I thought I’d flag up a story in The Times newspaper yesterday that highlights how far the rights of Afghan women have slipped down the agenda in Afghanistan. One of the justifications for going to war in 2001 was to “free the Afghan women” from the “barbaric” Taliban. Despite this pledge, little has changed for women in the 10 years since the US-led invasion.
The Times’ story is about how the European Union banned a film it commissioned on the rights of Afghan women. The censored film documents the cases of a number of Afghan women jailed for “moral crimes”. These “crimes” are usually committed by women who try to run away from their homes because they’ve suffered horrific torture and abuse at the hands of their husbands or male relatives.
One of the women featured in the film, Gulnaz, was raped and impregnated by a relative. She reported her rape to the police, who promptly locked her in jail for committing adultery. One and a half years later Gulnaz is still in jail, although she will soon be released because she has agreed to marry the rapist (a condition set by the judge).
Instead of publicising the suffering of women locked up for moral crimes the EU decided to prevent the film from seeing the light of day. Read the Times’s story here.
The Times followed this story with another today. The paper quoted Gulnaz’s rapist, who said that the EU had “done a good thing” by banning the film. The rights of women have slipped so far down the agenda in Afghanistan that we now have convicted rapists thanking the EU for concealing the suffering of women here.
As one senior rights activist told me: “It’s all about withdrawing the troops now. That’s the main focus for the foreigners here. Everything else, especially the rights of women, has pretty much been forgotten”.
There’s now a petition calling for the immediate release of Gulnaz. It has already attracted more than 5,000 signatures and will be sent to President Hamid Karzai. Sign here http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/freegulnaz/