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06. March 2022 - News

Afghanistan: New wave of repression against women´s rights activists

Press Release: Cologne, 06 March 2022.
Around the world, women’s rights activists are being obstructed in their work, threatened and persecuted. On International Women’s Day, medica mondiale is drawing attention to the particularly difficult situation of Afghan women’s rights activists. While the focus of the international community is on Ukraine, medica mondiale is observing a new wave of repression from the Taliban against activists and former local employees of international organisations.

Soraya Sobhrang, Director of the Afghan partner organisation and Monika Hauser, Founder and Executive Director of medica mondiale

"The Taliban are exploiting the current media situation in order to step up their efforts against people who had been working towards a free society and human rights in the past. Houses are being searched. People are being threatened and imprisoned. Violence is being used to force families of activists to disclose information on the current location of their relatives," says Monika Hauser, board member at medica mondiale. She insists: "Afghanistan needs to remain a priority for German foreign policy. The German government has to live up to its responsibility and work at all levels to ensure protection for women's rights activists and other vulnerable people in Afghanistan."

Commitment to women's rights in Afghanistan can be life-threatening

Since the change of regime in August 2021, women have been disappearing from public life. Political participation and access to education is being refused to them. "Activists who stand up against repression and fight for self-determination of women and girls are receiving threats to their lives," says Soraya Sobhrang, Director of the Afghan partner organisation of medica mondiale. "Women who protest and exercise resistance are in mortal danger. They are being threatened, persecuted and imprisoned. At present there is no safe possibility for women to publicly assert their rights."

"Women's rights activists in the last 20 years have courageously and tenaciously established support structures for women affected by violence. Now there are no longer any points of contact for these women to turn to. Even self-organised groups for people affected by violence cannot meet any more without fear of persecution," says Sobhrang, whose organisation had previously operated this type of counselling point for women in Afghanistan.

Our demands to the German government: Evacuation, assistance and representation

The German government now has to find ways in which women's rights activists in the country and in exile can be supported in their work.

These include:

  • Evacuation for activists who want to leave the country
  • Helping to put in place protection measures for activists who want to continue working in the country
  • Guaranteeing political representation of women's rights activists and their demands during all negotiations with the Taliban

The German government's Action Plan for Afghanistan covers significant demands but there is a lack of tangible measures to implement it," says Monika Hauser.

"Women's rights activists have to sit at the negotiating table."

"Women's rights activists need international political solidarity and support now. The German government has to ensure that during all talks with the Taliban women's rights are put on the agenda as a core topic," demands Hauser. Sobhrang adds: "The playbook for the negotiations cannot be set by the Taliban. In other words: Afghan women's rights activists have to sit at the negotiating table. They are the ones who made the huge achievements in the past 20 years towards human rights, constitutional rights and a free society. Our demands have to be considered in any agreements with the Taliban."

Mitigating humanitarian crisis and protecting women's rights have to go hand-in-hand

"Women's rights need to be asserted on an ongoing basis, hand-in-hand with measures to combat the humanitarian crisis," says Hauser. Six months after the Taliban seized power, Afghanistan is in a deep humanitarian crisis, with more than half of the Afghan population threatened by starvation. International monies need to reach the Afghan population as soon as possible. Additionally, pressure needs to be applied to ensure that the Taliban allow women and girls to access these aid deliveries.

More than 20 years ago, medica mondiale helped to establish an Afghan partner organisation, working together with them until August 2021 to operate projects for women and girls affected by violence in the country. After August, the organisation did everything possible to support the 90 staff members of the partner organisation and their families in their efforts to leave the country and safely reach Germany. The majority of the colleagues have now found ways to flee to Germany.

Monika Hauser, founder and Executive Board Member of medica mondiale, and Soraya Sobhrang, Director of the Afghan partner organisation, are both available for interview.

Helena Haack, Press Officer
Tel.: +49 162 6825 603