Execution highlights concerns about Afghan aid deal
News of the execution of an Afghan woman accused of adultery by the Taliban will press home the need to secure guarantees about women’s rights as the US prepares to withdraw its troops in 2014.
After international leaders at a Tokyo conference tied billions of dollars of aid to the need to fight corruption, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that women should also “have the chance to benefit from and contribute to Afghanistan’s progress”.
But women’s rights activists will want firm guarantees after it emerged that a member of the Taliban shot dead a woman known as Najiba in front of a crowd of men in Qol village in Parwan province just north of the capital Kabul.
The Afghan government issued a statement saying it “strongly condemns this un-Islamic and inhuman action by those professional killers and has ordered the Parwan police to find the culprits and bring them to justice”.
But the campaign organisation Avaaz has also highlighted concerns about women’s access to justice after it emerged Afghan local police accused of raping and torturing a young woman called Lal Bibi have so far escaped punishment because of fears that the force’s image would be tarnished.
The case first came to light in June when the 18-year-old and her family publicly accused police in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province of raping her.
They claim that a local militia commander ordered his men to abduct her after after her cousin offended a member of his family and for five days she was chained to a wall, sexually assaulted and beaten.
Despite calls by President Hamid Karzai that the culprits be brought to justice and for the police unit involved to be disarmed, the National Security Council is reported to be reluctant to take action against one of the American-trained militias that are considered vital to hopes of establishing stability.
The decision of the girl’s family to go public is rare, but they have also suggested that unless the men who raped the teenager are brought to justice they may kill her, or she may come under pressure to commit suicide.
At the conference in Tokyo, leaders of 70 nations agreed to Afghanistan’s request for foreign assistance of $4 billion in development aid every year over the next four years.
The aid comes with a raft of conditions aimed at ensuring Afghanistan does more to combat corruption, to safeguard the democratic process and the rule of law and human rights including those of women.
Amnesty International Afghanistan researcher Horia Mosadiq, who took part in the conference, said that at this “critical moment” it was vital that there was confirmation that leaders commit to “credible and quantifiable benchmarks to monitor human rights progress such as freedom of expression and media, women’s political participation, the number of schools open in an area, school attendance, women’s access to healthcare and trends in maternal and infant mortality”.
Campaigners highlighted the fact that the Afghan police force responsible for the rape depends heavily on foreign funding and urged donor countries to ensure that funds are not spent on a police force that acts with “appalling impunity” and is failing to protect women.
Avaaz supporters signed a petition demanding that countries attending the conference ensure strong guarantees to protect women’s rights when pledging aid to the Afghan government.
“We urge you to ensure that any financial aid to Afghanistan is conditioned on an end to the blatant impunity that has resulted in the rape, abduction and torture of Lal Bibi by the Afghan Local Police. Afghan officials must immediately bring her rapists to justice and work to protect women across Afghanistan,” the petition said.