Introducing the Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan campaign

VAFO steht in Solidarität mit der Kampagne „Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan“. Der folgende Text wurde von der Kampagne zur Verfügung gestellt. Wir bitten um Unterstützung und Solidarität. Gemeinsam setzen wir ein starkes Zeichen für die Frauen und Mädchen in Afghanistan!

We, the undersigned members of the ‘Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan’ campaign are
mainly based in Germany but boasts members and supporters in the rest of the EU member
countries, and the UK. Using the opportunity, we would like to write a few paragraphs about
us by way of introduction.

Short Background of Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan Campaign

After Miss Tamana Zaryab Paryani and her three sisters were evacuated to Germany, based on her belief in the equality of women and men under the rule of law, particularly in Afghanistan, and due to her previous activism aligned with her belief that landed them in the Taliban prison, where she underwent inhuman torture and abuse, she started a campaign in Germany to end gender apartheid in Afghanistan, in August 2023. The campaign is in its fourth phase now.
The first phase was the announcement of the beginning of the campaign through a declaration. The second phase was a 12-day hunger strike by Tamana – and in her support, a large number of women in different parts of Europe and the region of Afghanistan, including Pakistan also went on hunger strike. The third phase marked a 30-day sit-in protest under a tent in the cold weather of Germany. Now, the fourth phase is a protest convoy which travels from city to city in Germany and Europe, and possibly in the future in other parts of the globe. Each protest convoy spreads the tent at the heart of each city for a day and then ends the protest with a declaration.
The campaign wants the Western countries and the world to recognise that what is happening in Afghanistan is ‘gender apartheid.’ If that were widely accepted no country would dare to recognise the Taliban regime and continue the current ‘engagement’ policy, which is a creeping legitimisation of the terror and crime syndicate of the Taliban and the totalitarian regime they are erecting from the ground up in Afghanistan. We, members of the campaign team, are worried that this creeping legitimation is a process of acceptance of the Taliban and their normalisation. This will set a terrible precedent in the world to indicate that any terror group which achieves power through extreme use of violence and killing of the
innocent – children, elderly women, and men – will be normalised due to the fact they have achieved power. We are not international law experts, but this is based on our institution and logical thinking. We want to prevent this horrific eventuality.

Why Gender Apartheid?

The concepts of ‘gender persecution’ or ‘gender segregation,’ cannot capture the level of injustice the Taliban ideology poses to women. Therefore, only the ‘term gender’ apartheid can explain the situation. This is exactly done with the “commission of an inhuman act of requisite character with the intent to maintain an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination,” as argued by several international law experts. After the event of 15 August 2021, some of the European Union member states have announced that due to ‘gender persecution’ in Afghanistan women as a category must be protected. The reason is that persecution based on gender is specifically included as a crime against humanity and based on the Rome Statute the ICC is empowered to persecute those involved in such acts. It seems the same term subsumes ‘gender segregation’ as well. But the situation of women in Afghanistan goes beyond this as women systematically have been subordinated by the Taliban.

What the Campaign Wants to Achieve?

The raison d’etre and the demands of the End Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan campaign are the following. Why have we launched the campaign? We believe in achieving equality in society, where men
and women have equal rights under the law, equal rights to education, work, and public participation. We believe through ‘engaging’ the Taliban these cannot be achieved. The Taliban is not reformable, they won’t be reformed. Thus, we believe, they must be removed. How do we plan to achieve this? A) The way we challenge the status quo is to create an international consensus that the condition of women in Afghanistan is tantamount to nothing but ‘gender apartheid,’ or even worse than that and B) to relentlessly campaign for the criminalisation of gender apartheid in international law. What vision or just cause are we striving for? To create a free, equal and just society, where equality between men and women is institutionalised, human rights are respected, pluralism and diversity are officially recognised, and people have the right to self-determination in democratic processes. The campaign will help build this just cause/vision and this is what we believe in. As the recent UN assessment acknowledged, “Afghanistan is a diverse, multiethnic, multi-sectarian, multi-linguistic and multi-cultural society” (see See Feridun Sinirlioğlu’s report, who is the Special Coordinator completed an “Independent Assessment on
Afghanistan” mandated by Security Council resolution 2679, 2023). We fight for a political system which respects and formally recognises this diversity and pluralism – as a sure way of ensuring social justice, rather than denying these facts – but more importantly the system must respect gender equality and human rights.

Engagement versus Removal of Taliban

The buzzword on Afghanistan is ‘engagement’ but as we argued this risks legitimation and
normalisation of the Taliban. The Policy of engagement is not only pushed by the regional
countries, including Qatar but also by some of the Western capitals, or at least some quarters
of it. In the meantime, some members of the civil society of Afghanistan, those sympathetic
to the Taliban, also advocate engagement. On the other hand, however, the ‘civil resistance’ especially the brave women of Afghanistan who stand and protest against the Taliban
inside and outside the country – are rarely listened to in the Western capitals, whereas those
who advocate engagement get a ‘red carpet’ treatment. In other words, it should be known
that there are those who advocate/lobby for ‘engagement’ with the Taliban, are not
representing the fighting women of Afghanistan. The civil resistance will not settle with
anything but the removal of the Taliban from power. The recent announcement of the Taliban
‘spiritual leader’, Haibatullah Akhundazada, who announced that the stoning to death of
women in Afghanistan will commence, shown the extent of their misogyny and intentional
creation of a gender apartheid system. This brings us to the main demands of our campaign.

The Campaign Demands

  • The current ‘gender apartheid’ in Afghanistan must formally be acknowledged by international organisations and the countries that defend human rights
  • We demand the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners, including women, intellectuals, and political and civil activists.
  • We demand the seizing of the cash transfer to the Taliban (under the guise of humanitarian assistance) and we consider any political support rendered to the group strengthening terrorism in the region and the world (unless direct and verifiable avenues of assistance to the people are identified).
  • We are against the Summit that the UN plans to hold. We consider these meetings part of the effort to establish political relations with the Taliban and the official recognition of the terror group. In this difficult and long path, we demand the company of civil and social groups and the people of the entire world.

Using the opportunity, we would like to express our gratitude to the UK Parliament members
for initiating a highly important Parliamentary Inquiry looking at the situation of women in
Afghanistan and Iran. We hope the Labour Party in Britain endorses their finding and advocate
for the recommendations’ implementations. Tamana had the honour and pleasure of giving testimony in the Inquiry, behalf members of the ‘End Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan’ campaign! Also, we would like to thank the UK Parliament for hosting an event on 13 December 2023 regarding the need for establishment of an inclusive, diverse, and democratic forum of Afghanistan as well as the Labour Party on behalf of which Catherine
West MP supported this idea.