• Afghan women’s activists visit UK amid increasing fears over rights

Afghan women’s activists visit UK amid increasing fears over rights

20 June 2013

BAAG is bringing a number of prominent Afghan women’s rights defenders to the UK next week.

The women will be speaking on panels, meeting British officials and MPs, holding discussions with UK-based women’s groups and visiting women’s shelters in London.  The events are aimed at examining what more the international community - and the Afghan government - could do to protect Afghan women from violence.

The visit comes as the prospect of US peace talks with the Taliban once again brings Afghan women’s rights sharply into focus.

According to BAAG Director Jawed Nader, “Most Afghan women’s rights activists fear that the hard-won freedoms of the past decade could be sacrificed if they are not represented in the negotiating process.  They want to find ways to ensure that basic protections for Afghan women are maintained, whatever the outcome of political negotiations.”

 The list of participants for next week’s events is still being finalised, but those who have already been confirmed include:

Nadia Hanifi, perhaps best known as the presenter of the revolutionary Afghan TV talk show, Niqab, or “The Mask”.   First aired in 2011, the show lets the victims of violence tell their own stories.  Ordinary Afghan women speak to Nadia about the abuses they have suffered,   wearing a mask to conceal their identities.  The show tackles taboo subjects such as rape and domestic violence and seeks solutions for the women appearing in it.  Some of the stories told on “The Mask” have been so moving that they have reduced the film crew to tears.   Nadia also works as a programme manager and legal advisor with the Afghan Women’s Skills Development Centre, helping to raise awareness about violence against women.

Mary Akrami, whose outstanding work won her the US State Department’s Women of Courage award in 2007.  As Executive Director of the Afghan Women’s Skills Development Centre, she established the first women’s shelter in Afghanistan ten years ago.  Staff at the shelter help women recover from the violence they have suffered and provide them with legal advice, literacy classes, counselling and basic skills training.  Mary has also been a tireless campaigner for women’s inclusion in peace processes in Afghanistan, at both a local and national level.  Like many other female human rights defenders in Afghanistan, she has received death threats, but has refused to give up her work.