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10. August 2022 - Press release

“Too little, too slow.” Evacuation of activists from Afghanistan one year after the Taliban took power

Press Release: Cologne 11 August 2022. The German government had announced it would evacuate vulnerable Afghans. But so far, much too little has been done, much too slowly. There are still thousands of people stuck in Afghanistan, some with and some without a confirmation of acceptance from Germany. One year after the Taliban seized power, medica mondiale is concerned when it looks at the current situation of women’s rights activists in Afghanistan, which presents a very real threat to their lives. So medica mondiale is calling for quick solutions for those affected.

Menschen auf einer Demonstration mit Plakaten und Solidaritätsbekundungen für Frauen in Afghanistan.
Worlwide people demonstrate because of the situation in Afghanistan

Women no longer in politics, decreasing numbers of women in public life

Within a very short time after the international forces withdrew, Afghanistan became the only country in the world where not a single woman occupies a political or administrative office. Women are forbidden from participating in government or politics. They are systematically excluded from public life. Girls’ schools are closed after 7th grade. In setting up their vision of a state, the Taliban are denying the existence of women.

“In Afghanistan we are seeing the rights of women and girls being restricted or removed in all areas of life,”

says Monika Hauser, Board Member of medica mondiale.

Working towards constitutional law and equal rights now means putting your life at risk

Ms Hauser continues:

“People who in the last 20 years were standing up to the dominance of patriarchy and working towards constitutional law, equality and the visibility of women are now in mortal danger, thanks to the abrupt, unconditional withdrawal of the international forces.”

In August 2021, our colleagues at the Afghan partner organisation of medica mondiale had to stop working for security reasons. They received abusive phone calls and death threats. Since then, medica mondiale has been able to help them evacuate to Germany, thanks primarily to the efforts of civil society initiatives such as Kabul Luftbrücke (Airlift Kabul).

Nonetheless, medica mondiale is very concerned as it observes the further deterioration in the situation for women’s rights activists who are still in Afghanistan, as Ms Hauser explains:

“They are being threatened, persecuted and killed. Relatives are being put under pressure and blackmailed. As international attention shifted to the war of aggression in Ukraine, the Taliban started a new wave of repression against activists. Almost every day we still receive at least one message from former colleagues, allies and other activists. Their life is at risk and they urgently need to leave the country.”

German government doing too little, too slowly

“The topic of women’s rights was instrumentalised as a justification for the NATO intervention and the involvement of the international community. So the German government still bears some responsibility for the security of these people, even after the withdrawal of international forces. It supported the work of our colleagues for 20 years,”

argues Hauser.

At the end of last year, the German Foreign Office presented an “Action Plan for Afghanistan”, but large parts have not been implemented sufficiently or at all. The plan does list some important measures that could protect women’s rights and activists, but they are only very slowly being put into action. For instance, there is still no possibility for activists to secure a quick way to leave the country. And now the Taliban is preventing buses from crossing the border or passing checkpoints.

“Too little is happening and too slowly, whereas the situation of the activists is continuing to escalate. The measures listed in Germany’s Action Plan will come too late for vulnerable people,”

says Ms Hauser.

“We do acknowledge that the government has made some efforts, but these are insufficient considering the 20 years of military intervention and the disastrous withdrawal.”

Immediate acceptance of vulnerable people necessary

The German government needs to make it possible for women’s rights activists and other vulnerable people to evacuate quickly to Germany. They were supported by the German government for 20 years in their struggle for a free society and it is this work which now endangers their life.

Furthermore, medica mondiale is calling for the Federal Government to consistently pressure the Taliban government to uphold women’s rights. Additionally, civil society projects in the country need financial support, such as in the area of girls’ education or support for women and girls affected by violence.