Dear Mr. President: Do Not Forget the War Against Women in Afghanistan

Dear President Obama,

As you prepare to address the nation tomorrow to announce your new strategy for the war in Afghanistan I ask that you remember the victims of another war in Afghanistan – the war against women.

Violence against women in Afghanistan is a human rights problem of “profound proportions.” Rape in the country is widespread and goes under-reported, often not condemned by society or institutions. According to field research conducted last year by Norah Niland, the United Nations’ human rights representative in Afghanistan, rape in Afghanistan sees no boundaries, crossing all communities and social groups with little to no consequence for perpetrators.

“Violence targeting women and girls is widespread and deeply rooted in Afghan society,” said Niland at a news conference in Kabul. “Women and girls are at risk of rape in their homes, in their villages and in detention facilities.”

The news conference Niland spoke at is part of a 16-day activism campaign against gender violence that runs through December 10th, International Human Rights Day. This year’s theme “Commit ▪ Act ▪ Demand: We CAN End Violence Against Women!” is both a celebration of the work that has been done around the world to eliminate violence against women and a reminder of the amount of work that remains.

We need you President Obama to remember that women do not live in a world free from violence or rape, not here and certainly not in Afghanistan. We need you to remember that although the Taliban has collapsed, Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative Muslim country where women continue to struggle for their rights.

As it it currently stands women have no protection against violence under Afghan law. There is no explicit provision in the 1976 Afghan penal code that criminalizes rape and the parliament has yet to approve a draft law on violence against women. What’s worse is that victims of rape often find themselves prosecuted for adultery, a crime that is punishable by jail.

Women in Afghanistan suffer still in many other ways.

The majority of women in the country are illiterate. Only 12.6 percent of women over the age of 15 can read and write and Islamist insurgents often destroy girls’ schools.

Fifty-seven percent of girls are married off under the legal age of 16 and the country holds the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world with nearly 25,000 deaths every year.

The Afghan constitution requires that at least 25 percent of lawmakers in parliament be women, but there is only one woman cabinet minister in the entire government.

Under the recently adopted Afghan constitution “the citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal rights and duties before the law.” These words are as meaningless on paper as they are in practice. Afghan women are denied basic education, forced into marriages, and subject to violence on a daily basis.

President Obama, Afghanistan is a war-torn country on many fronts. As you unveil your new plan to end the war in Afghanistan remember that the country’s women battle alone for their freedom and rights every day. They too need a plan to end their war and allies to help them win. 

The war against women in Afghanistan is a war we cannot afford to lose. Tell me President Obama, how long will Afghan women need to wait for their own “exit strategy?”



UPDATE: This evening President Obama addressed the nation in a televised speech to announce his long-awaited strategy for Afghanistan. It with sadness and aggravation that I report that in his speech President Obama did not make a single reference to Afghanistan’s women and girls. Not a single reference. What an incredibly unfortunate missed opportunity.

For the full text of the speech click here. 

More post from Care2 on Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan:

Image courtesy of Agence France Presse -


Heinz K.
.7 years ago

US special forces 'tried to cover-up' botched Khataba raid in Afghanistan:
“Why did the special forces collect their bullets from the area?”
"In what culture in the world do you invite ... people for a party and meanwhile kill three women?”

Campaigning, brainwashing, exaggerating?
Please find out yourself.
Veritas vos liberabit

Amanda Y.
Amanda R8 years ago

I'm sorry but when did it become America's mission to save Afghan women? Why is is up to America to set those "barbarians" on the right path? How about keep your sticky fingers out of a situation you've already aggregated...

"Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative Muslim country"
Please please don't keep comparing what the Afghan government is doing to what is ACTUALLY Islamic (according to the Qur'an and the Sunnahs). It's the same thing as saying suicide bombers are Islamic too. Nothing about Islam promotes or condones rape and violence towards women.

Saima Muriam
Saima Muriam8 years ago

After seeing Dr.Aafia Sadiqi's condition n status am not hopfull to President Obama that they do some good for women in Afghanistan...coz Bombs n Doronz cant seperate women from men....they are equally ganderous for men, women n cute. innocent childerns..

Koo J.
greenplanet e8 years ago

Bombing doesn't help women. Bombing, guns, invasion are violence, too.

Carol H.
Past Member 8 years ago

Ann Bibby took the words right out of my mouth the only he cares about is SELF.

If he can't read the words he can't feel and that is a fact.

BO is a waste of time and liar.

Tamora P.
Tamora P.8 years ago

Brigitte, 90% of Afghani women are abused. That's been shown by a number of studies. This is NOT the case with American women, however bad your own experience may be. Also, American women have access to laws, domestic shelters, martial arts schools, and gun shops. Afghani women have 12 shelters in the entire country, and since most Afghanis don't read Arabic, the only language in which the Koran is published, they don't have access to the basic law that will grant them protection, let alone anyone else who might enforce it. You will argue that American women also have to find people who will enforce the law and you're right, but a sufficiently determined woman can also find a car, or a bus, and get to places where the law will protect her. Afghani women are not permitted drivers' licenses; if they get on a bus, they are open to being re-taken and returned to their men when the bus stops or when it is stopped on the road.

There is a big difference. I am not downplaying the lot of abused women in America. I come from that background; I know it. It must be fought at any and all costs and its victims given new lives; its perpetrators stopped. But don't say it's worse than Afghanistan.

Timothy L.
Timothy L.8 years ago

Zeinab - Fox News ALSO constantly denies inconvenient truths. If you're good with being associated with them, then I can't stop you....

It may not be the teaching of Islam, any more than the homophobic ravings of Rick Warren, the Mormons and the Right Catholic Church are the teachings of Jesus Christ (one of your own Great Prophets, I believe?) - but it's what passes for "Islam" in the minds of far too many vicious fundamentalists. As I've said elsewhere, it's a difference that makes no difference - at least, not until you as a moderate Muslim stand up and publicly denounce the extremists at least as vigorously as I as a Christian am denouncing Warren, Pope Benedict, the LDS and ANY sect that discriminates against gays....

Chana B.
.8 years ago

Brigitte, I don't believe I ever said that we should not be addressing violence toward women in the US and I KNOW I never said that we should bomb Afghan women. It astounds me that you would put false statements in my mouth in order to try to make your point. That really amounts to lying.

Zeinab, I agree with absolutely that the Koran does not teach violence against women. I had some very good Afghani friends who gave me some excellent books on Koranic Islam. It is not the Islam that is practiced in the fundamentalist states and it is, as are most religions, one path to God. Unfortunately, it has become perverted by some groups and some societies. I'm not talking about about things like dressing modesty, or some of the things that the West focuses on almost obsessively. I'm talking about the real violations of human rights. I hope that I live long enough to see the moderate Muslims rise up and reclaim their religion, wresting it away from the fanatics that have given it a bad name.

Zeinab A.
Past Member 8 years ago

oh Timothy I already read that article, before I commented on your earlier comment. I still don't believe it.

And yes Chana, of course not all Muslim country are the same. I know that women can't drive in Saudi Arabia. I was talking in general.

As a Muslim in America I always point out to people that there are good in bad in all people,groups,etc.

What I'm trying to say is if a women gets beaten for not wearing a burqa, thats not "Islamic". If she gets abused by her husband, thats not "Islamic". If she is forced into a marriage, thats not "Islamic". Don't believe everything you hear! You want to get the real facts then read the actual Quran before you spread false information.

Ann Bibby
Ann Bibby8 years ago

Afghan women are about as important to Obama as American women are which is too bad for us all.