US: Don’t Abandon Afghan Women

By Elsie De Laere, Afghanistan Country Specialist

Afghan women's rights activists

In his article “As priorities shift, US steps back from goals for Afghan women”,  published in the Washington Post on Sunday, Rajiv Chandrasekaran describes the quiet changes made by the US administration to divert the focus on the rights of Afghan women to ‘other priorities’.

As the Amnesty Afghanistan country specialist, I have invested a lot of energy and passion during the past four years, both here and in Afghanistan on behalf of Afghan women. I have served as a volunteer teacher trainer in Kabul and other provinces during nine trips between the summer of 2004 and spring of 2010.  Even though I admit I was always wary of the US and NATO public media efforts we were there in part to liberate the Afghan women, I witnessed first hand the little progress that was made on this issue.

I am dismayed to read that the US administration is considering the cause of women’s rights as a ‘pet project’, not a priority. When the going gets tough (as in security being worse now than some years ago), the women once again are shoved aside and resources are diverted.


Do Sri Lankan Asylum-Seekers Deserve Hearings?

You may not have heard about it, but a boatload of Sri Lankan Tamils recently arrived in Canada.  The Washington Post published an article quoting a former State Dept. official who advocated summarily sending them all back to Sri Lanka.  I objected to that and wrote a letter to the editor published in the Post.  Well, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the U.S. didn’t like my letter and issued a statement in which he says he “refuted” my claims.  I didn’t appreciate that and have sent him an open letter in response.  As I said in my letter, I do hope Amnesty International and the Sri Lankan government can move toward a constructive dialogue.  I’m willing to do my part.