Please find below a letter from EWL member Ženski lobi Slovenije - Women’s Lobby of Slovenia to Ms Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
[24 August 2021]
EU help to Afghan activists and human rights defenders
Dear President, Dear Ms von der Leyen,
We write to you concerning the EU commitment and responsibility to help women activists in Afghanistan. We note with great concern the contradictory positions being taken by the member states regarding the highly important process.
In your public statements you clearly state that the Commission is not considering a withdrawal of humanitarian and development aid to support the NGOs operating in Afghanistan, and that aid is to remain tied to strict conditions, including the respect for the rights of women and girls. On that, you have our full support.
No one is safe until everyone is safe.
Some of the views and remarks recently expressed by several Prime Ministers call into question central elements of the EU position on humanitarian aid and gender equality. These are not aligned with the statements made and it is difficult to reconcile such positions.
We fear that the regime change may lead to the oppression of human rights and additional humanitarian and refugee crises. Women’s rights and freedoms could be eroded. One of the most urgent questions raised is whether the Taliban will again impose draconian restrictions on women and girls. In their rather sophisticated campaign, they declared that they would preserve women’s rights in line with their strict interpretation of Islam’s legal system, Sharia law. They have not expanded on the roles women would be able to have within the country, and this could very likely mean the reaffirmation of their subordinated social status. We doubt that the Taliban have changed their views on women’s rights in any fundamental way.
Afghan women’s rights defenders are at increased risk of persecution and violence and to be routinely denied their rights to freedom, safety, and equality. As the Taliban consolidate power in Afghanistan, we expect violent reprisals against activists, with many of whom we cooperated and collaborated.
Throughout the moments of collective crisis women activists have continued to fight against inequalities, to push for safer, more equal Afghanistan. Today, they may face pervasive discrimination, experience intolerable acts of violence.
These experiences cannot be separated from struggles many may face on account of other intersecting identities. Many brave campaigners are staying in Afghanistan to help to prevent the erosion of human rights. As the situation continues to unfold, life-preserving acts, seen and unseen, big and small, are performed each day in the face of violence experienced by countless citizens whose lives have been placed at risk. As fears of forced child marriage, rape and violence continue to be reported, we call for a global response to address the plight of all who remain vulnerable and frightened.
The EU, through its NATO member states, Slovenia included, was actively involved in the Afghan conflict. That notwithstanding, the EU should strive to achieve wanted outcomes by using its peaceful diplomatic strategies and attracting foreign governments to join in through indirect diplomatic intervention and use smart power to the best of its ability.
It is our view that the EU has a specific responsibility to the Afghan people fighting for human rights, dignity, equality, and equity – core values on which the EU is founded – to ensure they are safe and protected.
We call on the European Commission to work closely with foreign governments and international partners to protect these brave fighters and seek to ensure they get a seat at the negotiation table about the new Afghan government.
We ask you personally, Madam President, to actively work and engage with foreign governments, leaders and other relevant actors and partners in the attempts to ensure these activists are safe and protected. And that individual, personal views, regardless of how passionately these are felt, do not undermine effective humanitarian aid.
We thank you sincerely,
on behalf of Women’s Lobby of Slovenia
Liana Kalčina, Vice President, WFS
Sonja Lokar, Supervisory Board, WFS
Dr Jana Javornik, Advisory Board, WFS