Afghan crisis: Women, activists demand immediate ceasefire, protection for civilians

1,200 activists and women from Afghanistan and Iran pen an open letter asking the international community to intervene as the future of women in Afghanistan is threatened once again


As images of chaos and panic show hapless Afghan citizens feeding for their lives as the Taliban took over Afghanistan’s  capital Kabul on Sunday, over 1,200 Afghan and Iranian women and civil society activists have signed an open letter demanding “an immediate ceasefire as well as protections for Afghan civilians”. They emphasise that the women of Afghanistan are equal citizens and demand “that the protection of women’s rights be a prerequisite to any future peace talks.”

Coming together as “true friends of Afghanistan”, the signatories of this open letter have declared their support for “Afghan women’s demands.” They have joined Afghan women to “call on the United Nations, the government of Afghanistan and national and international actors to fulfill their obligations and undertake responsible measures that would lead to a just peace that protects the interests and rights of all the people of the country.”

They stated that the women of Afghanistan have suffered “through ruinous wars for more than 40 years”. A crucial point raised here is that the lives of women have been “impacted by a war in which they have played no role.” This, apart from the loss of lives of family members has “resulted in the loss of their human dignity.” The women there have suffered not just the endless violence of war, but also “sexual apartheid, kidnapping, rape, slavery, absolute poverty and injustice”. They and their children are most vulnerable as many have had their houses destroyed and have lost their spouses and parents. “Several generations of our people have been displaced in their own land, as well as in the regional states and the world-over,” stated the open letter.

This suffering has been most intense for the women of Afghanistan, who “have been deprived of all human rights, of basic living facilities, security, health, education and employment, social, political and cultural activities, and the growth and development of an independent civil society,” stated the activists.

Some hope for a better life, that seemed to have risen in recent times even though there was “continuous political turmoil,” they write, addin that all that has yet again been destroyed with war and occupation. They mince no words and hold the United States of America responsible. The signatories state that “flames of war have been reignited throughout the country and the Taliban has reemerged as a result of America’s irresponsible departure, the weakness of the central government and inaction or support for the Taliban by neighboring countries.” These factors they state have now put “the future and lives of women under serious threat once again.” 

The Taliban’s systematic violence against women

The activists recalled Taliban’s systematic violence against women, and its commission of war crimes, including “rape, forced marriage, sexual and gendered violence and egregious human rights violations,” and warn that all of that now points towards “a dark future for the women of Afghanistan.” They alleged that even the “peace talks move in the direction of legitimising numerous perpetrators of war crimes and human catastrophes in Afghanistan.”

The open letter reminds the world how  “voices of independent Afghan society and the women who are being lashed, stoned and forced to marry the Taliban combatants are not being heard during the peace talks.” The peace negotiations the women activists state “do not include much on peace and appear more as bargaining for a power grab.” They have demanded that “women of Afghanistan are equal citizens, and the protection of their rights should be a prerequisite, a unanimously agreed guarantee of all parties during any peace talks.”

The open letter has asked the United Nations Security General, the UN Human Rights Council, international human rights organisations and the international community to pay heed “before the country becomes an even greater disaster for women, and intervene to protect the rights of Afghan people.” The activists have demanded that:

  • All parties to the war immediately adopt a ceasefire while accepting and implementing all binding international humanitarian laws and conventions.
  • The Government of Afghanistan refrain from using military tactics and strategies that endanger the lives of civilians.
  • Any change of political order or the constitution happen through elections and by the will of the people of Afghanistan, not through war and military intervention.
  • Warring parties, including the Taliban, armed opposition forces, international forces and government forces, are forced to accept responsibility and be held accountable for past and current war crimes and atrocities.
  • The UN Secretary General, the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan, the UN Human Rights Council and other international organizations use all their authorities and mechanisms at their disposal to end this war.
  • Given the failure of the Doha agreement and the Taliban to uphold international obligations, the Human Rights Council establish a fact-finding mission to investigate and follow up on human rights violations and atrocities (crimes against humanity?) by the Taliban and other insurgent forces.
  • The Government of Afghanistan, the international community and human rights agencies cooperate to prevent the Taliban’s organized atrocities and prosecute the perpetrators in international criminal courts to break the cycle of impunity and end the violations.
  • The international community, in particular all the countries that have invested in Afghanistan in recent years, as well as the United Nations, ensure the peace talks are real and in compliance with universal humanitarian principles and values during all stages. Such principles and values have been achieved as a result of endeavors and sacrifices of tens of thousands of men and women during more than two decades, and are not negotiable.
  • The rights to life and security, equality in rights, the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women, freedom of expression and political, economic and social activities of women, ethnic, religious and sexual groups shall be ensured.
  • Equal access for all children to education, including higher education, shall be ensured in all provinces, districts, cities and villages of Afghanistan.
  • The right to work and participate in all social and political aspects of life shall be ensured for all citizens of Afghanistan, in particular women, as a non-negotiable right.
  • Drafting, legislating and implementing the civil and penal laws shall be based on the Constitution of Afghanistan, the national parliament shall be the sole legislating body, and the creation of any non-elected body, including the Supreme Theological Council of the Taliban, and the practicing of any unconstitutional power shall be outlawed

The full statement may be read here:


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