Having voted to make women’s rights our next campaign topic, we were going to focus on maternal health rights in Ghana and Sierra Leone and help ensure that the the UK government’s promises to maintain its development fund are kept. But then we went to the Student Conference, and there was a change of plan. Women’s rights in Afghanistan is currently one of AIUK’s main campaign topics, and so in the interests of priorities we’ve decided to switch to this.
Some background, for the sake of dispelling some myths. We hear a lot today about the binary between the ‘civilised’ West and ‘backward’ Islamic countries. In fact, Afghanistan in the post-war period was one of the most liberal places in the Middle East, and for a while more so than in the West. Women gained the vote in 1919 (a decade before the UK) and were involved in drafting the 1964 constitution which granted equal rights to women and men. There were no clothing restrictions and many women were in high-level business and government jobs years before this became commonplace in UK or USA.
Western troops are currently engaged in a protracted ‘handover’ period with the Afghan governmental forces. Because of the recent Taliban resurgence this means, in some cases, cutting deals with Islamist militants. Amnesty wants to make it clear to the UK government and others that, in these negotiations, women’s rights are not sacrificed for an easier withdrawal. Crucially, we’re pushing for women’s involvement with the peace deal, which has been severely lacking – the slogan for the campaign is ‘No Women, No Peace’.
So, we’ll be running a petition-collecting session on campus on 5th December, putting pressure on the UK government to honour their promises. We hope you join us!