By Malek Sitez
This question has been raised many times since CSHRN started to work on organizing a campaign to reduce family violence in Herat city. A lawyer, who is responsible for the ministry of justice in Herat, asked this question during the human rights symposium in Herat. This question is understandable as violence is not only an issue in Herat but in all of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been suffering from domestic violence for many years, in particular since 1992 when the civil war and sectarian conflicts began.
To explain the reasons I need to divide my article into two parts, describing the problems as well as the opportunities existing in Herat city regarding family violence.
At the end of this article I will draw a picture of the current work of CSHRN in the region.
Islamic fanatics and their bad influence on family violence. Between 1994 and 1996 Herat became one the most important targets of Islamic fundamentalists and Taliban. The Taliban captured Herat city after Qhandahar. During the Taliban period, the people of Herat, above all women and children, badly suffered from a lack of fundamental freedoms. The role of women became a very passive one and man’s domination in families reached a very high level. This unbalanced role of men and women turned into an important reason for family violence in Herat.
Bad and incorrect interpretation of Islamic values regarding the role of women. The fanatic Taliban and Mujahedin parties misinterpreted Islam for the sake of their strategy and ideology, particularly with regard to the role of women in society. They wanted to show that women were a passive part of the Herat society, destined to serve men.
“It is big shame to respect women!” This culture does not only predominate in Herat, but also in many other parts of the country. Beating, raping, inhuman behavior toward women and children in families are the result of this kind of bad tradition in Afghanistan.
Economic dependency of women from men. This is one of the important reasons for violence in Herat. Being dependent on men, women are hijacked by their partners and other male member of the families.
Lack of educational programs to reduce domestic violence by state institutions, specially by the ministry of women and education in Herat.
Possibly also because all these factors led to a high rate of suicide among women in Heart.
Herat is one of the most historical cities in Afghanistan. Herat has an important number of intellectuals who actively participate in the current changes in Afghanistan. Equally, the culture of Herat strongly influences other parts of the country, in particular the western parts of Afghanistan.
State infrastructure and institutions, such as the university, police, justice sector, municipality and primary schools function much better compared to other parts of the country. This provides an enabling environment to CSHRN to work on family violence.
Herat is relatively safe area. A higher level of security offers better opportunities to work on family violence. It becomes much easier to reach families and to work with them.
Herat has a comparatively well developed media sector. This will give CSHRN the possibility to organize debates and create discussions on domestic violence.
There is a huge support demonstrated by the civil society of Herat and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in Herat towards CSHRN.
The police, the justice sector and other state institutions display a broad interesting in working together with CSHRN on decreasing family violence in Herat.
The high theoretical awareness of women in Herat about their rights ensures a good base for a campaign about family violence.
Current work of CSHRN in Herat:
As a consequence of a huge demand by civil society actors, human rights activists and intellectuals during debates organized by CSHRN in Herat, CSHRN decided to work on organizing a campaign of all important stakeholders to reduce domestic violence in Herat. In May 2009 CSHRN organized the analytical human rights Symposium in Herat on the Issue of family violence. The symposium illustrated the picture of domestic violence in Herat by the most knowledgeable people of the town. The articles presented by eight writers and researchers will be used by a working group to design a tool on how to work with domestic violence in Herat . This will be used as the base for organising the campaign to reduce family violence. The campaign will consist of media debates, meeting of civil society actors, mostly CSHRN members with victims and families, debates with state actors, printing materials and continuously organized dialogues with religious leaders in order to get their support.