Women’s security must be priority for upcoming Loya Jirga in Afghanistan

News Release

MONTREAL – November 3, 2003 – The Afghanistan Transitional Authority (ATA) must take immediate measures to ensure women attending December’s Constitutional Grand Council, or Loya Jirga, can do so without fear for their safety, says Rights & Democracy.

In a letter presented to President Hamid Karzai and other senior members of the ATA, Rights & Democracy requested the implementation of a number of measures designed to reduce the likelihood of violence against women participating in the country’s fledgling democratic process. Recommendations include expanding the mandate of the United Nation’s International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul during the Loya Jirga process to provide safety for female participants travelling from Afghanistan’s provinces; secure transportation for all women travelling to the Loya Jirga; the prompt investigation by security personnel of all threats against women delegates before, during, and after the Loya Jirga; and provision of a secure and private meeting space for women at the Loya Jirga.

With the UN Security Council in Afghanistan this week to meet with ATA officials and civil society representatives, Rights & Democracy sees an opportune occasion to address pressing security concerns for the upcoming Constitutional Loya Jirga. This is particularly crucial in light of the past experience of women delegates, particularly those who ran as candidates, at the previous Loya Jirga. The US-based Human Rights Watch documented numerous cases of women who experienced death threats, intimidation, harassment and violence, preventing their full and equal participation in this highest level of decision-making in the country.

The Constitutional Loya Jirga is an important step in the integration of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Afghanistan. Hopes are high throughout the country that this current process will finally bring about effective mechanism needed to ensure the rights and freedoms of all Afghan citizens. These mechanisms are detailed in another recent letter from Rights & Democracy to President Karzai, please click here

Many armed factions in Afghanistan have a vested interest in seeing the Constitutional Loya Jirga fail. As a result, the level of fear and intimidation experienced by those interested in seeing an era of permanent peace and stability in this war-torn nation is high.

“The Transitional Authority and its international supporters must act immediately to ensure women attending the coming Loya Jirga know that their participation will not come back to haunt them and their families,” said Jean-Louis Roy, President of Rights & Democracy. “After five years of gender apartheid under the Taliban, providing effective, thorough security to women participating in the political process is vital.”