In March, 2015 a young Afghan woman called Farkhunda, was lynched by a mob in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, having been falsely accused of burning the Quran. A few days after the vicious incident, women’s rights activists, who identified that the brutal attack was an act of patriarchy, occupied the streets of Kabul to demand justice. Both women and men came together and there was a powerful surge of opposition to patriarchy and the culture of violence against women and girls that has ruled the country for years. In a powerful break with tradition and demonstration of solidarity, women carried Farkhunda’s coffin. It was believed to be a turning point for women’s rights in Afghanistan. An environment of hope was created, that such heinous crimes wouldn’t be repeated.
However, it was not the last case of public violence against a woman, last month 19 year old Rokhshana was stoned in the Western zone of the country having resisting forced marriage. Rokhshana was accused of adultery and inhumanly stoned to death for reclaiming the right to choose her partner.

These are two of the very few cases that have received media coverage and global attention, but violence against women and girls is pandemic in Afghanistan. According to a recent UN Women report, 87.2% of women are experiencing some sort of physical, psychological, sexual, economic or social violence.

An increase of recorded attacks is in part a welcome trend; it seems that the more women learn about their rights, the more they are coming forward to report attacks. However, many are pessimistic about how long these small gains can last, as war in Afghanistan enters its fortieth year.

Along with women’s rights activists within Afghanistan, we fear that lack of security and an absence of effective rule of law are fuelling an attitude of impunity, contributing to an intensification of attacks against women and girls. Meanwhile a dearth of trusted support and services for women and girls at risk, prevents many from seeking and receiving help and lack of education leads to deeply malign cultural practices, such as “honour” killing, stoning and forced marriages. Education for all, not only for girls, will give society the ability to break free from practices that not only violate women’s rights but human rights too.

As more and more women within Afghanistan are bravely raising their voices by reporting and campaigning for change, we, members of the international women’s rights community, also have a crucial role to play. By celebrating and amplifying the voices of inspiring women within Afghanistan, we contribute to the movement pushing for the rule of law, trusted support services and education, which are fundamental for lasting progress for women’s rights.

Written by Elaha Walizadeh IKWRO’s Pashto Speaking Advisor Advocate

Edited by Sara Browne IKWRO’s Campaign Officer & Zahra Rasouli Dari Speaking Advisor Advocate

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