What Does a Humanist need to know about Humanism, Human Rights and Afghanistan in 2022?

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we locate articles and information published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The featured image is from the portfolio of Farzana Wahidy, an award-winning photographer from Afghanistan. Born in Kandahar in 1984, Wahidy moved with her family to Kabul at the age of six. She was a teenager when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996. At age 13 she was beaten in the street for not wearing a burqa. Looking back at that moment, she stated that she wished she was a photographer at the time, able to show today’s society what it was like for young girls like herself, but photography and other forms of creative expression were banned. During the Taliban era women were forbidden from continuing their education. Hiding books under her burka so she wouldn’t get caught, she attended an underground school with about 300 other students in a residential area of Kabul, and when U.S.-led forces ended Taliban rule in 2001, she began high school. In 2007 Wahidy received a full scholarship for the two-year Photojournalism Program at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, graduating on the Dean’s List in 2009. Since 2008 Wahidy has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants from organizations such as the Open Society Institute, National Geographic All Roads Film and Photography Program, University of Missouri and Mountain Film for her photography work.

Following is a collection of information pertaining to humanism and human rights inf Afghanistan.

What Do You Have to Say?

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What does Secular Underground Network Have to Say?

Based in Rotterdam, an organization going by the name Secular Underground Network was started in 2020 as an initiative of the International Association of Atheists. The group’s stated purpose is to connect atheists, agnostics, secularists, apostates and their friends to support community members in need. The group aims to provide wide-ranging assistance to the defined community from moral support and job finding resources to fleeing a dangerous situation, providing shelter, study help.


What Does the United Nations Have to Say?

December 14, 2021 – Excerpts from Humanitarian crisis threatens basic human rights

Briefing the UN Human Rights Council, Nada Al-Nashif detailed how the profound humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is threatening basic rights, with women, girls, and civil society among those most affected. 

Staff from the UN human rights office, OHCHR, remain on the ground in Afghanistan, where the economy is largely paralysed and poverty and hunger are rising. 

Ms. Al-Nashif said that as Afghans struggle to meet basic needs, they are being pushed to take desperate measures, including child labour and child marriage. News reports have also surfaced of children being sold.

Ms. Al-Nashif was also deeply concerned about the continued risk of child recruitment, particularly boys, by both ISIL-KP and the de facto authorities.  Children also continue to comprise the majority of civilians killed and injured by unexploded ordnance.

Meanwhile, women and girls face great uncertainty when it comes to respecting their rights to education, livelihoods and participation. Some 4.2 million young Afghans are already out of school, 60 per cent of them girls.   

There has also been a decline in girls’ secondary school attendance, even in provinces where the de facto authorities have permitted them to attend school.  This is largely due to the absence of women teachers, since in some locations girls are only allowed to be taught by women.

Afghan civil society has also come under attack in recent months.  Since August, at least eight activists and two journalists have been killed, and others injured, by unidentified armed men. 

The UN mission in the country, UNAMA, has documented nearly 60 apparently arbitrary detentions, beatings, and threats of activists, journalists, and staff of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, attributed to the de facto authorities. 

Several women’s rights defenders have also been threatened, and there is widespread fear of reprisals since a violent crackdown on women’s peaceful protests in September. Many media outlets have shuttered, as have numerous civil society groups.

Furthermore, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has been unable to operate since August, while the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association faces a loss of independence as the de facto authorities now administer its activities under the de facto Ministry of Justice. 

“The safety of Afghan judges, prosecutors, and lawyers – particularly women legal professionals – is a matter for particular alarm,” Ms. Al-Nashif added. “Many are currently in hiding for fear of retribution, including from convicted prisoners who were freed by the de facto authorities, notably men convicted of gender-based violence.” 

December 12, 2021 – Joint Statement: UNHCR & UN Women join efforts to protect and uphold the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan

Kabul, 12.12.2021- UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and UN Women, the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women signed a letter of intent committing to strengthen their partnership to protect the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The complex humanitarian crisis unfolding in Af­ghanistan is marked by gender-specific restrictions that directly impact the ability of women and girls to realize their rights. Afghan women and girls face unique vulnera­bilities and risks as gender inequality is interwoven with conflict dynamics and humanitarian needs.

Recognizing how gender inequality is shaping the ongoing humanitar­ian crisis in Afghanistan, UNHCR and UN Women committed to further strengthen their partnership to protect the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The overall objective of UNHCR and UN Women in Afghanistan is to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations leveraging their respective leadership role in ensuring the centrality of protection, with a particular focus on addressing the specific needs of women and girls, through jointly advocating for the rights; and responding to the needs, of women and girls among refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons, and vulnerable members of host communities.

Without a gender lens the interna­tional community risks exacerbating pre-existing forms of inequality rather than creating pathways to ensuring no one is left behind. The UNHCR, UN Women partnership also strives to advance the civic, social and economic empowerment of women and girls and strengthen the evidence-base by improving sex and gender disaggregated data collection systems and gender analysis that address discriminatory gender norms.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

What Does Human Rights Watch Have to Say?

Image Courtesy of the Human Rights Watch website January 5, 2022

What Does Amnesty International Have to Say?

Excerpts from Amnesty International‘s website

Women and girls continued to face gender-based discrimination and violence throughout Afghanistan, especially in areas under Taliban control, where their rights were violated with impunity and violent “punishments” were meted out for perceived transgressions of the armed group’s interpretation of Islamic law.

Violence against women and girls remained chronically under-reported, with women often fearing reprisals and lacking confidence in the authorities if they came forward. According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), more than 100 cases of murder were reported during the year. Where these cases were reported, there was a persistent failure to investigate them. In some cases, victims of violence came under pressure from their communities or state officials to withdraw their complaints, or “mediation” was used to resolve complaints beyond the protection of the law. As a result, there was widespread impunity for the perpetrators of beatings, killings, torture and other ill-treatment, and corporal punishments.

Children continued to face harassment and sexual violence. Despite the sexual abuse of children being well-publicized, and the abusive practice of “bacha bazi” (male children being sexually abused by older men) being criminalized in 2018, the authorities made little effort to end impunity and hold perpetrators accountable.

Children lacked adequate opportunities to pursue their right to quality education. According to UNICEF, over 2 million girls remained out of school, and according to government figures about 7,000 schools in the country had no building. Large numbers of children continued to be pressed into forced labour or begging on the streets.

The conditions grew more difficult for journalists, media workers, and activists to function due to increasing insecurity and the targeted killings of activists, journalists, and moderate religious scholars. Journalists raised concerns over the lack of access to information and did not enjoy adequate protection from attacks by armed groups. The government introduced a draft mass media bill, which would have imposed further restrictions on the right to freedom of expression. It was forced to withdraw the bill in the face of widespread criticism.

Discussions were ongoing in parliament over a draft bill on public gatherings, strikes and demonstrations, which if passed would significantly restrict the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The cabinet rejected a third draft bill on NGOs after Amnesty International raised concerns that it placed unnecessary restrictions on registration processes and operational independence.

Attacks and targeted killings against activists, human rights defenders and journalists increased. Human rights defenders continued to come under attack, facing intimidation, violence and killings. In March, government officials in Helmand province physically assaulted human rights defenders who had alleged corruption. They needed hospital treatment for their injuries. In May, Mohammad Ibrahim Ebrat, a facilitator of the Civil Society Joint Working Group, was attacked and wounded by unknown gunmen in Zabul province. He subsequently died of his injuries. In June, two staff members of the AIHRC, Fatima Khalil and Jawad Folad, were killed in an attack on their car in Kabul.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://www.farzanawahidy.com/portfolio-item/burqa/
  2. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/12/1107902
  3. https://www.hrw.org/asia/afghanistan
  4. https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/asia-and-the-pacific/south-asia/afghanistan/report-afghanistan/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

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