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Friday, October 7

Afghanistan ten years on: Slow progress and failed promises


Ten years after a US-led military invasion removed the Taleban from government in Afghanistan, Amnesty International says the Afghan government and its international supporters have failed to keep many of the promises they made to the people of Afghanistan.

Amnesty International has released a scorecard that assesses the state of human rights in the country.

“Hopes were high in Afghanistan in 2001 following the international intervention but since then human rights gains have been put at risk by corruption, mismanagement and attacks by insurgent groups who have shown systematic contempt for human rights and the laws of war,” says Chris Kerr Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand’s spokesperson.

“Today, many Afghans dare to hope for improvements in human rights in their country. The Afghan government and its international supporters must back these hopes with concrete action to defend them.”

The scorecard has found that while there has been some progress in enacting human rights laws, reduction of discrimination against women and access to education and health care, progress on justice and policing, human security and displacement has stagnated or even regressed.

One of the justifications for the 2001 military intervention was to improve women’s rights, which under the Taleban had been dire.

New laws that give equal legal status to men and women and also set aside a quota of a quarter of parliamentary seats for women are signs of progress.

Yet, in reality violence and discrimination against women continues, and the scorecard shows that Afghanistan is still one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman.

At the start of 2010 the Afghan government began a reconciliation process with the Taleban and other insurgent groups. But a 70-member “High Peace Council” body established to negotiate with the Taleban has only nine women members and Afghan women’s groups have expressed their fear that their modest gains will be traded away in exchange for a ceasefire.

“It’s vital we don't sell out women’s rights in expedient peace deals. The peace process in Afghanistan shouldn’t mean putting a price on women’s rights. These are non-negotiable. The Taleban has an appalling human rights record, and all negotiation for reconciliation must include genuine representation for Afghan women,” says Chris Kerr.

Without the restrictions imposed by the Taleban, access to education has significantly improved. There are now 7 million children attending school, of whom 37 per cent are girls.

However, in the nine months leading up to December 2010 at least 74 schools in Afghanistan were destroyed or closed as a result of insurgent violence including rocket attacks, bombings, arson, and threats.

In the last decade increasing numbers of Afghan civilians have been injured during armed conflict.

The UN documented 1,462 civilian deaths in the first six months of 2011, another record high. 80 per cent of these deaths were attributed to “Anti-Government Elements”, with IEDs and suicide attacks, accounting for almost half of all civilian deaths and injuries.

The conflict has left nearly 450,000 internally displaced people in Afghanistan, mainly situated in Kabul and Balkh provinces and often living in extremely poor conditions with limited access to food, adequate sanitation or safe drinking water.

“The Afghan government’s international allies, including the US, have repeatedly said that they will not abandon the Afghan people. They must stand by this commitment to ensure that rights are not swept aside as the international community seeks an exit,” says Kerr.