Women's Rights

Afghan women welcome appointment of US envoy for women's rights in Afghanistan

By Sulaiman

Women in Kabul December 16 chant slogans and hold banners during a protest demanding equal rights. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Women in Kabul December 16 chant slogans and hold banners during a protest demanding equal rights. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

KABUL -- The appointment of a US special envoy to protect Afghan women's rights has won praise from Afghan rights activists and women.

The US government in December appointed Rina Amiri, an Afghan-born American scholar, as the US special envoy for human rights and Afghan women's rights.

Amiri studied law and diplomacy at Tufts University and served at the US State Department under former president Barack Obama.

Crucial timing

Her appointment comes at a time when Afghan women's rights are under threat.

Since the previous government fell in August, girls and women have suffered curtailment of their rights.

Under that government, more than 27% of civil servants were women. Now, they have been told to stay home until further notice.

The new government prohibits girls from attending school after sixth grade.

Expectations cited by Afghan analysts and ordinary citizens include the recovery of women's lost status in work and education.

Reopening of schools and universities for women, ensuring women's political participation and their right to work, and protecting the achievements of 2001–2021, are among the areas where they hope Amiri can help.

"Major challenges faced by Afghan women are the closure of schools and universities, and not being allowed to work and participate in the political process," Tafsir Siaposh, a women's rights activist in Kabul, told Salaam Times.

"I urge Rina Amiri and the international community to address these challenges," she added. "Amiri has an impressive background. Afghan women expect her to make their voice heard by the international community."

"Afghan women and girls made great gains over the past 20 years. Millions of girls attended school, tens of thousands of women graduated from universities, worked freely and engaged in political and economic activities."

"We hope Afghan women and girls will be able to continue to work freely as they did in the past," she said.

Praise for appointment

"Afghan women and girls are going through very difficult times now ... We desperately need the US and the international community to continue their support in protecting us and our gains," Marwa Sadat, 23, told Salaam Times.

"I welcome the appointment of Rina Amiri ... and consider it an important step in the US and international community's efforts to support Afghan women and girls," said Sadat, a Kabul resident and economics student at a private university.

"Millions of Afghan women are unfortunately trapped at home because of their gender," said Mariam Arwin, a human rights activist in Kabul.

"The appointment of a woman to defend and protect the rights of Afghan women and safeguard their 20 years of gains is a positive and commendable step," she said.

"Afghan women need the US and international community's support," Khatera Ishaqzai, a civil society activist in Kabul, told Salaam Times.

"Rina is an Afghan with thorough understanding of Afghan women and the challenges they are facing today."

"I hope she can play a key role in restoring the rights of Afghan women and paving the way for them to continue their education, work and political participation."

Careers and hopes lost

Hakima, 31, lives in the western part of Kabul. She has a bachelor's degree in literature and taught at a school in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood until four months ago.

"Afghan women and girls had golden opportunities in the last 20 years. We gained access to our basic rights to a large extent, which was unprecedented," she told Salaam Times.

"Girls attended schools and universities freely and engaged in political activities. Dozens of women became members of parliament; served as ministers, governors, ambassadors, judges, prosecutors and military officers; and made numerous achievements of great value."

"Our hope and expectation of the US State Department's special envoy and of the international community are that they create opportunities for the empowerment of Afghan women as they did in the past and do not allow their gains to fade away," she said.

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Rina Amiri is chosen as the United States' representative for human rights and Afghan women's rights when the hopes of Afghan girls have already got perished, and all of their rights are taken away from them. Nations want to reach the goals and vision they have chosen for the twenty-first century; however, the priorities of the Taliban (Afghanistan's current authorities) are entirely different from that of the rest of the world. They want to push Afghanistan back to a hundred years back. In the Taliban's opinion, keeping beards, preventing girls from getting an education and higher education, wearing a burqa, making changes in the relatively developed school curriculum may be pure Islamism, but that is a wrong decision they have made. Anyway, Afghanistan is in bad condition, and Afghans live in darkness. The young generation did not expect to face such a fate, but they should be taken out of this situation. The current situation needs to be changed. Choosing Rina Amiri as representative of Afghan women's rights is a good decision; however, there were women's rights foundations in Afghanistan before, but I don't think that the rights of this significant class are ever appropriately given. Now Amiri may honestly play her role in Afghan women's rights and not remain idle the way women rights advocates were during the former presidential era.

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