Jan 24, 2024

Seventy-five years ago, a declaration emerged to universally unite humanity and establish a platform encompassing shared values. Following the culmination of the Second World War, world leaders realised that humanity should be protected from the recurrence of such atrocities and that people must not endure such adversities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) affirms that every human being should enjoy equality, dignity, liberty and freedom of speech despite their race, colour, religion and country of origin, as the first article of the declaration states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”[1]

Although this declaration is not legally binding, the vast majority of countries respect it and have incorporated its treaties into their national constitutions. However, many human rights violations take place in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan. The deterioration of the human rights situation in Afghanistan has worsened since the Taliban tightened its grip over Kabul in August 2021. While the world commemorates the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly, Afghanistan is grappling with a de facto authority that not only breaches and/or abuses the declaration but also exposes its people to one of the worst humanitarian crises in the 21st Century.[2] Notably, the most preeminent case involves the severe restrictions imposed on girls and women. Women and girls are subjected to a systematic exclusion from all sorts of life outside their doorsteps. This deprivation encompasses their right to education, involvement in political life, freedom of movement, and expression, among other fundamental rights. In November 2022, for instance, women were banned from accessing public baths, parks and gyms in Kabul.[3] Additionally, it has been over 800 days since the girls were banned from attending school, and more than 300 days since the women were banned from accessing higher education. The media workers’ and journalists’ freedom of speech also continues to shrink where they are being exposed to arbitrary detentions and arrests.[4] Last week, the whereabouts of female human rights activists became unknown following their arbitrary arrest by the Taliban.[5] This, as a result, requires the world’s attention and immediate response to take action in order to protect the dignity and freedom of the people of Afghanistan. 

While the rights of the people inside Afghanistan are being undermined day by day, the Afghan diaspora across the globe strive to protect, preserve, and promote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For instance, the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) is a renowned and award-winning British charity that was established by a refugee who fled the Taliban’s atrocities and sought refuge in the UK in 1999. The ACAA has promoted the UDHR values through its work offering equal opportunities to the refugees and elevating their experience in the UK. For instance, on 29 November 2023, the ACAA hosted a pivotal conference in partnership with the University of Westmont enterprise hub on ‘Women of Afghanistan: Navigating the Path to Empowerment and Entrepreneurship.’ A vibrant dialogue highlighted the plight of women within Afghanistan and their experiences and in exile, as well as the pivotal role that the UK and the broader international community can play in championing their rights and dignity. The moderator alongside the speakers expressed the imperative urgency to advocate for decisive measures, “our meeting is more than a conference, it is a ‘Call for Action,’ understanding, and solidarity in these troubled times, ” emphasised the moderator. 

Four days prior to marking the 75th anniversary of the UDHR, a critical webinar on ‘Gender Apartheid and Human Rights in Afghanistan’ hosted by Shabnam Nasimi, former senior advisor to the Minister for Afghan Resettlement & Minister for Refugees, featuring Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. This webinar examined key issues like gender apartheid, the plight of women and girls, and the breakdown of the rule of law under the Taliban rule. Richard Bennett alongside the Human Rights Council drafted a report that assessed the entire situation in Afghanistan and concluded that both gender persecution and gender apartheid are current pressing concerns. These imperative concerns rest upon the shoulders’ of the international community and call for immediate solidarity and action. Advocating for the people of Afghanistan, especially its women and girls, is crucial, as the hardships they endure not only infringe upon their human dignity but also defy principles of justice.

Researched and written by Malak Al-Kasadi







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