United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday echoed statements by Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and US Army General Tommy Franks, saying that the “most serious challenge facing Afghanistan and Afghans today remains the lack of security,” according to Inter Press Service News. Early this morning, six rockets were fired at US bases in southern Afghanistan, according to Reuters. Though no injuries were reported, the attack highlights the lack of security in the region.
Further, evidence of increasing hostility to women’s rights in the country has been mounting, with the attack of four additional girls’ schools last weekend, bring the total known attacks to twelve over the last two months. In many of the attacks, including the four over the weekend, handwritten notes or pamphlets have appeared warning of future violence if parents send their girls to school, according to the New York Times. Many of the attacks have occurred in the remote regions away from the capitol of Kabul, where there are no foreign peacekeeping troops and local warlords with US-supplied weapons rule.
Pressure from fundamentalist factions of the country also led to the re-establishment of the former Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue, which was charged with enforcing a strict interpretation of Islamic law, according to USA Today. Under Karzai, the agency has been renamed the Ministry of Religious Instruction, which expresses its goal as offering citizens guidance, not using violence to enforce religious law.
Despite the continued violence in Afghanistan, the State Department last month issued a report questioning the expansion of peacekeeping troops, currently headed by Turkey, outside of Kabul. The report recommended that “armed regional leaders … provide short-term security.” Afghan women have indicated that security is their top priority. Threats to Loya Jirga delegates who have spoken out for human rights, including Minister of Women’s Affairs Dr. Sima Samar; the assassination of two government ministers; violence against women in the Northern provinces; violence against humanitarian aid workers; and the continued use of tactics of intimidation against the return of girls to school show the need for expansion of peace keeping forces both within and beyond Kabul is desperate. Turkey’s Ambassador Umit Pamir expressed in a letter to Annan his concern that donor countries have not fulfilled their promises for aid to Afghanistan, which has impeded the creation of a trained and equipped national army, according to IPS News. Annan further noted in a report to the UN General Assembly that “more emphatic security measures by the international community are required beyond the capital.”
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .