A secular state in which the presence of women in parliament was 25%, children’s school attendance had risen by 50%, girls had regained access to education and the world of work and where, thanks to the associations, many steps forward had been taken against discrimination and gender violence. With the return of the Taliban, all this is rapidly crumbling before the eyes of the West.

In the debate on the recognition of the Afghan Islamic Emirate, which would unlock billions of dollars and set Afghanistan back 20 years, we should dwell on the achievements of the past. Achievements that, thanks to Afghan women and civil democratic associations present in the country, have been obtained despite the dispersion of many of the valuable contributions of international “donors”, arrived in the country during the stay of the allied forces.

Beginning with school attendance among the youngest, girls and boys, which has grown by 50% in parallel with the cancellation of the pregnancy rate among girls between 15 and 19. In general, it has been 20 years in which all personal health indicators have improved, from neonatal mortality to malnutrition. Nevertheless, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Foreign aid has made it possible to rebuild the service sector by decreasing dependence on the agricultural sector, also thanks to the support of digital technology which, from the lack of access, is now available to over 60% of the population. The same share of the population that, as of today, should have received vaccination before the occupying Taliban interrupted the vaccination campaign.

Last year, the Geneva Conference allocated 1.2 billion euros for the period 2021-2024, in addition to the 5.3 billion dollars allocated to date by the World Bank, and over 750 of counter value of SDR, or Special Drawing Rights, at the International Monetary Fund, divided on different types of extraordinary credit lines made available for reconstruction: the primary needs of the country, from Transport to Education, and the fight against Covid-19. The news of the freezing of 7 billion of assets of the Afghan Government with the United States, together with the 9 represented by the total reserves of the Central Bank, have focused the attention of analysts and the work of the extraordinary G7 called by PM Draghi, because all the achievements obtained by women and civil society associations to improve the lives of families, risk to be quickly thwarted.

The Afghan Constitution had made progress with the strengthening of art. 22 against gender discrimination and thanks to many other actions, such as:

  • the ratification of the Cedaw (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) in 2003
  • the enactment of the Evaw (Law for the Elimination of Violence against Women) in 2009
  • the elimination of two devastating tribal practices such as “ba ad” (forced marriage to resolve disputes) and “badal” (exchange of girls/children for forced marriages between families), thanks to the intervention by decree of former President Karzai, who, in 2016, sought to expedite the completion of the legislative process.

At the same time, however, the Constitution allowed the approval of a law supported by the most fundamentalist mullahs to dismantle ‘protected houses’ for women victims of family violence. Bearing in mind that, already with art. 3, there is full respect for the dictates of the Islamic religion, it is now clear that the imposition of sharia by the Taliban represents an exasperation that will lead once again to the full violation of universal human rights and in particular women’s rights, relegating them to illiteracy and slavery deriving from a fundamentalist patriarchal system.

A social system that is not part of the tradition of a country that, before the Khomeinist revolution in Iran in the 1980s and after the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, was a secular state where women in Parliament accounted for 25% and, despite persistent cultural difficulties, had regained their rights and access to education, the world of work and political representation. Too much interference by the Pakistani secret services, on the one hand, and by Iran, on the other, as well as underestimation of these dynamics or the manipulation of Islamist movements in an anti-Russian key by allies, have not allowed the country to achieve full democratic change, above all due to the persistence of widespread corruption in the judicial system. In fact, according to Unama (the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan), this has forced 80% of women to turn to local tribal courts, with no possibility of justice, while only 5% of women had real justice.

The democratic associations operating in the country since the 80s, such as Hawca (NGO for humanitarian assistance to Afghan women and children), Opawc (organization for the development and promotion of Afghan women’s capabilities), Rawa (Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan), Hambastagi (party for solidarity), Saajs (association of relatives of the victims of massacres in Afghanistan), Afceco (Afghan organization for the education and care of Afghan children), directly linked to Cisda (Italian Coordination of Afghan Women), have managed to perform a real miracle. Throughout the territory, in fact, there has been an effective promotion of solidarity, empowerment, free legal assistance, protection and prevention of health, in a broad perspective of social cohesion. The latter has been reflected in the 5 billion euros donated by the EU, as Afghanistan is the country that benefits most from European funds for humanitarian purposes.

Afghanistan has had a very troubled history, first the Soviet invasion (from 1978 to 1987), then the horrors of civil war (between 1992 and 1996) and finally the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, as a reaction to September 11 and the installation of allied forces. Twenty years in which overcoming the poverty line seemed impossible for half the population, which has no access to drinking water  and with dramatic results for women, without means of support and with over 600,000 children suffering from malnutrition and 5 million who have no access to schooling. The international community, now, has an important opportunity to redeem itself after these 20 years, giving continuity and solidarity to the Afghan people, since the Taliban are doing what they have never been able to do: annihilating a people, eradicating its flag, violating its Constitution, and perpetrating on women and children an ethnic cleansing that violates Human Rights.

Human Rights are fundamental for a civil society that wants to call itself such, as well as the recognition of universal values that, at this time, are trampled and silenced as the voice of proud Afghan women.

About the author, Claudia Segre

As a financial expert, author, speaker, and the president of Global Thinking Foundation, Claudia Segre believes the only way to build a brighter, more prosperous future is to invest in the financial education of all women and girls.

She uses her platform to fight economic violence, accelerate financial inclusion for women, support female entrepreneurs, and promote the role of fintech in closing the gender gap.

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