After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women have been completely removed from the public domain. In the meantime, the women’s defense lawyers, who used to file lawsuits to achieve fairness and justice, have now become victims of the Taliban’s injustice. Hundreds of female defense lawyers in the country are in a state of destitution and are not allowed to work. In addition to being deprived of work, these women are under the threat of people who were brought to justice by them. Prohibiting the activities of female defense lawyers has also deprived accused women of their fundamental rights. Currently, no claimant or female prisoner can choose another woman as a consultant or lawyer. Female defense lawyers believe that they can defend women’s rights better than male lawyers in the prosecutor’s office, court, and judicial institutions. They continue to emphasize that the right to have a defense lawyer is one of the urgent needs of a fair court, but the Taliban have taken away this right from women in Afghanistan.
After taking control of the country, the Taliban closed the doors of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association on November 23, 2021. The permission for women’s defense lawyers to work has also been revoked with the closure of this forum. Currently, women’s defense lawyers cannot defend women’s rights in prisons, monitoring houses, prosecutors’ offices, courts, and forensic medicine.
Several defense lawyers believe that the exclusion of female defense lawyers from work and activities leads to injustice and widespread violation of human rights and the rights of female defendants. According to them, preventing female defense lawyers from working prevents them from pursuing legal and criminal cases. However, female defense lawyers in Afghanistan and other countries are now living in misery.
Speaking to the Hasht-e Subh Daily, Selsela Ahmadi, one of the female defense lawyers, says that the absence of female defense lawyers in advancing the defendants’ legal cases is one of the biggest challenges in the way of justice for female defendants. She emphasizes that this issue has made women’s access to justice difficult and even impossible. This defense lawyer is concerned about the living conditions of this legal profession and adds that long-term unemployment and uncertain future have forced this sector of society to do hard labor activities. She states: “We are not allowed to do any activity at all, the Taliban have no plan for working women in Afghanistan. They do not permit us to work, and we are not allowed to enter the Ministry of Justice. The future of law and justice will be severely dark in the country. The violence continues to escalate, as it is now. Misogyny and patriarchy will prevail and no cases of women will be pursued; Because our justice system is paralyzed.”
This defense lawyer claims that the Taliban have access to the documents of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association, have the details of all female defense lawyers, and have threatened them many times. She points out that the Taliban even forced female lawyers to send their husbands to settle financial accounts.
Nastarn (pseudonym) is a female defense lawyer who once advocated for female defendants. She is, however, one of the victims of injustice as a result of the Taliban’s control of the country. Due to the Taliban’s pressure and threats, this defense lawyer was forced to marry immediately and against her will. Nastarn told the Hasht-e Subh Daily bitter and painful stories about the problems faced by female defense lawyers and the threats they face in the country today.
During the republic government, this lawyer defended one of the cases of public security and drug trafficking in which the accused were Taliban members. Mrs. Nastaran goes on to say that after the previous government fell, one of the defendants called her and asked to see her. According to this defense lawyer, the court sentenced her client to 23 years in prison. Mrs. Nastaran says: “After the former government fell, the accused summoned me to the office, saying, I have something to say to you about money. I told him I didn’t care because we had a contract that had expired. Despite this, he kept calling. We were having a very difficult time. Our souls were wounded and perplexed.” This defense lawyer adds: “The accused said that if I wanted to, I could find your home address in one day, we are now in power, come and visit me without any further discussions. I liked you when you were our lawyer. I want to get married to you.”
“I was very scared because it was the beginning of their rule. There was a rumor that girls were forced into marriage. Against my will, I wanted to get engaged to another boy to solve this problem. Because I had so many plans, I didn’t want to involve myself in married life. Also, I was a victim of one of the demands of the Taliban, who was represented by a lawyer. They wanted to marry her by force, and it was unlikely and impossible. They still haven’t left my back.” Mrs. Nastaran explains.
Zarghoona Ahmadi, one of the female defense lawyers in Herat province, claims that she took refuge in a neighboring country due to frequent threats from the “Terrorists”. Speaking to the Hasht-e Subh Daily, Mrs. Ahmadi says that she has been threatened many times by the Taliban and those who have been claimants in her cases. This female defense lawyer adds that with the resumption of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, she has been threatened by her former clients. The people, whom she was carrying their criminal cases, and now they are demanding the reimbursement of their fees. Ms. Ahmadi says: “They have called many times asking why our imprisonment has been prolonged and nothing has been done for us, please return our fees.”
This defense lawyer states that after a year and a few months of unemployment, she is now unable to even pay the price of a packet of powdered milk for her child. She adds: “We are six people in one family. My husband has lost his job. We are all unemployed and stay at home. I can’t even afford a packet of powdered milk for my child. I know female lawyers who, after the Taliban took over, are working with Wheelbarrow to sell things for the survival of their children. The situation of defense lawyers is very bad and they struggle with a very difficult life.”
This former defense lawyer states that female defense lawyers do not have the right to enter the women’s prison in Herat province, and no legal services are provided for women in this prison. According to her, the Taliban have permitted about 300 men, most of whom are mullahs, to be in prison, but these men cannot investigate women’s cases as necessary.
Zarghoona Ahmadi adds: “Family disputes and violence against women have increased, and if the situation continues like this, there is no space available for women to access justice and a fair court. Women do not have the right to enter courts, prisons, and the Ministry of Justice, and do not have the right to participate in judicial sessions. Issues related to forensic medicine and gynecologists; How can a woman discuss these issues with a man? This is a clear violation of justice and fair trial; Because a male lawyer cannot express an opinion on some secret matters that are related to female defendants. There should be a female defense lawyer to advance and bring justice for the female claimants.”
Yalda (pseudonym) is another female defense lawyer in Afghanistan. Talking to the Hasht-e Subh Daily, she talks about the challenges she is facing now and the threats created by her clients. Yalda says: “I had become Golpaacha’s (pseudonym) lawyer. He had killed his friend. His case was a matter of family honors. His friend was bothering his fiancée through phone calls, and he killed his friend.” She states that the victim’s family is now threatening her. Yalda adds: “they say you defended a murderer; we will find you and we will show you what is right! The republic era is now gone, now we know what to do to you.”
This defense lawyer expresses great concern about the current situation and notes: “I cannot move around. I have become completely like a psychic. Unemployment and lack of money, and threats made by the sides of the case have completely made life miserable for us. We can’t go anywhere, we can’t complain, we can’t talk.” Yalda considers banning the activities of female defense lawyers as an injustice and a violation of the rights of female defendants, and she emphasizes that the absence of female defense lawyers exposes women and their cases to complete injustice, and this is a disaster for the community of women.
Another female defense lawyer, who does not want her name to be mentioned in the report due to security concerns, and fear of the Taliban, told the Hasht-e Subh Daily: “I am in a difficult living situation. I do not have a normal psychological state. I have been severely threatened by the released prisoners. Above all these, there is also unemployment too [that puts extra pressure on me]. Because I was the breadwinner of the house, and now I am not only the breadwinner, but I have also become a threat to the life of my family.” This former defense lawyer adds: “nowadays, my life is just breathing and doing nothing else, it is not a life! As a woman, I am not allowed to work, and unemployment and stress have put me in a devastating mental status, the situation for my colleagues is the same.”
Negina Bidar is another defense lawyer who took refuge in a neighboring country after being threatened. Speaking to the Hasht-e Subh Daily, she says that she is being threatened by some of her former clients who were sentenced to prison. She says: “Currently, I am in a difficult situation in Pakistan; Because all my financial savings was spent during this long time here, and I was the breadwinner of my family of five people. I have been unemployed for a year now, and my children have not been able to study for these months [after the fall of Afghanistan] There is no hope or motivation for me to get my desired job, and I am completely in a desperate state of life.”
These female defense lawyers are complaining about their living conditions, while women have been completely removed from the public domain [in Afghanistan] in the last year and two months. Girls are barred from entering secondary schools and girls’ high schools, and women are denied the right to work in most government offices. The Taliban’s action sparked widespread national and international condemnation, but the Taliban have consistently denied depriving women of their rights, claiming that they do so within the framework of Islamic Sharia.
Amin Kawa-Senior Reporter and Analyst, Hasht-e Subh Daily