Afghan Human Rights Office Opens in Herat; Gender Advocacy, Security Needed
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, led by former women's affairs minister Dr Sima Samar, opened its Herat office today—the first beyond Kabul. Among those attending the inauguration ceremony were Herat Gov. Ismail Khan and UN and government officials. The Associated Press reported that after the ceremony, an Afghan journalist working for a US government-supported radio station was arrested, beaten, and then released. The Commission is expected to investigate the case. The warlord Khan is notorious for stifling political dissent and independent media throughout the province while imposing Taliban-like restrictions on women and girls.
International donors this week answered a call Monday from Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani requesting $2.25 billion in foreign aid for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Friday. Pledging $2 billion, the countries reiterated their commitment to assist in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. The US exceeded its earlier pledges with a promise of $820 million, while Japan and the European Union agreed to give $500 million over the next two and a half years and $432 million until 2005, respectively, according to Reuters. Afghan officials said $1.7 billion would go towards infrastructure redevelopment and other areas targeted for funding would include boosting security and combating the re-burgeoning opium industry.
The stream of foreign aid entering Afghanistan suggests that much work remains to be done. Last November, the US, Japan, and Saudi Arabia pledged aid to resume construction of the critical Kabul-Kandahar-Herat highway. Earlier this year, Japan donated US$35 million toward an UN-supported disarmament program, reported the Associated Press. Last week, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced $60 million to print textbooks and rebuild schools throughout Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, progress remains slow. A report released by the International Crisis Group (ICG) entitled “Afghanistan: Women and Reconstruction” argues that sustainable improvements will require an institutional and cultural overhaul, “mainstreaming gender issues in the development process as a whole,” stated the organization’s press release. ICG Senior Analyst in Afghanistan, Vikram Parekh stated, “…many women activists operate in a difficult environment and some report being threatened. ICG has consistently argued for the extension of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond the capital and this is just as important in this context, so that Afghan women activist can operate effectively.”
Meanwhile, 15 women remain imprisoned in Kabul’s jail—mostly on charges of petty crimes, such as adultery or refusal to marry with parental consent. Last November, in celebration of Ramadan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai granted amnesty to 20 women jailed in Kabul.
12/11/2013 Human Rights Day Celebrated Around The World - Yesterday marked International Human Rights Day, a day to celebrate human rights advances and to assess the challenges that lie ahead in protecting them.
"The fundamentals for protecting and promoting human rights are largely in place: these include a strong and growing body of international human rights law and standards, as well as institutions to interpret the laws, monitor compliance and apply them to new and emerging human rights issues," said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a statement. . . .
12/11/2013 UConn Under Federal Investigation For Mishandling Sexual Assault Cases - The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) informed the University of Connecticut on Monday that it will investigate the school for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases and violating Title IX, the federal law that requires all recipients of federal financial assistance for education programs and activities to prohibit sex discrimination and sexual harassment [PDF].
The investigation was sparked after seven women filed a formal complaint in October alleging that UConn had failed to protect them from sexual assault and exposed them to a sexually hostile environment.One woman says her attacker was expelled from campus but later readmitted without her knowledge. . . .
12/11/2013 Massachusetts Democrat Katherine Clark Wins Congressional Seat - Democrat Katherine Clark will become the fifth woman to represent Massachusetts in the US House Tuesday, after easily defeating three opponents in a special election.
"Six years ago, there wasn't a single woman representing Massachusetts in Congress," said Niki Tsongas, the only other woman representing Massachusetts in the House. . . .