Rohullah Quarizada is president of the Afghan Independent Lawyers Association (AIBA) and Rafi Nadiri is a member of the board of directors. I spoke online with the two Afghan lawyers this Tuesday. His stories are short and precise. And the narrated facts, tremendously creepy. The former has found refuge in France, thanks to the support of the French bar associations; the second in Belgium due to the efforts of the Georgian and Belgian lawyers. All counting on the invaluable role of the CCBE (Council of the Bar Associations of the European Community).
The panorama of what has been happening in Afghanistan – it is known – is a horror. And, by the way, the limited protection response to those who manage to leave through Western countries with more resources is a source of deep and parallel concern.
Two particularly relevant issues stand out in this panorama. First, the day to day under the cloak of Taliban power. It is a tragedy that affects not only the population in general, but, in particular, about 6,000 male and female lawyers who have been converted into a particular target population by the regime. On the other, the effect on the country of the disastrous handling of the role of Western countries, but in particular of the USA, for which it was done badly for more than twenty years. It is not transparent to avoid this.
One: lawyers in the line of sight. Not just from the government but from several of the thousands of inmates released after the Taliban took over four months ago. Of the 30,000 released, at least 10,000 of them are considered a direct threat to lawyers. Either because they hold their former defense attorneys responsible for their conviction or because they have represented victims in cases in which they were convicted.
25% of lawyers are women (about 1,300) and many of them are at special risk for their work in cases of children’s and women’s rights, especially in cases of violence, trafficking, harassment and rape, beatings, forced marriages, bad deals, etc. At least one lawyer is known to have been murdered and two to have been tortured. All are deprived of the right to exercise their profession. So brutal.
Meanwhile, the regime has appropriated the assets (including bank account) and the AIBA database that contains valuable and detailed information on registered lawyers, staff and members of its different committees.
Of this valuable Afghan legal community, only a few hundred have managed to qualify for refuge and protection abroad, especially in European countries (much less in the US). In this, organizations such as the CCBE and the Law Society have been playing an important and positive role. Despite this, however, the majority of the legal community still remains in Afghanistan.
Two: at the bottom of the tree, the dramatic forest of what happens in the country due to the action of the Taliban in power: the Western mismanagement in Afghanistan for more than 20 years in a balance that is not positive. And that explains to a large extent how everything collapsed in a few days in August like a house of cards blown by the wind and with the western troops vanishing in a few hours leaving tens of thousands of civilians to their fate.
What happened since 2001 cannot be hidden under the rug or unrelated to what is afflicting the Afghan people and society today. That it is ineluctably connected to the responsibility that falls to both the United States and the NATO countries (which was associated with its presence in the country). This has to do, by the way, with the responsibility that today falls to them in granting protection to those who require it.
There are dozens of analyzes in great, well-documented papers on how things were run in the country. I want to highlight, in particular, the extraordinary and very recent book The Afghanistan Papers: a secret history of the war from the journalist of The Washington Post Craig Whitlock. Confusing and contradictory strategic objectives, systematic articulation with corrupt power groups, systematic false handling of information, bloody warlords – and also corrupt – as fundamental allies, record amounts of opium production (source of 71% of world production ) and billions of dollars spent inefficiently, often with corrupt contractors.
20 years of occupation that, it is not by chance, built very little institutionality in Afghanistan. And what was done, if anything, fell apart in a few hours in mid-August. There is no way to turn the wheel of history back, but to wait now for a clearer and stronger decision to do everything possible to provide humanitarian support to those in danger by supporting their departure abroad and their recognition as refugees.
End this week with several meaningful commemorations and encounters with core values. Good for that because it serves as a contrast to the horror suffered in Afghanistan and the abuses in other countries.
One is World Human Rights Day (December 10). With our feet very on the ground, the CCBE today presents an exceptional award to lawyers in distress in Afghanistan. An important wake-up call that should encourage more and better care and support for those who suffer persecution in that country.
Another: the Democracy Summit (virtual), an important meeting organized by President Joe Biden for December 9 and 10 to which he has invited more than 100 countries / heads of state. International meeting that aims to “draw an affirmative agenda for the renewal of democracy and address the greatest threats that democracies currently face through collective action.” Laudable purpose that, without a doubt, would reinforce its legitimacy of being articulated to comprehensive and effective protection policies for so many tens of thousands of Afghan men and women who still find protection channels abroad as if the lawyers Quarizada and Nadiri have found it. .
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.