Saturday, August 27, 2016


Karzai Backs Afghan Clerics Over Stronger Restrictions On Women

Karzai's comments have raised fears that Afghan women's rights and freedoms are slowly being eroded.
Karzai's comments have raised fears that Afghan women's rights and freedoms are slowly being eroded.
By Frud Bezhan
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has backed a statement from the country's top religious body calling for stronger restrictions on women's freedoms.

On March 2, the Ulema Council issued a statement saying that men and women should not mix in the workplace or schools and that women must always be accompanied by a male relative when they travel.

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul on March 6, Karzai maintained that the statement did not call for restrictions on women but rather protected the standing of Afghan women.
Afghan President Hamid KarzaiAfghan President Hamid Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai

“Regarding the statement from Afghanistan's Ulema Council, they didn’t propose any limitations [on Afghan women]," he said. "In their [statement], they announced Islamic principles and values relating to the defense and reinforcement of women's position. This [statement] is in accordance with a Shari’a view of our country, which all Muslims and Afghans are committed to."

The statement from the Ulema Council, which was published by Karzai’s office, is not legally binding.

'Women Are Secondary'

The council statement renounces the equality of men and women enshrined in the Afghan Constitution and insists instead that "men are fundamental and women are secondary."

The clerics also supported men's right to commit violence against women in cases where there is a "Shari'a-compliant reason."

But other sections of the document defend women's rights, notably speaking out against forced marriages and the practice of exchanging women as a kind of currency to settle family and tribal disputes.

Overall, however, the statement calls for restrictions that are reminiscent of the Taliban era.

Afghan rights activists have condemned the statement and said they fear the Afghan government is giving in to the Taliban as Kabul tries to reach a peace settlement aimed at ending its decade-long battle with the insurgents.

Under the Taliban, women were barred from receiving an education and working outside the home and could only venture outside if they were wearing a burqa and were accompanied by a male relative.  

Ahmad Zia Langari, a commissioner at Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, claimed the council's statement is an injustice that tramples on the dignity of all Afghan women.

"In no Islamic country do we see that women are totally separated from men and cannot work in the same workplace," she said. "Even in Saudi Arabia these kinds of limitations don't exist. Logically, if we suppress women this much -- controlling their movement, conversations, and relations with others -- then we are actually damaging women's dignity as human beings."

The human rights director for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Georgette Gagnon, responded to Karzai's move by urging the Afghan government to implement laws to eliminate violence against women.

Strict Islamic Practices

The Ulema Council's statement is just the latest sign of the increasing pressure on Afghan women to adhere to strict Islamic practices.

Last month, the Afghan government asked female television presenters to wear head scarves and avoid heavy makeup after conservative members of the upper house of parliament complained about noncompliance with Islamic beliefs.

Karzai’s endorsement of the council's position will almost certainly raise the ire of the Obama administration, which has a history of tensions and differences of opinion with the Afghan leader.

A State Department spokesman in Washington told RFE/RL that U.S. officials are "aware" of Karzai’s comments and are "studying" the matter.

In Germany, Heiner Geissler, a senior politician from the ruling Christian Democratic Union party, warned that Afghan women will suffer when foreign forces withdraw. Geissler said foreign forces should remain in Afghanistan until Afghan police and soldiers are fully prepared to assume responsibility for protecting the rights of all Afghans.

The independent newspaper "Cheragh" said on March 6 that the Ulema Council's statement was "a reminder of dark pages in the history of Afghanistan when terrorists misused the tools of high Islamic education."

The "Daily Afghanistan" newspaper wrote that the many promises made to women about equal rights seem to have been forgotten and that Afghanistan's women seem doomed to become "second-class citizens" as they were under the Taliban.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan and Washington correspondent Heather Maher contributed to this report

Frud Bezhan

Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region. Send story tips to 

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: m.ali from: kabul
March 06, 2012 16:14
thank you

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
March 06, 2012 23:38
Neville Chamberlain couldn't have said it better. We'll let the taliban trample all over this half of the population because they are just second class citizen women, baby mills, sex slaves, domestic workers to serve the elite men. Their society hasn't advanced in centuries since the cavemen.
In Response

by: Yousefzay from: UAE
March 09, 2012 16:32
Dear Bill Webb

What you consider as an advance we consider it as backwards, and our values have respected very nation and there values, we didn't apply our rules on you nor on your country, yet you blame us and our values just because of I have an opinion. And whatever Mr, Neville Chamberlain said, it's rude and arrogance, and frankly speaking who cares what peoples say, we are just perfect just the way we are.
Have a great day

by: Koos Nolst Trenite from: Europe
March 07, 2012 05:29
Unfortunately, like many others, Journalist Frud Bezhan may not be willing to find out what a Criminal Mind is - and report accordingly, in actual journalism, WHO are the actual individuals INTENDING the oppression, that he describes so well in his journalistic work:

Criminal Minds will seize ANY method in place, or create a method, to oppress and dominate the life of others.

They will use religion or science or politics or social mechanisms, or anything else - whatever is "the most effective" in oppressing and dominating the life of people, in their particular environment.

So when you see oppression and domination of the life of people, THEN YOU KNOW THERE ARE Criminal Minds very hard at work to do so, following their INTENTION to dominate and blind and oppress people.

And it is your duty - according to any and all Human Rights Issues* and Laws of Human Rights* - to name and point out those Criminal Minds.

ONLY thereby you will return sanity and peace to the given situation:

'Not WHY but WHO' will, of course, establish the cause of the oppression, and thus open the road to solving it.


Koos Nolst Trenite
human rights philosopher and poet

* search "Natural Human Rights Declaration" for these specific references.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 08, 2012 11:30
VIDEO: Six British soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Six British soldiers are killed in Helmand province, the biggest single loss of life for British troops in Afghanistan since 2006:

by: Senjo
March 08, 2012 13:08
Sadly, this is posted on Int'l Women's Day. And this is what we have to show for 11 years of blood and treasure spent propping up this pathetic regime, led by this crook.

by: ben van lunteren from: canada
March 08, 2012 20:17
When the UN leaves Afghanistan, women's rights will return to the days of NO RIGHTS. Karzai will move to a safer location ie. the US and the Taliban will be the main suppliers of illegal drugs to the world. I'm sorry for all the lives lost but one lesson we all learned from this was that nothing will change, rather it will intensify the cult to it's extremes.

by: Robert C from: Illinois
March 09, 2012 03:03
Please remind me again, why are we in this country? What are we doing supporting and enabling these misogynistic barbarians? As long as the Afghans are enthralled by this disgusting cult, any hope of civilization for them is futile. Get out, now.
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
March 10, 2012 09:07
I totally agree with you. We should leave this hell of Earth as soon as possible. What happening there is not our business. If someone is again beginning to build up a terrorist base there we just need to destroy them from above with our state of art unmanned planes controlled from the safety of our home countries thousands of kilometers away.

We have nothing to do there. We should not waste our resources such as lives and taxpayers' money there.

They live in the primitive dark ages but its their life. Let them do what they want to do.

by: Yousefzay from: UAE
March 09, 2012 16:23
Firstly, this is our country and this is our rules, we chose our path and we chose our destiny that's the democracy the west is claiming to give to every nation in the world, when a man or a woman is not following those conditions then they should leave our country and never to look back.
Secondly, our president Karzai did the right move, he chose that because it's a chaos in Afghanistan, nobody is listening to nothing and everyone is claiming to have the right to say whatever they want to say, even in the United States the media is been controlled and the humiliation any rules is limited, but the constitution is never to be touched, and in a very weird way it's not like that in Afghanistan, everyone have the right to say whatever they want, that's absolutely arrogance.
Then, why it's always about women, what happened to men, family issues, children issues, there's a women day but not a family....etc
All in all, we love democracy, but in our own values and traditions, or else we will never ever achieve any where.
Yousefzay 09-03-2012

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