HRW Reports Increased Violence, Severe Discrimination in Afghanistan

The situation in Afghanistan is worsening as insurgencies become increasingly more violent and Afghan women continue to meet severe discrimination and oppression in society.

Although U.S. forces ousted the Taliban from Kabul four years ago, insecurity continues to plague the Islamic state that remains one of the least developed countries in the world, according to the 2006 Human Rights Watch World Report released on Jan. 18.

Taliban and other anti-government forces significantly expanded their insurgency in southern Afghanistan in 2005, according to the report. The year saw several suicide bomb attacks, previously rare in Afghanistan, take place mostly in southern Afghanistan.

“The sharp increase in violence indicates that the Taliban has succeeded in regrouping, with significant assistance from across the Pakistani border,” the 2006 HRW World Report stated. “It also reflects growing resentment by local Afghans against a central government that fails to deliver on promises of development and the heavy-handed tactics employed by U.S. and coalition forces.”

Todd Nettleton, Voice of the Martyrs USA Director of News Service, confirms that the Taliban is still in Afghanistan. Nettleton wrote in an e-mail to The Christian Post that VOM Christian contacts in Afghanistan reported even a year ago that “the Taliban have not left.”

“They have shaved their beards and taken off the black turbans, but they are still here," he said.

Yet in spite of the growing power of the Taliban, the majority of Afghans say that the numerous regional warlords are the greatest source of insecurity rather than the Taliban.

HRW noted that “armed clashes between rival factions decreased in 2005, but in many areas, warlords and their troops continue to engage in arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, kidnapping, extortion, torture, murder, extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects, forced displacement, and rape of women, girls, and boys.”

Women and girls suffer the most from insecurity, experiencing severe discrimination and restrictions, HRW reported. Only 35 percent of school-age girls are in school, and according to the 2005 U.N. and Afghan government figures, most marriages involved girls under the age of 16 who are forced into marriage.

Moreover, only ten percent of girls attend secondary school and in five Afghan provinces in the south, while at least 90 percent of school-age girls do not attend school.

In addition, women who lead an active public life as political candidates, journalists, teachers, or NGO workers, or who criticize local rulers, continue to face threats and violence.

In mid-April 2005, a 29-year-old woman was beaten to death by her own family for adultery in Badakhshan province. And on May 4, three women were found murdered in Baghlan province with notes attached to their bodies warning women not to work for nongovernmental organization or Western aid agencies, according to the report.

Yet in spite of all the shortcomings of the treatment of Afghan women, the parliamentary elections on Oct. 18, 2005 marked progress. Although women candidates – who were guaranteed at least a quarter of the parliament seats – were faced with the challenge to reach out to voters and campaign, 68 women were elected in parliament. This number is slightly higher than the 25 percent quota set aside for them.

The Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 – which contains survey information on human rights development in more than 70 countries in 2005 – concluded that although conditions are better than under Taliban, the progress has been both “inadequate and too slow.”

"Having an elected government is great; having a constitution in place is wonderful," VOM’s Nettleton wrote. "But there is still a great deal of work to be done to insure that freedom can be a reality for the children of Afghanistan as they grow up; especially children who are girls and children who choose to follow Jesus."