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US to present honorary IWOC Award to slain Afghan women

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(Last Updated On: March 5, 2021)

The US State Department will award an honorary International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award to seven Afghan women leaders and activists, who were assassinated in 2020 for their “dedication” to improving the lives of Afghans.

The US Department of State said in a statement that US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony on March 8, to honor a group of extraordinary women from around the world.

The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.

“In addition to the individual IWOC awards that will be presented on March 8, Secretary Blinken will also present an honorary IWOC award to a group of seven Afghan women who were assassinated in 2020 while serving their communities during a pivotal moment in Afghanistan’s history,” the statement read.

“These tragic murders underscore the alarming trend of increased targeting of women in Afghanistan and the United States condemns these acts of violence,” the statement said.

The Afghan slain women leaders and activists are:  

Fatema Natasha Khalil, an official with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission who was killed, along with her driver, in June 2020 by an IED in Kabul, on her way to her office.

General Sharmila Frough, the head of the Gender Unit in the National Directorate of Security (NDS) was one of the longest-serving female NDS officers, having served as chief of the anti-kidnapping division and working undercover combating criminal networks. General Frough was assassinated in an IED explosion targeting her vehicle in March 2020 in Kabul.

Maryam Noorzad, a midwife who served remote locations in Wardak and Bamyan provinces before working for Médecins Sans Frontières Kabul PD13 hospital. On May 12, 2020, three gunmen attacked the maternity ward of the hospital, but Maryam refused to leave her patient, who was in labor. Maryam, her patient, and the newborn baby were killed in the delivery suite.

Fatima Rajabi, a 23-year-old police officer originally from Ghazni province and a member of the anti-narcotics division. She was traveling to her home village in Jaghori district in a civilian minibus in July 2020 when the Taliban stopped the vehicle and took her captive. Two weeks later, the Taliban killed her and sent her remains, which had gunshot wounds and signs of torture, to her family.

Freshta, daughter of Amir Mohamed, a 35-year-old prison guard with the Office of Prison Administration. She was walking from her residence in Kandahar City to a taxi on her way to work when she was murdered by an unknown gunman on October 25, 2020.

Malalai Maiwand, a reporter at Enikas Radio and TV, was shot and killed, along with her driver, by a gunman on December 10, 2020, in an attack on her vehicle in Jalalabad. Malalai was not the first in her family to be targeted. Five years earlier, her mother, an activist, was also killed by unknown gunmen.

Freshta Kohistani, a 29-year-old women’s rights, and democracy activist was assassinated by unknown gunmen near her home in Kapsia province on December 24, 2020. Kohistani regularly organized events advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan and used social media as a platform for her messaging.

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Ghani meets with politicians, jihadi leaders to garner more support for peace

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(Last Updated On: July 31, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani has emphasized the need for the continuation of peace talks in Doha and national mobilization in support of the Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF).

After holding a consultative meeting with prominent Afghan political figures and former Jihadi leaders on Saturday, Ghani issued a statement outlining a number of critical necessities.

The statement highlighted the following key points:

  1. Ending the war and reaching a just and durable peace has been the Afghan government’s priority
  2. The government has an obligation to preserve the territorial integrity of Afghanistan, national honors and institutions, values, women rights, and freedoms
  3. The political and Jihadi leaders vowed to make efforts for further national mobilization in support of Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban.

Meanwhile, Latif Mahmood, the Deputy Spokesman for the Presidential Palace, stated: “Ending to war, maintaining a just and lasting peace, support for the Security and Defense Forces, defending the territorial integrity and national honor, preservation of values gained in the last two decades and the principal of the Constitution were discussed in this meeting.”

Meanwhile, the Russian TASS news agency has reported that the extended Troika on the Afghan peace settlement comprising representatives of Russia, the United States, China, and Pakistan will be held in early August.

“We are in constant contact over the phone with my counterpart [US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay] Khalilzad, who is now [staying] in Washington. Next week, we are planning to meet in Doha with him and with our Chinese and Pakistani counterparts for the next encounter of the extended Troika,” said Special Russian Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, as quoted by the TASS.

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Watchdog reports of growing number of revenge attacks

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(Last Updated On: July 31, 2021)

Taliban forces in Afghanistan are targeting known critics despite claiming that they have ordered their fighters to act with restraint, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.

In Kandahar, the Taliban have detained and executed suspected members of the provincial government and security forces, and in some cases their relatives.

Among recent cases, the Taliban executed a popular Kandahari comedian, Nazar Mohammad, known as Khasha Zwan, who posted routines that included songs and jokes on TikTok. He had reportedly also worked with the local police.

On July 22, Taliban fighters abducted Khasha Zwan from his home in southern Kandahar, beat him, and then shot him multiple times, HRW said in a statement.

After a video of two men slapping and abusing Khasha Zwan appeared on social media, the Taliban admitted that two of their fighters had killed him.
“Taliban forces apparently executed Khasha Zwan because he poked fun at Taliban leaders,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“His murder and other recent abuses demonstrate the willingness of Taliban commanders to violently crush even the tamest criticism or objection,” she said.

Activists in Kandahar said that in villages surrounding the provincial capital, Taliban commanders have detained scores of people associated with the government or police, HRW reported.

In one case, on July 16, Taliban fighters abducted two men whose brothers had worked with NDS 03, a CIA-backed strike force that has been responsible for summary executions and other abuses, from their homes in the Qasam Pol area, Dand district, HRW stated.

Their relatives say that they have not heard from the two men since.
Also in mid-July, a media report said Taliban fighters detained Ahmadullah, a former police officer, in Spin Boldak. His family has not heard from him since.

His uncle said that the Taliban had sent letters saying that anyone who had worked with the government or foreign forces would not be harmed so long as they reported to the Taliban leadership and “admitted their ‘crime.’”
International humanitarian law prohibits summary executions, enforced disappearances, and other mistreatment of anyone in custody, which are war crimes, HRW reported.

It is unlawful to detain civilians unless absolutely necessary for imperative security reasons, the statement read.

Retaliatory attacks are a form of collective punishment and are also prohibited, HRW stated.

The International Criminal Court is currently investigating allegations of war crimes and serious human rights abuses by all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.

Taliban commanders who knew or should have known about abuses by forces under their control and took no action to prevent or stop them are culpable as a matter of command responsibility, HRW said.
“Advancing Taliban forces have no blank check to brutally target their critics,” Gossman said. “The Taliban leadership usually denies the abuses, but it’s their fighters carrying out these attacks and their responsibility to stop the killings.”

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20 killed, 18 wounded in two separate traffic accidents in Laghman

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(Last Updated On: July 31, 2021)

Officials said Saturday 20 people including women and children were killed and 18 others wounded in two separate traffic accidents on the Kabul-Jalalabad highway, Laghman provincial officials said.

Asadullah Dawlatzai, spokesman for the Laghman governor confirmed the accidents and said the first one happened on Friday night when two vehicles collided in Naranj Bagh area of Qarghayi district.

Eight people died and 10 were injured in this accident.

According to Dawlatzai, 12 other people were killed and eight injured in another traffic incident in Qarghayi district of the province on Saturday morning.

He said both accidents were caused by driver negligence.

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