We speak out because we can
One of the best things about working for Amnesty is our bloomin’ amazing activists. Whether we’re dressing up as grim reapers to protest at Cameron's stance on Sri Lanka or busting some serious moves in York town centre to celebrate our 50th anniversary, Amnesty activists take protesting to a whole new level.
But do we realise how lucky we are in the UK? We can raise our voices, our hands – even our scythes! – to defend our rights and the rights of others. Elsewhere – Afghanistan, for example – simply speaking out can be a death sentence.
There has been an alarming increase in murders of high profile women in Afghanistan in recent months. Two of the most senior women in Helmand’s police force have been murdered in the past few months; a well-known author who had written about life under the Taliban was dragged out of her home in a south-eastern suburb and shot 15 times. Their deaths unfortunately signify just the tip of the iceberg of an endemic problem of violence against women in the country.
At our student conference last weekend our student activists heard from Manizha Naderi who has set up shelters and family resource centres across Afghanistan. She told us heartbreaking stories of women who had managed to take refuge in her shelters after being subjected to rape, beatings, abuse, enslavement by their husbands and families.
One 16-year old girl had refused to marry the man matched for her by her family. For this ‘crime’ her father had slit his own daughter’s throat. Miraculously, she survived and made it to one of Women for Afghan Women’s shelters. Many do not.
Last night, Samira Hamidi, another inspiring Afghan woman human rights defenders, addressed politicians and Amnesty activists in Westminster, reminding us of the dangers that women in Afghanistan face just for speaking out, of the lack of protection in place for those who are threatened or attacked.
And she praised the work of Amnesty activsits in raising the issue again and again in their communities, and with their MPs, reminding the UK Government to step up and increase the support and protection they give to women human rights defenders in Afghanistan.
Our activists have been campaigning for women’s rights with persistence and passion for years. And last night many of them joined us to showcase some of the best of British activism for women in Afghanistan, along with their MPs. Have a look at the film at the top of this post to see some of the ways they're raising their voices to support Afghan women - from classrooms to constituency offices, from demonstrations to festivals.
We raise our voices because we can, without danger. In Afghanistan women human rights defenders play a critical role in providing survivors with a voice, protection and support to help them rebuild their lives. But organisations like Manizha’s, Samira's and many others carry out this important work at great personal risk, facing threats, intimidation and attacks.
Afghan women human rights defenders have told us countless times how much it means to them to have people in the UK echoing their calls and supporting their work. So why not drop one Afghan women's organisation a line and tell them that they've got your support? Send a message to staff at the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre. Tell them what an inspiration they are and how much you support the positive change they are trying to bring for women in Afghanistan.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.