• Press Release

Amnesty International Hosts “Shadow Summit” With Afghan Women’s Rights Leaders As NATO Summit Opens May 20 in Chicago

May 11, 2012

In Push for Protections for Afghan Women, Human Rights Organization to Hold Press Conference Sunday, May 20, to Release Open Letter to Presidents Karzai and Obama, Signed by Influential U.S., U.K., Afghan Figures

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, [email protected]

(Chicago) — As the NATO Summit leaders begin to fill in the missing pieces of the military exit strategy for Afghanistan on Sunday, May 20, Amnesty International will stage a "Shadow Summit" to underscore concerns that Afghan women are being ignored in the process while their tenuous grasp on basic rights may be threatened as the troops leave. Amnesty International will hold a press conference on May 20 at 10:30 a.m. CDT during which its Washington, D.C. director Frank Jannuzi will release an open letter to President Karzai and President Obama, alongside three prominent Afghan women's rights advocates. The letter, signed by notable U.S., Afghan and British figures, calls for an eight-point plan to protect Afghan women.

At 11 am., U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill, a long-time champion of women's human rights globally and lead sponsor of the International Violence Against Women Act, will give opening remarks. The press conference and Shadow Summit take place at the Swissotel, 323 East Wacker Drive, Chicago.

At 11:30 a.m., Chicago Public Radio's Jerome McDonnell, host of "Worldview," will moderate a discussion among the three Afghan advocates: Mahbouba Seraj, a delegate to the 2010 Bonn Conference on Afghanistan and executive board member of the Afghan Women's Network; Afifa Azim, director and co-founder of the Afghan Women's Network, and Manizha Naderi, executive director, Women for Afghan Women.

Suzanne Nossel, executive director, Amnesty International USA, said: "We are not asking NATO to stay longer, but rather to ensure that in its wake NATO leaves robust, well-funded and guaranteed security structures to ensure the continued freedom and advancement of Afghan women. Absent that, there is grave risk that Afghan women will look on the period of NATO involvement as a blip of hope amid a bleak long-term trajectory of insecurity. After the billions of dollars and thousands of lives given to the cause of a secure and peaceful Afghanistan, turning back the clock on women's rights would be tragic. Afghan women understandably fear that a return to the dark days of Taliban control over their lives will set back their rights, undermine Afghanistan's stability and prosperity over the long term, and erode the legacy of the last decade of U.S. and NATO engagement in that country."

"Women in Afghanistan want the same things women everywhere want- to go to school, to work, to see their families live decent lives, even prosper, and to pursue their own dreams in life. Afghan women's rights advocates are joining this Shadow Summit because they are concerned that women in the country have only a tenuous foothold on the path to their dreams. They are looking to NATO to do the right thing and safeguard the rights that will keep their dreams and those of future generations alive. Afghan women have made tremendous progress. We must not let them down now."

At 1 p.m., more than 100 Amnesty International activists will participate in a mass "kite-flying" demonstration at a location nearby (TBA) to demand rights for Afghan.
Amnesty International is making a statement about Afghan women and girls on posters on bus shelters in downtown Chicago, with images of Afghan girls donated to the organization by renowned photographer Steve McCurry, famous for his iconic 1985 portrait "Afghan Girl." The posters urge NATO to "Keep the Progress Going" for Afghan women and girls. [View image: http://amnestyusa.org/afghanwomen]

Amnesty International has urged the U.S. government to adopt an action plan for Afghan women to ensure that their rights are not traded away in the transition in 2014. More than 22,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the Obama administration to act to protect women's rights in the exit strategy: https://dev.amnestyusa.org/afghanwomen

When the United States and NATO entered Afghanistan in 2001, then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stated: "The recovery of Afghanistan must entail a restoration of the rights of Afghan women; indeed, it will not be possible without them."

At the time, Afghanistan under the Taliban had an appalling record on women's rights. Today, modest strides have been made, with significant investments by the U.S. and Afghan governments and their allies to improve the lives of women and girls.

Today, three million girls go to school, compared to virtually none under the Taliban. Women make up 20 percent of university graduates and their numbers are growing. Maternal mortality and infant mortality have declined significantly. Ten percent of all prosecutors and judges are women, when there were none under the Taliban.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told female officials in 2010: "We will not abandon you, we will stand with you always…[it is] essential that women's rights and women's opportunities are not sacrificed or trampled in the reconciliation process."

Despite the gains, the United States and Afghan governments have much more work to do to secure rights for women and girls. Violence against women is rampant, and in areas under insurgent control, torture, beatings and other brutal punishments are common. The Taliban and insurgent groups target, intimidate, threaten and attack women candidates, politicians and human rights defenders. In 2010, more than 74 schools, including 26 girls' schools and 35 mixed-gender schools, were destroyed or closed due to insurgent violence.

To read Amnesty International's report "Don't Trade Away Women's Human Rights in Afghanistan" visit: https://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/DontTradeAwayWomensHumanRights_110072011.pdf

Summit Schedule:

10:00 – 11:00 am — Registration, Check-In, Brunch
10:30 am — Press Conference and Release of Open Letter (Alpine Room)
11:00am – Opening Remarks
11:30am – 1:00pm – Afghan Women Panel
1:00pm – Fly a Kite for Women's Rights Action
2:00pm – Action Concludes

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