Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

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A Needs Assessment of Afghan Human Rights Defenders

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Freedom House, 19 January 2023

Human rights defenders in Afghanistan and those who have fled the country face ongoing threats including arbitrary arrest, kidnapping, torture, imprisonment, and violence against family members. 90 percent of Afghan human rights defenders in Afghanistan have been subjected to such violence or threats under the Taliban’s repressive rule. This is the result of a survey released by the Afghanistan Human Rights Coordination Mechanism (AHRCM), a consortium facilitated by Freedom House, in collaboration with the Afghan Canadian Civil Society Forum (ACSF) based on interviews with 663 Afghan human rights defenders.

The author is Ahmad Yasar Jahani (Research and Program Director, Afghanistan Human Rights Defenders Committee Secretariat), with contributions from Aziz Rafiee (Chairperson, Afghanistan Human Rights Defenders Committee and Director General, Afghan-Canadian Civil Society Forum, ACSF).

Survey respondents in Afghanistan indicated that they and other human rights defenders face significant challenges, including intimidation and harassment (46.8 percent); threats to their life and physical safety (24.1 percent); arbitrary arrest and torture (16.4 percent); defamation and house searches (4.4 percent); violence against family members (3.8 percent); other physical and psychological harm (3.5 percent); and kidnapping and imprisonment (0.8 percent).

Like their in-country counterparts, human rights defenders who have fled the country identified a number of risks they still face, including psychological harm (45.4 percent); harassment by police and forced deportation (33.7 percent); lack of financing for themselves and their families (9.9 percent); other forms of harassment (7.2 percent); and security threats (3.6).

Both inside and outside Afghanistan, women survey respondents reported experiencing security, social, and economic threats.

The report provides recommendations on steps that international organizations, civil society groups, donors, and other stakeholders can take to support human rights defenders inside and outside the country.