Fighting to Keep Afghan Women’s Shelters Open, Mary Akrami


Fighting to Keep Afghan Women’s Shelters Open, Mary Akrami

A group of Afghan women prepare naan for their lunchtime clients in the kitchen of a modest Kabul eatery, gathered around a tandoori oven.

They’ve all been victims of domestic violence, and many of them will never be able to return to their families.

Mary Akrami, the founder of the shelter where they sleep and the restaurant where they work, is concerned that these lifelines would be lost once Western forces, who had promised to restore women’s rights in war-torn Afghanistan, go.

“The worldwide community supported, encouraged, and funded us… They now disregard us,” said the 45-year-old, who is also the director of the Afghan Women’s Network, a coalition of non-governmental organizations.

As the Taliban seizes control of significant swaths of Afghanistan, US and international soldiers have almost completely left the country, leaving Afghan forces in a state of crisis.

Akrami is concerned for her own safety as well as the protection of the women in her shelters. Because of conflicts in the provinces, one facility has already closed.

“A lady fleeing her house has nowhere to go,” she added, adding that many young women and girls find up on the streets.

She went on to say, “We received cases of women being tormented, sexually abused, and physically abused.”

After spending the Taliban’s rule in Pakistan from 1996 to 2001, Akrami returned after the US-led operation destroyed the Islamist group.

She created Afghanistan’s first shelter for women fleeing family abuse in 2002 with the aid of certain European NGOs.

Since then, more than 20,000 women have gone through Akrami’s network of over two dozen shelters.

The United Nations estimates that the vast majority of women in Afghanistan, a country of 35 million people, have experienced physical, sexual, or psychological violence, and the culture remains unforgiving of those who divorce their husbands.

Women are still given as brides to settle debts or feuds in some sections of the country, and are subjected to so-called “honour killings.”

There have been some hard-won victories since the Taliban were deposed, which restricted girls and women access to education and jobs. Women are now judges, police officers, and legislators, and schools have reopened.

Although the government established a legislation prohibiting violence against women, the prohibitions are not consistently enforced.

Some women study for exams or go to work at the Kabul shelter, returning at night to sleep.

Others have raised their families within its confines.

Akrami has opened the restaurant for people who are unable to leave.

Hassanat, who had been married off as a peace offering, ran away from her husband. Brief News from Washington Newsday.


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