Afghanistan: Peace, Security and the Role of Women

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1 Apr 2002

Several months after the overthrow of the Taliban, Afghan women are still unsafe in their own country. Large parts of Afghanistan are controlled by local warlords, competing for power and taking revenge for past injustices committed by the largely Pashtun Taliban. Women, particularly of the Pashtun ethnic group, are reportedly being subjected to widespread rapes, beatings, kidnappings and other forms of violence and intimidation. Lawlessness and the presence of many armed factions, especially outside the capital, Kabul, and the lack of an adequate police force able to bring criminals to justice means that the reign of terror will continue without challenge. Without peace and security, the Afghan people cannot hope to build a stable society and Afghan women cannot effectively assert the fundamental human rights denied to them for so long.

Following the tragic events of September 11 and its aftermath and in response to a request from women in Afghanistan for support and solidarity, Equality Now, the Feminist Majority, V-Day, the Center for Strategic Initiatives of Women and the European Women's Lobby, in collaboration with UNIFEM and the Gender Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, convened the Afghan Women's Summit for Democracy. Forty Afghan women leaders from around the world, broadly representative of the women of Afghanistan, took part in the Summit, which took place in December 2001 at the European Commission in Brussels. At the conclusion of the Summit, the Afghan women issued the Brussels Proclamation, a blueprint for the reconstruction of Afghanistan that sets forth the importance of full and equal involvement of women at all levels of Afghan society, with a particular focus on human rights and the constitution, education, media and culture, health and refugees and internally displaced women.

Delegates of the Afghan Women's Summit subsequently met with Members of the European Parliament, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, members of the United States Congress, the United Nations Security Council and Secretary-General Kofi Annan. At each meeting, the delegates conveyed the strong message that peace and women's rights in Afghanistan could not be assured without security. The delegates specifically requested that the United Nations Security Council send peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan with a mandate to disarm the warring factions. In December 2001 the Security Council authorized the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in the maintenance of security in Kabul and its surrounding areas. The ISAF is now at full operational capacity, but it consists of only 4,800 troops, and its current mandate is aimed solely at providing a secure environment for the Afghan Interim Authority and United Nations personnel operating in the country.

Afghan women have repeatedly requested the expansion of the ISAF, which is considered not only by them but also by the Afghan Interim Authority and by the United Nations to be critical to the maintenance of peace and security and the restoration of democracy and human rights in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai, Chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority, called on the Security Council on 30 January 2002 to authorize the expansion of the presence of multinational forces in Kabul to other cities. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his March 2002 report to the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council expressed the hope that the Security Council would consider that the existing Afghan and international security structures in Afghanistan will not be adequate to address the threat to security. He also called attention to the wishes of the Afghan people for the expansion of the international security force. The Secretary General expressed fear that security threats are likely to increase as the convening of the emergency loya jirga to establish a new government in Afghanistan approaches in June. Yet the United States Government and the French Government, both permanent members of the Security Council with the power of veto, continue to oppose the expansion of the international security force. The deployment of additional international forces in Afghanistan must be made an urgent priority before the situation deteriorates further and the risk of relapse into civil war becomes a reality.

In addition to requesting international assistance to build peace and security in Afghanistan, delegates of the Afghan Women's Summit for Democracy asked that international aid for the reconstruction of their country be used as leverage to ensure the rights of women in Afghanistan. There is increasing concern that despite the commitments made by donor countries at a meeting on aid for Afghanistan held in January in Tokyo, very little of the funding promised has been delivered and virtually no funds have actually reached Afghans directly, particularly Afghan women. This, too, is adding to instability and desperation in the country where little progress can be seen in the rebuilding effort.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the President of the Security Council asking him to circulate your letter to the other Security Council members. Call on the Security Council to authorize the immediate expansion of UN-authorized security forces in Afghanistan and to post these forces throughout the country with a mandate to disarm warring factions. Please also write to the President of the United States, urging him to reverse United States opposition to the expansion of the security forces and noting the special responsibility of the United States Government to help rebuild Afghanistan following the destruction caused by US bombing in the war. Urge him also to ensure that the funding commitments made by the United States and other donor countries in Tokyo are honored and delivered without further delay. Letters should be addressed to:

Security Council President for July 2003
H.E. Mr. Inocencio F. Arias
Permanent Mission of Spain
823 United Nations Plaza
345 East 46th Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10017, USA
Fax: 1-212-949-7247

Security Council President for September 2003
Sir Jeremy Quentin Greenstock, KCMG
Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom
One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 28th Floor
885 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017, USA
Fax: 1-212-745-9316

Security Council President for August 2003
H.E. Dr. Mikhail Wehbe
Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic
820 Second Avenue, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10017, USA
Fax: 1-212-983-4439

Security Council President for October 2003
H.E. John D. Negroponte
Permanent Mission of the United States
799 UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017, USA
Fax: 1-212-415-4443