Afghan Women's Network

Afghan Women's Network

Open Letter - Women’s Protection must remain a priority

Afghan women have suffered extensively during last three decades of war. Women have paid high price for losing family members, economic support, jobs and protection during the civil war, internal conflicts and displacements throughout the country. The recent capture of Kunduz province by Taliban, has shocked the Afghan citizens particularly women throughout the country. 
We, the Afghan Women’s Network, representing 126 women led NGOs and over 3000 individual women advocates representing 34 provinces, appreciate the immediate steps by the National Unity Government (NUG), International Organizations and UN agencies, civil society; women focused organizations, and women advocates in identifying the women human rights defenders and providing relocation support, taking special measure to carry on security operation taking into consideration the safety of civilians. 
However, we are seriously concerned about the degrading situation in Kunduz province as well as other provinces in the northeastern zone. According to AWN’s Kunduz Office, upon capturing of Kunduz province by Taliban, the environment totally changed for women. Women once again were imprisoned inside their houses extremely stressed and afraid of attacks and violation possibilities. It was also reported that Taliban have been roaming around the city with lists of women government employees, activists and women focused organizations trying to locate their office and residence address.
We are deeply concerned about the human rights violations, killing of civilians and release of criminals from Kunduz prison. The rape and killing of women nurses as reported by the media outlet and Amnesty International is one of the most shocking acts against humanity and human rights standards in the past 14 years. The torture and killing of civilians is being reported by those evacuated from Kunduz province more serious and beyond reports. We believe the attack in Kunduz and the act of violence, torture and rape is clearly action against human rights values and international humanitarian law. 
The number of internal displaced people from Kunduz to other provinces is increasing where there is very little support and measures for their shelter, food and security. Those still stuck in their home in Kunduz city are hugely suffering from lack of basic services and facilities as Taliban are still in present and are fighting with security forces.
We have witnessed the rate of vulnerability and suffering working women including women human rights defenders (WHRDs) can face at the war situation in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, most of working women had fled Kunduz city to safe their families and their own lives. These women were stuck in another district of Kunduz province by no means of protection and relocation measures for three days with huge threat of Taliban attack. 
We are hugely saddened by the recent air strike that has resulted in huge loss of doctors, nurses and patients at the MSF premises in Kunduz. The only health service provider that was already healing huge number of injured civilians from Taliban attack being killed and burned. We believe this is a war crime and must be investigated although justifying such action is not possible 
We, the women of Afghanistan call on all actors, National Unity Government, International Community and International Humanitarian Organizations for immediate and serious attention and steps towards supporting people particularly women and girls in Kunduz. 
• Reports indicate on the lack of basic services and facilities to those men, women and children currently stuck in Kunduz city where the fighting is still ongoing. We call on Afghan government to provide food, water and immediate health services through security forces present in the city.

• We call for special measures and steps towards supporting internally displaced residence, provision of protection and evacuation for women human rights defenders, step towards immediate stop of war and measures for recovery of the city and situation of people in Kunduz. 
• We call on Afghan government for appointment of a special investigation committee comprising of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Organization, local and international human rights focused civil society organizations for an immediate investigation and gathering evidences on the violations against women.

• The investigation committee must be independent and have full access to information and victims in order to recorded, perpetrators should be identified and justice to women victims should be guaranteed as committed by Afghan government in it is first National Action Plan on implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security

• We call on NUG to provide necessary health, psychological, and social support to survivors of sexual violence in Kunduz according to it is commitment made in Afghanistan National Action Plan on implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security

• We call on NUG to plan immediate security, protection, shelter and relocation support to the most vulnerable in terms of Taliban attacks. The National Unity Government should make special measures to avoid the loss of lives, violence and displacement of people implementing it is obligations in accordance to Shariah, National and International laws.

• We call on NUG and international actors to collaborate and introduce a protection mechanism for working women including WHRDs consideration the ratio of threat towards them and their families taking example of Kunduz into consideration and provide immediate support for their relocation and other needs. Protection of working women must remain a priority if another province face similar deteriorating situation.

• We call on international community and international humanitarian organizations for support Afghan civil society especially the women focused organizations in this critical situation. CSOs acting as bridge between government and communities have identified the immediate needs of people in Kunduz. CSOs need technical, logistical and financial support to reach out these communities who are either experiencing the occasional fighting between security forces and Taliban or all displaced to neighboring provinces.

• We stand in Solidarity with MSF on their call for an investigation of air strike which has hugely damaged and made this institution to leave Kunduz in this critical situation. We call on all parties to not use the public spaces such as hospitals, schools and clinics as battle field and point of attack during the war .