By AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Women are at the front line in protecting women’s human rights in Afghanistan. They are teachers, doctors, journalists, activists and politicians.
Many have been killed or threatened because of their work to protect women’s rights, while some have fled the country.
They face intimidation and attacks; some are threatened by their families for daring to speak out. The Taliban see their work as defying culture, religion and accepted role of women in society.
As Australian troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of 2013 the question must be asked, what will happen to the women?
Amnesty International spoke to four brave and committed women – some who have paid a high price for their bravery – about the risks they face in championing the rights of women and girls. Here is the second of their stories. (See the first here.) For security reasons, names* have been changed.
Shala* works as a woman’s rights activist and teacher in Helmand province, where Taliban control and influence is widespread. Here she tells Amnesty International about the risks and challenges she faces in her work.
There are lots of risks for women working in Helmand. We go to work fully covered under the burqa [veil]. The society here is very restrictive towards woman and conservative elements do not like it when women leave the home and work in an office with men who are not family members.
I receive lots of threatening phone calls, warning me not to leave the house and there are people following me. They warn me not go to work or help anyone. They said “you provoke our youth”. I have received so many threats by phone but, despite this, I continue with my work.
I deal with cases of domestic violence, women committing suicide and self-immolations. For example, I recently had a case of an 18-year-old woman who came to me and said her husband had beaten her and kept her hanging by a rope inside a well for three days. Her body was covered in marks showing that she had been severely beaten and abused. We don’t have shelters for women here in Helmand, so I took her to the local Children’s Centre. I don’t know what happened to her.