Herat Governor Ismail Khan meets with teachers.
Photo by Behrouz Mehri/AFP.
Although girls' schools are functioning
in Herat, women at university are generally banned
from attending classes with men and fewer than a dozen
have higher level government jobs, according to Human
Rights Watch. Khan discourages women from working
for international aid organizations and has forbidden
women in such jobs to shake hands with Westerners.
While the situation is particularly
bad in Herat, it is hardly unique. In Kabul last summer
nearly 30 women were imprisoned for such "crimes"
as running away from an abusive husband, or having
sought to marry someone they loved rather than the
spouse chosen by their parents.
The wives of most government ministers--
including Hamid Karzai's wife, who is a doctor-- are
never seen in public and even women government officials
still say they feel "safer" wearing a burqa when they
The Taliban ministry for virtue and
vice has been reconstituted and last summer a policy
began of cracking down on brides and bridegrooms celebrating
any part of their weddings together.
Human Rights Watch advocates many
steps for Khan, including the repeal of all policies
that violate the human rights of women and girls,
in particular rights to freedom of expression, association,
and movement. It recommends that Karzai and his government
work with international donors to ensure reconstruction
funds do not directly benefit leaders like Khan and
that they investigate abuses.
However, the international community
also has leverage and should use it, say HRW officials.
The UN needs to put more human rights monitors on
the ground, and they need more resources. Funds shoudl
be cut off to warlords like Khan who implement repressive
measures toward women and girls. And there needs to
be far more direct support-- both financial and political--
for Afghanistan's Ministry of Women's Affairs and
Human RIghts Commission so those organizations can
support women in areas such as Herat.
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