Human Rights Defenders Joint Statement of Solidarity to the People of Afghanistan!
28 August 2021
To: The United Nations General Assembly
CC: Office of the High Commissioner of the Human Rights
Organization of American States
The African Union
The European Union
Re: Human Rights Defenders Joint Statement of Solidarity to the People of Afghanistan!
We, the undersigned human rights defenders from across the world, send our deepest condolences and message of hope to the families and friends of those that have lost their lives due to the worsening conflict and violence in Afghanistan. We particularly extend our solidarity with all Afghans, especially women and children who continue to bear the brunt of the ongoing violence in the country.
In the last twenty years, Afghan women have entered the public office and political leadership, formed powerful networks to end gender-based violence, increased access to education for girls and livelihoods for women, and organized for peace and human rights across the country. In working to reverse discriminatory policies, human rights defenders and civil society actors have done this work at significant risk to themselves and their families, consistently facing death threats and having to flee their homes. Targeted killings of these women and their loved ones have always been a real and present danger in their everyday life. Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, this situation has been compounded by Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban on the 15th of August.
On the 6th of August 2021, days before the fall of the country, Shahrzad Akbar, the head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission was just one of many who warned the members of the United Nations that Afghanistan would suffer a record number of civilian casualties in 2021. According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s records, the first six months of 2021 – which coincides with the beginning of the Taliban’s invasion – have been the deadliest year for Afghan civilians. 1,677 people, including women and children, have been killed and another 3,644 were injured during this period. Unfortunately, despite the persistent and brave advocacy of women activists and human rights defenders to highlight the depth of the difficulty and seriousness of Afghanistan’s situation to the international community, Afghanistan and its people didn’t receive any sort of help until the whole country, government, and the achievements of the past 20 years got destroyed by the Taliban’s invasion.
The Taliban’s systematic violence against women; commission of war crimes; including the killing of civilians, taking over of houses, house-to-house searches to find women activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, rape, forced marriages of widowed women and girls over the age of 12, banning women and girls from continuing their education and work; and many other egregious human rights violations, all point to a darker future for Afghans, especially women and human rights defenders. Without the support of the international community, these grievous acts of violence against women in particular and human rights abuses will only worsen as the Taliban gains in strength. Taliban’s insurgency in seizing the country, destroying the structures of the government, and insulting the dignity of Afghans with the support of some of the countries in the region, is an active act of terrorism. In addition, the current condition of the country is not only a humanitarian crisis but also a matter of international peace and security. Taliban and their atrocities are not only a threat to the nationals of Afghanistan but also intranational citizens present in the country. Thus, it is with great concern to state that, if the international community, by turning their backs to this country, let the history repeat itself, the Taliban’s governance on Afghanistan not only affects Afghanistan, but also the international peace, and psychological security of the entire world.
Therefore, we urge the international community, including the United Nations, the Office of the High Commissioner of the Human Rights, the European Union, the Organization of the American States, and the African Union to:
- Address the root causes of the escalating conflict and violence in Afghanistan in order to find sustainable solutions that are in the best interests of Afghan citizens.
- Call on all parties involved in the current conflict to search for a solution through peaceful dialogue in order to ensure the rule of law and the protection of human rights in Afghanistan.
- Ensure that all countries immediately expand and expedite refugee protection measures for Afghans fleeing violence and persecution.
- Establish a special humanitarian program for Afghan civilians at this time of great need.
- Arrange inclusive and direct evacuation flights for Afghan human rights defenders and women activists, who are all under threat and in great need of easing emergency relocation for themselves and their families.
- Remove any requirement by states receiving HRDs and women activists that applicants and their eligible family members must relocate to a third country. This is particularly so for Afghan women activists, for whom visas are difficult to come by in the best of times. With the twin disasters of COVID-19 and war now raging across Afghanistan, most countries have ceased offering visas and have closed their borders, making it impossible for people to reach a safe place. Thus, it is with urgent need and emphasizes to pressure the neighboring countries and the international community under the guidance of the international human rights law for opening their borders to the people of Afghanistan.
- Establish a high-level interagency refugee coordinator to manage refugee processing and relocation across countries offering help and to greatly increase processing capacity. The current lack of coordination and processing capacity leads to much confusion on what the ever-changing international communities’ policies mean in practice for Afghan nationals. Those Afghans who make it out of the country are often in severe distress and this is increased when, upon arrival at their first exit point, they face disorganization and uncertainty as to process and procedure. All actors need to collectively mobilize and coordinate to ensure that Afghans can relocate swiftly and with dignity.