'Nightmare without end': Action needed to address rights abuses against Afghan women and girls, advocate says
The international community needs to step up to hold the Taliban accountable for human rights abuses in Afghanistan, a year after the militant Islamist group took control of the country and limited the rights of women and girls, a human rights advocate says.
"This last year has been a complete nightmare without end, honestly," Heather Barr, associate director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, told CTV National News. "Women have had all of their rights stripped away from them, and girls as well."
She also took aim at countries, including Canada, who purport to have a foreign policy that is supportive of women's rights but are not pushing hard enough for the change that is needed.
"If your feminist foreign policy doesn't mean standing up and providing leadership and taking practical steps to try and address the most serious women's rights crisis in the world right now, which is Afghanistan, what does your feminist foreign policy mean?" Barr said.
The Taliban marked the one-year anniversary Monday since the group seized the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The seizure of the Afghan capital came as the U.S. prepared to withdraw its last remaining troops from the country, a move that would prove chaotic as Afghans rushed to Kabul International Airport in a desperate attempt to flee.
The U.S. would ultimately pull its forces from Afghanistan by the end of August 2021, ending its 20-year-long war in the country and the longest in American history.
With millions in Afghanistan facing food shortages, teenage girls are also barred from going to school and women must cover themselves from head-to-toe in public, with only their eyes showing.
Along with prohibiting girls from attending secondary school, Barr says the Taliban have limited access to work for women, with some losing salaries due to the country's economic crisis, as well.
The Taliban also have prevented women from seeing male health-care professionals, Barr added, and "dismantled" systems to protect women from gender-based violence.
"We've seen women protesting as recently as Saturday against these policies," she said, "but the Taliban's response to those protests has been absolutely brutal, including detaining, abducting and abusing women and forcing them into false confessions."
Barr penned a letter, published Monday by the online news agency Rukhshana Media, in which she apologized that her country, the United States, and others who promised to defend the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan but later broke that promise.
"The world has too easily turned the page on Afghanistan," she wrote.
Barr called the response by the UN and countries around the world to the human rights violations against Afghan women and girls "weak."
She urged the UN Human Rights Council and other UN bodies to put pressure on the Taliban to ensure its officials are held accountable, whether through travel bans or other sanctions, for violating the rights of women and girls.
"The Taliban cannot kill the spirit of Afghan girls and women, and the world owes you its support," Barr said. "The road is long and brutally hard, but I know you are fighting every day. We see your courage."
Watch the interview with Heather Barr at the top of the article. With files from CTVNews.ca Web Reporter Rhythm Sachdeva and The Associated Press.