see the exact place where the unfortunate lady was murdered.
Compared to then, many programs have been initiated to secure and protect the rights of women. However, it will take time before any authentic progress can be widely observed; that is, the progress of women not only in the major cities – Kabul, Herat, Mazar, etc. – but also in the provinces. Violence against women is a major concern, and with a centralized government out of touch with most remote villages in provinces outside of Kabul, upholding law and order is quite a tall order. Unfortunately, women in particular are the most vulnerable group in this situation as besides family protection, no other source of security is readily available.
Many might have heard tragic stories of Afghan women suffering from beatings, domestic violence and rape. In the provinces, women who seek refuge in police headquarters are almost always turned down and told to go back home. In the case of rape, the woman is usually reprimanded and blamed for the crime, while the man escapes without any punishment or even a trial. However, NGOs like the International Developmental Law Organization (ILDO) are working hard to turn the tide and to make sure that women are guaranteed their rights to a fair trial and that proper follow-up is done. About a month ago, I was invited to attend a press conference at the Attorney General’s Office here in Kabul. The occasion was to inaugurate a department dedicated to protecting women’s rights – the Violence Against Women unit – another step forward in protecting Afghanistan’s women.
The fruits of the many changes being brought upon Afghans and Afghanistan will not be seen just yet, as a close friend working within the Afghan government always says. It will take at least a couple of decades for major problems – such as security – to be solved and then to build Afghan society from scratch again. Let’s cross our fingers and not lose hope.
Asma Nemati is based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her blogs have appeared in Foreign Policy and The Huffington Post.