Opposition Leader…Mohammed Hanif Atmar is still relatively young, but has been active in Afghanistan intelligence, war, and high level ministerial positions. Today he is a founding member of the Rights and Justice Party. He began his career as an agent in Afghan security, the KHAD with strong ties to the Russian KGB, then fought alongside the Russians losing a leg in battle. He changed, got an education at University of York in England. During the years 2002 to 2011 he served terms as Minister in three Ministries…Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Education, and Interior. And until 2011 he was a close advisor to President Karzai. Now he leads a fledgling party that runs in opposition to the President because he perceives that on several key issues, poor decisions or harmful inaction are taking place. This includes women’s rights, handling of the Taliban and other militants, handling of war lords, and very importantly dealing with Pakistan and Iran. These two countries are crucial to finding security with Afghanistan because it is from within their borders that most of the terrorist activities emanate.
Activist Women…Three activist women told of us their work with women’s issues of shelter from abuse, education for girls, security problems they face when doing their work particularly in the rural areas and juggling these activities with a job that pays the bills.
The Human Rights Watch Report that was released yesterday did not do justice to the issue of abused women in that it did not report important nuanced facts as these three women see it. They also believe that the report which was based on too small of a sample gives the opposition fodder for propaganda.
Education for girls has certainly improved since 2001 when there was none, but numerous issues such as a lack of female teachers, threats and attacks on girls that do attend school, the physical structure of one room schools, etc. still persist and in some areas have deteriorated since about 2007 which was when the Taliban had regrouped and was selectively terrorizing again.
Following the discussion with the three women activists, we all joined Ambassador Ryan Crocker and about 50 others for the presentation of the State Department sponsored Women of Courage Award to Maryam Durani of Kandahar. The warm and tastefully done ceremony took place on the balcony of Ambassador’s residence.
Rule of Law…One of the major Embassy initiatives is to assist Afghanistan society in the consistent and transparent implementation and institutionalization of Rule of Law as a standard for all. This is not being done to force our legal system and methods upon them, but rather to incorporate their Formal, Sharia and Customary laws into a system of justice that is not based on favoritism and is not corrupted by undue outside pressures.