Afghan women activists face rising violence, Amnesty says
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Afghan women activists who are working to improve the human rights situation in their country face increased violence, including threats, sexual assault and assassinations, Amnesty International said Tuesday.
The London-based watchdog criticized Afghan authorities in a report released in Kabul, saying that both the Afghan government and the international community have abandoned the women activists despite the gains made in the past decade.
Based on interviews with more than 50 women rights defenders and their relatives across the country, Amnesty said it found that Afghan authorities consistently ignored or refused to act on threats against women.
"The lack of protection is simply shocking," Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's secretary general, told reporters. He said that out of the 50 cases Amnesty examined, in only one instance was an arrest made. In all the other cases, complaints were neglected or ignored by officials.
The report's release comes as Afghanistan is examining traditional attitudes on women following some high profile cases of abuse and violence.
In late March, a 27-year-old woman was beaten to death by a mob in downtown Kabul, while a crowd watched and filmed the attack. Eyewitnesses have said that police failed to prevent the attack and in some cases participated.
The woman, known as Farkhunda, had been falsely accused of burning a Quran, according to government investigators. Her killing has been widely condemned, and many activists believe it could become the pivot on which Afghanistan's culture of impunity for abuse of women turns.
While Shetty said that many attacks on women human rights activists were by religious extremists like the Taliban and other conservative forces, government officials, local commanders and even male colleagues of women had also been involved in violence against them.
Despite legal protections, Amnesty says that Afghan women rights workers who do report violence or attacks are put at further risk simply for speaking out.