Human Rights in Afghanistan, Part 2: What It Means To Be A Human Rights’ Defender


By Khamosh

Human rights’ defenders seek the promotion and protection of civil and political rights, as well as the promotion, protection and realization of economic, social and cultural rights. “Human rights’ defender” is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights.

To be a human rights’ defender, a person can act to address any human right on behalf of individuals or groups. Human rights’ defenders address any human rights’ concerns, which can be as varied as, for example, summary executions, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, female genital mutilation, discrimination, employment issues, forced evictions, access to health care, and toxic waste and its impact on the environment.

Defenders are active in support of human rights as diverse as the rights to life, to food and water, to the highest attainable standard of health, to adequate housing, to a name and a nationality, to education, to freedom of movement and to non-discrimination.

The upsurge in violence in Afghanistan has had devastating consequences for civilians, with suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and targeted attacks by the Taliban and other insurgents causing 70% of all civilian casualties. The number of civilians killed during government military operations increased as well. The number of internally displaced people nearly reached 2.5 million in 2016.

While the government affirmed its commitment to human rights, it failed to address violations of women’s rights and attacks on journalists.

Another example: School officials managed to get Kabul authorities to write a letter ordering the military forces to leave a school site, but the commander ignored the order. When the students needed to take exams, school officials again presented the letter to the commander. Officers fired their guns in the direction of the assembled teachers and students. Schools should be safe places, even in the midst of conflict. The use of schools by military forces may run contrary to the global Safe Schools Declaration, the political commitment endorsed by Afghanistan in 2016.

At the recent October 5th Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, donors agreed to provide US$15.2 billion in aid to Afghanistan to be used over the next four years. This aid is desperately needed in a country with deteriorating security conditions and a fragile economy. A record number of Afghans are fleeing to Europe, and hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been sent back from Pakistan, Iran, and Europe.

Finally, the actions taken by human rights’ defenders must be peaceful in order to comply with the Declaration on Human Rights’ Defenders.

All together in defense of human rights!




A school without  walls in Nanaghar Province, Afghanistan

“From 2001 to 2016 there have been some achievements for Human Rights. But, still, we are faced with a lot of problems.”

By Bahadur Khamosh, Human Rights Worker, Afghanistan

Human rights are moral principles or norms, which describe certain standards of human behaviour, and are regularly protected as legal rights in municipal and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable, fundamental rights “to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being,” and which are “inherent in all human beings” regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status. They are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal, and they are egalitarian in the sense of being the same for everyone.

Afghanistan (which literally means Land of Afghans) is a Hmountainous, land-locked country located in south-central Asia. The region has a history and culture that dates back over 5,000 years, although it was only in 1747 that Ahmad Shah Durrani united the various tribes and founded what is currently known as Afghanistan.

Mujahedeen and Taliban:

The Mujahedeen was a dark period for Afghanistan. In this period human rights were violated. Women and children were raped. Then after the Mujahedeen, the Taliban attacked Afghanistan and they changed Afghanistan into a cemetery. They did not care about human rights and specific women’s rights. They beat women when they saw them alone in the city or outside of their houses. Girls were not allowed to go school. Some girls were killed by the Taliban in their five years of government.

Post Taliban:

The Bonn Agreement of 2001 established the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) as a national human rights institution to protect and promote human rights and to investigate human rights’ abuses and war crimes. The Afghanistan Constitution of 2004 entrenched the existence of the AIHRC. While the ongoing turmoil, violence and reconstruction efforts often make it difficult to get an accurate sense of what is going on, various reports from NGOs have accused various branches of the Afghan government of engaging in human rights’ violations. There have also been various human rights abuses by American soldiers on Afghan civilians, most notably in the Baghram prisons where innocent civilians endured torture, humiliating conditions, and inhumane treatment. The United States was heavily criticized for lenient sentencing for the soldiers responsible. Former Afghan warlords and political strongmen supported by the US during the ousting of the Taliban were responsible for numerous human rights’ violations in 2003, including kidnapping, rape, robbery, and extortion.

From 2001 to 2016 there have been some achievements for human rights. But still we are faced with a lot of problems. For example: in rural parts of country, girls can’t go to school,  and we are not able to solve this problem. Not all Afghan people are able to use the justice system; we don’t have enough health centres, especially for women. Girls can’t get a “love” marriage. Acid is thrown on girl’s faces and a lot of other crimes happen against humans in Afghanistan. The main reason for violations of human rights is Fundamentalism. 

Below, Afghan students sit in a yard in a village in Nangarhar Province, as there is no building for classes, and no stationary or white boards. When it rains they stay in a room without doors or windows. Photo credit: Bahadur Khamosh

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