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theatlantic:

In Focus: Afghanistan, December 2013

Western forces continue their long withdrawal from Afghanistan, scheduled to be complete within a year, save for a small number NATO advisers and security teams. Recent reports and evaluations of the state of affairs in Afghanistan indicate a bleak immediate future, despite billions of dollars of foreign aid. Human rights groups report that violence against women is intensifying, malnutrition is mysteriously on the rise nationwide, economic growth has dropped sharply, and continued foreign aid is threatened by possible instability post-withdrawal. Gathered here are recent images from this war-weary country, part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan.

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fotojournalismus:

How A Female Photographer Sees Her Afghanistan

Born in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1984, photographer Farzana Wahidy was only a teenager when the Taliban took over the country in 1996. At age 13 she was beaten in the street for not wearing a burqa, she recalls, and she describes those years as a “very closed, very dark time.” To carry a camera would have been unthinkable.

And yet, she says, “I felt lucky compared to other women at that time.” Women were banned from continuing their education during Taliban rule. But some, like Farzana, found ways to keep studying. She would carry books under her burqa and attended what she calls an “underground school” with about 300 other students in a residential area of Kabul.

When U.S.-led forces ended Taliban rule in 2001, Wahidy was able to attend high school. A friend encouraged her to apply for a photojournalism program, knowing that she had hopes of sharing her experiences with the world.

“Day by day, as I started learning about photography, I fell more in love with it,” she says. “There was a huge need for women photographers in Afghanistan.”

Wahidy became the first Afghan female photographer to work for the AFP and later AP, two leading wire agencies, and eventually received a scholarship to continue studies in a photojournalism program in Canada. In 2010, Wahidy returned home to Afghanistan.

“I try to show the bigger image, not just show we have problems,” she says. “And we do have a lot of problems, but I do want to show normal daily life.”

Wahidy focuses on women. “This subject was important to me because I am a woman,” she says, recognizing an advantage that gives her. When she wants to document their lives, “it’s easier for a woman to get access,” she says.

Her photos of daily life range from men selling balloons on the streets to the secret lives of female prostitutes. And Wahidy was not the only one to recognize the need for this type of photography in Afghanistan. She is now part of the recently created Afghan Photography Network.

“Many Afghan photographers are not well-connected,” she explains. “We hope it will create a better connection and show Afghanistan by Afghan photographers.”

It is a young website, still in development, but the Afghan Photography Network is already bringing increased visibility to the work of Afghan photographers.

Of the eight women in her original photojournalism program, Wahidy is the only one working as a full-time photographer. Some got married, and others stopped working for reasons unknown to Wahidy. Wahidy, meanwhile, plans to continue for a very long time.

“When I shoot and I get a good photo,” she says, “that is a beautiful day.”

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theatlantic:

In Focus: Afghanistan, February 2013: Anti-Taliban Militias

Recently, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai ordered U.S. forces to leave Wardak province, partly in response to U.S.-funded militias in the region accused of “torturing, harassing, and murdering” ordinary civilians. The U.S. has been training and funding tribal militias in Afghanistan for years, hoping to emulate the success of a similar strategy in Iraq. Journalist Vikram Singh has been been tracking these militias across Afghanistan over the last few months and says that “the accusations of torture and murder come as little surprise. … In my visits to different zones where militias are active, I’ve seen their leaders operate as quasi-warlords. Instances of abuse are common and well documented. In provinces like Kunduz, there are districts with no government unit strong enough to challenge the militia’s authority.” In this essay, Singh focused on two different militia groups. One is in Logar Province, set up by a construction company owner angry at the killing of his mother by the Taliban in 2012. The second group operates in the northeastern province of Kunduz, where it chased the Taliban away almost three years ago but did not disband afterward. The militia’s leader, an ex-mujahideen called Nabi Gecchi, has now started taxing the local population to finance its operations.

See more. [Images: Vikram Singh]

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theatlantic:

In Focus: Afghanistan: January 2013

In early January, President Barack Obama met with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, indicating a series of decisions that may accelerate the planned handover of power to the government of Afghanistan. Terms are still being negotiated, and final troop levels have yet to be decided, but NATO troops will be withdrawing from villages this spring, and prisons holding terrorism suspects will soon be under Afghan control. One big condition still left unsettled: an immunity agreement in which remaining U.S. troops would not subjected to Afghan law. These photos show just a glimpse of this conflict over the past month, part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan.

See more. [Images: AP, Getty, Reuters]

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Afghanistan’s displaced dread the coming winter
The country has nearly half a million displaced people, many living in primitive camps where the cold weather will mean death for some.
PARWAN-A-DUH CAMP, Afghanistan — Winter is descending on the Shakur clan.
In the pale gray twilight of late autumn, a sharp wind slaps at the scraps of plastic that Abdel Shakur, the clan patriarch, has installed on his mud hut walls in a futile attempt at insulation. The thin tarpaulins that serve as a roof are held fast by round patties of cow dung and worn auto tires.
Already, night temperatures are dipping to freezing or below. The 10 children of Abdel Shakur pad across the packed-clay floors in bare feet or plastic slippers. He pulls his wool wrap close around his bony shoulders.
"The snows are coming soon, and I’m afraid for the children," Shakur says. "When the snows come, people die."
During last year’s exceptionally brutal winter, at least 42 people died of exposure or starvation in Parwan-a-Duh and other makeshift camps on Kabul’s shabby fringes, according to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations. Almost all were children or elderly.
The French aid group Solidarites International puts the number higher, saying the cold killed more than 100 children alone in the numerous camps scattered in and around the capital.
Shakur, bearded and wizened at 47, says he lost his infant granddaughter, Parsima, last winter. The little girl grew weak and sickly before she was at last transported to a clinic, where she soon died.
Afghanistan is home to 460,000 internally displaced people,Afghans who have fled war, strife or famine in other parts of the country. More than 30,000 have settled in illegal camps around Kabul in search of jobs and shelter, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In a desperately poor country, the internally displaced are often among the most dispossessed, living in abject poverty in makeshift housing with little access to sanitation or medical care. They get only nominal help from the Afghan refugee ministry, and limited, though regular, assistance from the U.N. refugee agency and other aid groups.
Even after a decadelong, multibillion-dollar Western humanitarian relief effort, the displaced remain as miserable and wretched as ever. That was the case last winter, when emergency relief efforts were not mounted in earnest until February, well after the first children had died.
Pictured: Five-year-old Agira is part of the family of Abdel Shakur, displaced Afghans from Laghman province. Now in a makeshift camp on the outskirts of Kabul, the children collect trash to burn for cooking and warmth as winter approaches. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / November 17, 2012)

Afghanistan’s displaced dread the coming winter

The country has nearly half a million displaced people, many living in primitive camps where the cold weather will mean death for some.

PARWAN-A-DUH CAMP, Afghanistan — Winter is descending on the Shakur clan.

In the pale gray twilight of late autumn, a sharp wind slaps at the scraps of plastic that Abdel Shakur, the clan patriarch, has installed on his mud hut walls in a futile attempt at insulation. The thin tarpaulins that serve as a roof are held fast by round patties of cow dung and worn auto tires.

Already, night temperatures are dipping to freezing or below. The 10 children of Abdel Shakur pad across the packed-clay floors in bare feet or plastic slippers. He pulls his wool wrap close around his bony shoulders.

"The snows are coming soon, and I’m afraid for the children," Shakur says. "When the snows come, people die."

During last year’s exceptionally brutal winter, at least 42 people died of exposure or starvation in Parwan-a-Duh and other makeshift camps on Kabul’s shabby fringes, according to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations. Almost all were children or elderly.

The French aid group Solidarites International puts the number higher, saying the cold killed more than 100 children alone in the numerous camps scattered in and around the capital.

Shakur, bearded and wizened at 47, says he lost his infant granddaughter, Parsima, last winter. The little girl grew weak and sickly before she was at last transported to a clinic, where she soon died.

Afghanistan is home to 460,000 internally displaced people,Afghans who have fled war, strife or famine in other parts of the country. More than 30,000 have settled in illegal camps around Kabul in search of jobs and shelter, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In a desperately poor country, the internally displaced are often among the most dispossessed, living in abject poverty in makeshift housing with little access to sanitation or medical care. They get only nominal help from the Afghan refugee ministry, and limited, though regular, assistance from the U.N. refugee agency and other aid groups.

Even after a decadelong, multibillion-dollar Western humanitarian relief effort, the displaced remain as miserable and wretched as ever. That was the case last winter, when emergency relief efforts were not mounted in earnest until February, well after the first children had died.

Pictured: Five-year-old Agira is part of the family of Abdel Shakur, displaced Afghans from Laghman province. Now in a makeshift camp on the outskirts of Kabul, the children collect trash to burn for cooking and warmth as winter approaches. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / November 17, 2012)

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Afghanistan suffers day of bloodshed at hands of Nato and Taliban
Thirty civilians killed by suicide bombers in market and air strike that wiped out village wedding party, say officials
On a day of deadly violence that underlined the vulnerability of Afghans, , more than 30 civilians were killed by Taliban suicide attackers and a Nato air strike on Wednesday.
Civilians are regular victims of the fighting that now affects most of Afghanistan, and last year a record number of innocent people were killed, according to UN data, but it is unusual for both parties in the conflict to exact such a toll within the span of a few hours.
In the southern city of Kandahar, a bomber struck in a market near the gates of a large military airbase. As crowds gathered at the site of the attack, a second man drove up on a motorbike and detonated another suicide vest. Together they killed 21 civilians and injured at least 50, the provincial police chief, Abdul Razzaq, said.
In Logar province, which lies south of Kabul but near the eastern border with Pakistan, a Nato air attack on a village home killed up to 18 civilians who had gathered to celebrate a wedding, local government and security officials said.
The attack targeted Taliban fighters who had taken shelter in the house, but among the bodies that angry villagers brought to the provincial capital were at least five women and seven children, according to a photographer from the Associated Press who saw the dead.
It is not clear whether the insurgents sought permission to enter the house, or forced their way in at gunpoint. There were also at least half a dozen militants among those killed, the police and intelligence services said, but villagers were only mourning their own dead.
"Last night in Baraki Barak district there was fighting between the Taliban and foreigners and the Taliban hid themselves in the house of a man called Basir Akhunzada, an elder of the people," said Abdul Wali, the chief of the Logar provincial council, who discussed the bombing by phone from Logar.
"Akhundzada was killed, his brother Qayoum Akhunzada, Qayoum’s wife. Altogether 18 civilians from his family were killed."
An official from the provincial governor’s office confirmed that 18 civilians died. “Not all the people were from his immediate family, because there was a wedding ceremony going on, so there were many relatives staying there,” said adviser Mirwais Mir Zakhwal.
Nato forces said they had requested an air strike in Baraki Barak after troops were attacked with guns and rocket-propelled grenades, but listed “multiple insurgents” as the only dead. A spokesman said the Nato-led coalition was looking into allegations of civilian casualties.
"We are still looking into the circumstances to try and understand what took place there, and the nature of the casualties," said Lieutenant Commander Brian Badura.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Kandahar but said it was aimed at the base, Nato’s largest headquarters in the south, and claimed they killed only foreigners. But the bombers targeted an area with a bazaar and bus station where there are few foreigners. Afghan security and health officials said the dead and injured were all Afghans.
Pictured:Afghan villagers gather at a house destroyed in a Nato raid in Logar province. Photograph: Ihsanullah Majroh/AP

Afghanistan suffers day of bloodshed at hands of Nato and Taliban

Thirty civilians killed by suicide bombers in market and air strike that wiped out village wedding party, say officials

On a day of deadly violence that underlined the vulnerability of Afghans, , more than 30 civilians were killed by Taliban suicide attackers and a Nato air strike on Wednesday.

Civilians are regular victims of the fighting that now affects most of Afghanistan, and last year a record number of innocent people were killed, according to UN data, but it is unusual for both parties in the conflict to exact such a toll within the span of a few hours.

In the southern city of Kandahar, a bomber struck in a market near the gates of a large military airbase. As crowds gathered at the site of the attack, a second man drove up on a motorbike and detonated another suicide vest. Together they killed 21 civilians and injured at least 50, the provincial police chief, Abdul Razzaq, said.

In Logar province, which lies south of Kabul but near the eastern border with Pakistan, a Nato air attack on a village home killed up to 18 civilians who had gathered to celebrate a wedding, local government and security officials said.

The attack targeted Taliban fighters who had taken shelter in the house, but among the bodies that angry villagers brought to the provincial capital were at least five women and seven children, according to a photographer from the Associated Press who saw the dead.

It is not clear whether the insurgents sought permission to enter the house, or forced their way in at gunpoint. There were also at least half a dozen militants among those killed, the police and intelligence services said, but villagers were only mourning their own dead.

"Last night in Baraki Barak district there was fighting between the Taliban and foreigners and the Taliban hid themselves in the house of a man called Basir Akhunzada, an elder of the people," said Abdul Wali, the chief of the Logar provincial council, who discussed the bombing by phone from Logar.

"Akhundzada was killed, his brother Qayoum Akhunzada, Qayoum’s wife. Altogether 18 civilians from his family were killed."

An official from the provincial governor’s office confirmed that 18 civilians died. “Not all the people were from his immediate family, because there was a wedding ceremony going on, so there were many relatives staying there,” said adviser Mirwais Mir Zakhwal.

Nato forces said they had requested an air strike in Baraki Barak after troops were attacked with guns and rocket-propelled grenades, but listed “multiple insurgents” as the only dead. A spokesman said the Nato-led coalition was looking into allegations of civilian casualties.

"We are still looking into the circumstances to try and understand what took place there, and the nature of the casualties," said Lieutenant Commander Brian Badura.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Kandahar but said it was aimed at the base, Nato’s largest headquarters in the south, and claimed they killed only foreigners. But the bombers targeted an area with a bazaar and bus station where there are few foreigners. Afghan security and health officials said the dead and injured were all Afghans.

Pictured:Afghan villagers gather at a house destroyed in a Nato raid in Logar province. Photograph: Ihsanullah Majroh/AP

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NATO summit: Obama’s Pakistan gamble falls flat
The White House fails to reach a deal on supply routes to Afghanistan. The summit does produce a formal agreement on the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
CHICAGO — When the White House sent a last-minute invitation for Asif Ali Zardari to attend the two-day NATO summit, they were taking a highly public gamble. Would sharing the spotlight with President Obama and other global leaders induce the Pakistani president to allow vital supplies to reach alliance troops fighting in Afghanistan?But long before the summit ended Monday, the answer was clear: No deal.Zardari’s refusal to reopen the supply routes left a diplomatic blot on a summit that NATO sought to cast as the beginning of the end of the conflict in Afghanistan. The Chicago gathering did produce a formal agreement by the alliance to hand over lead responsibility for security to Afghan forces by mid-2013, and pull out nearly all U.S. and other NATO troops by the end of 2014 even if the Taliban-led insurgency remains undiminished.U.S. officials insist ample fuel and other supplies are being delivered via much longer and more expensive land routes in Russia and other nations north of Afghanistan. But the Pentagon says reopening the land route in Pakistan will be essential to hauling vast stores of military equipment and vehicles out of Afghanistan during the withdrawal.Obama’s irritation at the impasse was clear Monday when he addressed more than 50 world leaders and publicly thanked Russia and Central Asian nations “that continue to provide critical transit” of war supplies into Afghanistan. Zardari sat only a few feet away, but Obama pointedly did not mention Pakistan.Later at a news conference that closed the two-day summit, Obama did not try to downplay the strains in a relationship that has spiraled from crisis to crisis since U.S. Navy SEALs secretly flew into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden last May. Nor did Obama suggest, as his aides had done earlier, that a quick resolution was likely."I don’t want to paper over real challenges there," Obama said. "There’s no doubt that there have been tensions between [the NATO military coalition] and Pakistan, the United States and Pakistan over the last several months."Pakistan closed the main NATO supply route after U.S. airstrikes hit two border posts Nov. 26 and killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Islamabad has demanded an unconditional apology, and more than $5,000 per truck, up from about $250 in the past, to let supplies flow again. The Obama administration has refused to apologize, saying both sides committed mistakes, and it says the new truck toll is far too expensive.
Pictured: President Obama speaks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at the McCormick Place Convention Center during the NATO summit in Chicago. (Pete Souza / The White House, AFP/Getty Images / May 21, 2012)

NATO summit: Obama’s Pakistan gamble falls flat

The White House fails to reach a deal on supply routes to Afghanistan. The summit does produce a formal agreement on the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

CHICAGO — When the White House sent a last-minute invitation for Asif Ali Zardari to attend the two-day NATO summit, they were taking a highly public gamble. Would sharing the spotlight with President Obama and other global leaders induce the Pakistani president to allow vital supplies to reach alliance troops fighting in Afghanistan?

But long before the summit ended Monday, the answer was clear: No deal.

Zardari’s refusal to reopen the supply routes left a diplomatic blot on a summit that NATO sought to cast as the beginning of the end of the conflict in Afghanistan. The Chicago gathering did produce a formal agreement by the alliance to hand over lead responsibility for security to Afghan forces by mid-2013, and pull out nearly all U.S. and other NATO troops by the end of 2014 even if the Taliban-led insurgency remains undiminished.

U.S. officials insist ample fuel and other supplies are being delivered via much longer and more expensive land routes in Russia and other nations north of Afghanistan. But the Pentagon says reopening the land route in Pakistan will be essential to hauling vast stores of military equipment and vehicles out of Afghanistan during the withdrawal.

Obama’s irritation at the impasse was clear Monday when he addressed more than 50 world leaders and publicly thanked Russia and Central Asian nations “that continue to provide critical transit” of war supplies into Afghanistan. Zardari sat only a few feet away, but Obama pointedly did not mention Pakistan.

Later at a news conference that closed the two-day summit, Obama did not try to downplay the strains in a relationship that has spiraled from crisis to crisis since U.S. Navy SEALs secretly flew into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden last May. Nor did Obama suggest, as his aides had done earlier, that a quick resolution was likely.

"I don’t want to paper over real challenges there," Obama said. "There’s no doubt that there have been tensions between [the NATO military coalition] and Pakistan, the United States and Pakistan over the last several months."

Pakistan closed the main NATO supply route after U.S. airstrikes hit two border posts Nov. 26 and killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Islamabad has demanded an unconditional apology, and more than $5,000 per truck, up from about $250 in the past, to let supplies flow again. The Obama administration has refused to apologize, saying both sides committed mistakes, and it says the new truck toll is far too expensive.

Pictured: President Obama speaks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at the McCormick Place Convention Center during the NATO summit in Chicago. (Pete Souza / The White House, AFP/Getty Images / May 21, 2012)

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Afghans march in Kabul to demand justice for women
Young Women for Change say government is not serious about tackling suffering and fear return to Taliban era ignorance
Young Afghans braved fears of violence to join a rare march on parliament to demand justice for the women who have been killed, beaten and abused this year – including one they said was beheaded by her own husband.

No politicians came out to meet them, underlining the group’s claim that officials are not serious about tackling the suffering of women, despite a law that aims to end the abuse.
"In the last weeks we have had a lot of cases of violence against women," said 19 year-old student Kamila Ataee. "Just the women are dead, and the men who killed them are alive. We should raise our voices so everyone knows about it."
Around 30 young men and women joined the march, although organisers from Young Women for Change said they had expected a turnout of around 200. Several demonstrators said friends had been ordered to stay home or were afraid to come.
"A lot of things happen against women in Afghanistan, but no one can bring change without women themselves," said 16-year-old Zahira, who had slipped out to join the march without telling her parents in case they banned her for her own safety.
Demonstrations in Afghanistan frequently turn violent, and women’s rights are still a controversial issue in a country where many men feel that women should be confined to domestic roles inside their homes, and subject to the authority of their husbands or male relatives.
The country’s top clerics recently issued new guidelines saying women were subordinate to men, should not mix in work and education and must always have a male guardian when they travel – rules critics say are dangerously reminiscent of the Taliban era.
The demonstration was prompted by the murder of five women since the Afghan new year in late March, but also highlighted around a dozen other cases of recent violence. They included a 15-year-old who was viciously tortured by her in-laws for refusing to work as a prostitute, and a teacher who was stabbed to death by her brother for working outside the home.
Pictured: Afghan Young Women for Change hold placards saying ‘Where is justice?’. Photograph: Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images

Afghans march in Kabul to demand justice for women

Young Women for Change say government is not serious about tackling suffering and fear return to Taliban era ignorance

Young Afghans braved fears of violence to join a rare march on parliament to demand justice for the women who have been killed, beaten and abused this year – including one they said was beheaded by her own husband.

No politicians came out to meet them, underlining the group’s claim that officials are not serious about tackling the suffering of women, despite a law that aims to end the abuse.

"In the last weeks we have had a lot of cases of violence against women," said 19 year-old student Kamila Ataee. "Just the women are dead, and the men who killed them are alive. We should raise our voices so everyone knows about it."

Around 30 young men and women joined the march, although organisers from Young Women for Change said they had expected a turnout of around 200. Several demonstrators said friends had been ordered to stay home or were afraid to come.

"A lot of things happen against women in Afghanistan, but no one can bring change without women themselves," said 16-year-old Zahira, who had slipped out to join the march without telling her parents in case they banned her for her own safety.

Demonstrations in Afghanistan frequently turn violent, and women’s rights are still a controversial issue in a country where many men feel that women should be confined to domestic roles inside their homes, and subject to the authority of their husbands or male relatives.

The country’s top clerics recently issued new guidelines saying women were subordinate to men, should not mix in work and education and must always have a male guardian when they travel – rules critics say are dangerously reminiscent of the Taliban era.

The demonstration was prompted by the murder of five women since the Afghan new year in late March, but also highlighted around a dozen other cases of recent violence. They included a 15-year-old who was viciously tortured by her in-laws for refusing to work as a prostitute, and a teacher who was stabbed to death by her brother for working outside the home.

Pictured: Afghan Young Women for Change hold placards saying ‘Where is justice?’. Photograph: Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images

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Afghan women are being jailed for ‘moral crimes’, says report
Courts failing to protect women, many of whom are in prison for running away from home or adultery, says Human Rights Watch
Nearly half of all women in Afghan prisons are being held for “moral crimes” such as running away from home or adultery, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
After more than a decade of international efforts to reform the legal system and women’s rights in Afghanistan, the report found that despite a number of improvements, women still face extremely limited protection in the court system.
The report focused primarily on the imprisonment of women who fled their homes to escape abusive situations. In almost all such instances, those responsible for the abuse did not face any legal actions, while the victims faced prison sentences.
Afghanistan is the only country in the world that interprets sharia law to prohibit women from running away from their home without permission.
"In our view this misuse of the made up crime of running away is emblematic of the difficult position that women find themselves in Afghanistan today. There has obviously been progress in education for women and healthcare for women and employment and travel for women. That’s all been good, but the progress that has been made is precarious," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
"Particularly as the international community pulls back militarily from Afghanistan we believe that it’s important too that the Afghan government and the international community recommit themselves to the rights of all Afghans, including women," he added.
In one case described by the HRW report, a woman named Souriya Y was given away for marriage at the age of 12 to resolve a family dispute. Her husband was abusive, but her father encouraged her to be patient. Nine years into the marriage, her husband accused her of running away and having sex with one of his enemies. Souriya told HRW she saw the man she was accused of running away with for the first time in court and says her husband made up the story to get rid of her and shame his rival. She was convicted and sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
The report follows numerous similar indicators that present a stark situation for women. A UN report published in winter found that despite the creation of a law designed to protect women, nearly two years after its inception it is rarely enforced. Meanwhile, a separate report by Oxfam found that 87% of Afghan women reported experiencing physical, psychological, or sexual abuse or forced marriages.
With a legal system that often punishes women for reporting violent crimes against them such as rape or abuse, a number of women do not speak up for fear of facing judicial reprisal.
Pictured: Women’s rights in Afghanistan have improved but the situation could deteriorate when international forces leave the country, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Photograph: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

Afghan women are being jailed for ‘moral crimes’, says report

Courts failing to protect women, many of whom are in prison for running away from home or adultery, says Human Rights Watch

Nearly half of all women in Afghan prisons are being held for “moral crimes” such as running away from home or adultery, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

After more than a decade of international efforts to reform the legal system and women’s rights in Afghanistan, the report found that despite a number of improvements, women still face extremely limited protection in the court system.

The report focused primarily on the imprisonment of women who fled their homes to escape abusive situations. In almost all such instances, those responsible for the abuse did not face any legal actions, while the victims faced prison sentences.

Afghanistan is the only country in the world that interprets sharia law to prohibit women from running away from their home without permission.

"In our view this misuse of the made up crime of running away is emblematic of the difficult position that women find themselves in Afghanistan today. There has obviously been progress in education for women and healthcare for women and employment and travel for women. That’s all been good, but the progress that has been made is precarious," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

"Particularly as the international community pulls back militarily from Afghanistan we believe that it’s important too that the Afghan government and the international community recommit themselves to the rights of all Afghans, including women," he added.

In one case described by the HRW report, a woman named Souriya Y was given away for marriage at the age of 12 to resolve a family dispute. Her husband was abusive, but her father encouraged her to be patient. Nine years into the marriage, her husband accused her of running away and having sex with one of his enemies. Souriya told HRW she saw the man she was accused of running away with for the first time in court and says her husband made up the story to get rid of her and shame his rival. She was convicted and sentenced to five and a half years in prison.

The report follows numerous similar indicators that present a stark situation for women. A UN report published in winter found that despite the creation of a law designed to protect women, nearly two years after its inception it is rarely enforced. Meanwhile, a separate report by Oxfam found that 87% of Afghan women reported experiencing physical, psychological, or sexual abuse or forced marriages.

With a legal system that often punishes women for reporting violent crimes against them such as rape or abuse, a number of women do not speak up for fear of facing judicial reprisal.

Pictured: Women’s rights in Afghanistan have improved but the situation could deteriorate when international forces leave the country, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Photograph: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

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Rift Widens Between U.S. And An Angry Karzai
The tension between the United States and Afghanistan has reached a boiling point.
More details are emerging about Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 unarmed Afghans this past week, and there is still anger over the accidental burning of copies of the Quran by soldiers on a military base.
When he met with relatives of the victims Friday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai prayed for God to “rescue us from these two demons,” a reference to the Taliban and what many believe is the U.S.
As the rift widens between the U.S. and Afghanistan, the Obama administration might be forced to rethink its strategy in Afghanistan and its plans for withdrawal.
The U.S. And Karzai
President Karzai said this week that he believes the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship is at the “end of the rope.” There is no doubt he does not see eye to eye with President Obama on Afghan policy and that their relationship is beginning to fray.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, says American officials haven’t always given Karzai the credit he is due. He tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that the U.S. should listen to Karzai when he gives a diagnosis of the country.
"In recent times the relationship is such that it has not always been functional for both sides," Khalilzad says.
The erosion of that relationship has roots in Afghanistan’s most recent presidential election, Khalilzad says, when the Obama administration was perceived by many to be in support of Karzai’s opponents. He says that did a lot of damage to the trust between the two presidents.
"Never point a gun to the king’s head, because if he survives he’s not going to forget that," Khalilzad says. "That’s what we have at one level with President Karzai at the present time."
An Afghan by birth, Khalilzad has seen his country invaded, occupied and go through different phases of socialism, communism and even monarchy. But he says he is “cautiously optimistic” about Afghanistan’s future — if there is a strategic partnership agreement and a residual U.S. presence.
"On the other hand, if the U.S. withdraws or abandons Afghanistan," he says, "there is a risk of return to the 1990s … when a terrible civil war broke, which brought the Taliban and al-Qaida to Afghanistan."
Pictured: Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out at the United States on Friday, saying he is at the “the end of the rope” because of the lack of U.S. cooperation into a probe of a killing spree allegedly carried out by an American soldier. Ahmad Jamshid/AP

Rift Widens Between U.S. And An Angry Karzai

The tension between the United States and Afghanistan has reached a boiling point.

More details are emerging about Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 unarmed Afghans this past week, and there is still anger over the accidental burning of copies of the Quran by soldiers on a military base.

When he met with relatives of the victims Friday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai prayed for God to “rescue us from these two demons,” a reference to the Taliban and what many believe is the U.S.

As the rift widens between the U.S. and Afghanistan, the Obama administration might be forced to rethink its strategy in Afghanistan and its plans for withdrawal.

The U.S. And Karzai

President Karzai said this week that he believes the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship is at the “end of the rope.” There is no doubt he does not see eye to eye with President Obama on Afghan policy and that their relationship is beginning to fray.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, says American officials haven’t always given Karzai the credit he is due. He tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that the U.S. should listen to Karzai when he gives a diagnosis of the country.

"In recent times the relationship is such that it has not always been functional for both sides," Khalilzad says.

The erosion of that relationship has roots in Afghanistan’s most recent presidential election, Khalilzad says, when the Obama administration was perceived by many to be in support of Karzai’s opponents. He says that did a lot of damage to the trust between the two presidents.

"Never point a gun to the king’s head, because if he survives he’s not going to forget that," Khalilzad says. "That’s what we have at one level with President Karzai at the present time."

An Afghan by birth, Khalilzad has seen his country invaded, occupied and go through different phases of socialism, communism and even monarchy. But he says he is “cautiously optimistic” about Afghanistan’s future — if there is a strategic partnership agreement and a residual U.S. presence.

"On the other hand, if the U.S. withdraws or abandons Afghanistan," he says, "there is a risk of return to the 1990s … when a terrible civil war broke, which brought the Taliban and al-Qaida to Afghanistan."

Pictured: Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out at the United States on Friday, saying he is at the “the end of the rope” because of the lack of U.S. cooperation into a probe of a killing spree allegedly carried out by an American soldier. Ahmad Jamshid/AP

Filed under Afghanistan middle east asia

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Obama condolences over Afghanistan massacre in Kandahar
US President Barack Obama has phoned his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai to express condolences over the massacre of 16 villagers in Kandahar.
Nine children were killed along with adults in their homes when a US soldier based locally allegedly went on a gun rampage during the night.
Mr Obama vowed to hold accountable anyone responsible for the “tragic and shocking” incident.
President Karzai has condemned the attack and demanded an explanation.
The unnamed suspect, who had apparently recently suffered a mental breakdown, returned to his base in Kandahar’s Panjwai district after the attack and handed himself into custody.
Anti-US sentiment was already high in Afghanistan after US soldiers burnt copies of the Koran last month.
US officials have apologised repeatedly for the incident at a Nato base in Kabul but they failed to quell a series of protests and attacks that killed at least 30 people and six US troops.
Pictured: US and Afghan troops have been keeping watch inside the base near Alkozai

Obama condolences over Afghanistan massacre in Kandahar

US President Barack Obama has phoned his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai to express condolences over the massacre of 16 villagers in Kandahar.

Nine children were killed along with adults in their homes when a US soldier based locally allegedly went on a gun rampage during the night.

Mr Obama vowed to hold accountable anyone responsible for the “tragic and shocking” incident.

President Karzai has condemned the attack and demanded an explanation.

The unnamed suspect, who had apparently recently suffered a mental breakdown, returned to his base in Kandahar’s Panjwai district after the attack and handed himself into custody.

Anti-US sentiment was already high in Afghanistan after US soldiers burnt copies of the Koran last month.

US officials have apologised repeatedly for the incident at a Nato base in Kabul but they failed to quell a series of protests and attacks that killed at least 30 people and six US troops.

Pictured: US and Afghan troops have been keeping watch inside the base near Alkozai

Filed under Afghanistan middle east asia Attacks USA

1 note &

How it happened: Massacre in Kandahar
In the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, a US soldier stationed at a base in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province allegedly launched a single-handed gun attack on nearby Afghan villagers.
He is said to have broken into homes in two villages, Alkozai and Najeeban, both located about 500m (yds) from the base in Panjwai district.
By the end of the attack, 16 people, nine of them children, were dead and five wounded. Some of the bodies had been set on fire.
The unidentified soldier, believed to be a staff sergeant, later returned to his base, where he was put under arrest.
Pictured: Ashes and what appeared to be bloodstains could be seen inside one of the houses attacked

How it happened: Massacre in Kandahar

In the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, a US soldier stationed at a base in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province allegedly launched a single-handed gun attack on nearby Afghan villagers.

He is said to have broken into homes in two villages, Alkozai and Najeeban, both located about 500m (yds) from the base in Panjwai district.

By the end of the attack, 16 people, nine of them children, were dead and five wounded. Some of the bodies had been set on fire.

The unidentified soldier, believed to be a staff sergeant, later returned to his base, where he was put under arrest.

Pictured: Ashes and what appeared to be bloodstains could be seen inside one of the houses attacked

Filed under Afghanistan middle east asia Attacks