Unfounded Claims Against Afghan Women’s Shelters Shake Women’s Rights Movement
The already precarious Women’s Rights Movement in Afghanistan has to overcome yet another obstacle. Nasto Naderi, a notoriously controversial television host in Afghanistan, has come out with a series of comments condemning the country’s women’s shelters. Naderi claims that these shelters encourage behavior that violates Islamic law, although he has yet to show proof of such claims. Prior to his last statement, Naderi had shown footage of a family guidance center. He then showed footage of women who work for a program called Women for Afghan Women entering their offices. Despite the fact that no one has substantiated Naderi’s claims, his recent campaign has those who work at the shelters both nervous and defiant, says a new article on The Daily Beast.
Huma Safi, who is involved with Women for Afghan Women’s programs, commented to the Daily Beast, “educated people know Nasto Naderi—they know not to believe a word he is saying. But the uneducated people—the people who have no information on what shelters are doing and the work that women’s organizations are doing—they may believe him.” It is these “uneducated” people that Safi fears will start to doubt the shelter’s work. One senior official commented anonymously to The Daily Beast that “Some donors are already pulling out.”
Safety concerns; calls for prosecution
People are concerned that Naderi’s claims will create new problems. Advocates for women in Afghanistan are concerned that rumors of peace talks with the Taliban mean that the country is becoming more conservative and as a result, women’s rights will fall by the wayside. Women for Afghan Women has gone on the offensive after Naderi’s remarks, requesting that government officials prosecute Naderi for risking the safety of their workers after he displayed their faces on television earlier this month.
In addition, they contacted the ministry of culture and information after Naderi’s broadcast. They were referred to the attorney general’s office and have a meeting with government officials scheduled for later in the week. Although the Afghani government has publicly supported women’s rights to jobs and education, President Hamid Karzai created a government commission last year to look into the services provided by shelters.
Still, Afghan women show no signs of slowing down. The need for programs like Women for Afghan Women is affirmed by the statistics. In 2008, over 80 women set themselves on fire in the region of Herat. The Human Rights Watch stated that “87 percent of female respondents had undergone “forced marriage or at least one form of physical, sexual or psychological violence.” As Huma Safi said “We will advocate and we will fight for this because there is an urgent need for shelters. If there is no shelter, then what will happen to those women who are suffering from violence?” Still, concerns linger among Afghan women, as Maria Bashir, the only female chief prosecutor, expressed, “Our government wants to talk with the Taliban about peace and no one is talking about women’s rights.”
Photo thanks to ISFA Media via Flickr