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What you can do to support Afghan women’s shelters today

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 by Marianne Elliott

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Yesterday I heard the alarming news that the Afghan government plans to take over all women’s shelters in the country within weeks. I’ve written about this before and there will be more on the subject in my book, but the small number of independently run women’s shelters around Afghanistan are saving the lives of women who have nowhere else to go to escape violence that might otherwise even lead to their deaths.

The Government’s plans to take over the shelters will not only compromise the independence of the shelters, but will also bring into force new regulations and processes that run the risk of revictimising women who are trying to escape violence and, at worst, forcing the return of those women to the very people who abused them.

For more details and reaction, read this article by Horia Mosadiq (Amnesty International’s Afghanistan Researcher, and a good friend of mine) or this post at the UN Dispatch site by Una Moore.

I’ve been in touch with friends who run women’s shelters across the country and human rights advocates in Kabul and they are very concerned. The risk is that this takeover is an attempt to shut down those few places where women can currently find protection from violent families and forced marriages.

Take action

What can we do? Well, I am assured that the Afghan human rights community is working behind the scenes to try to stop this, but my contacts in Afghanistan say that a little more encouragement can’t hurt. So I suggest we all write to the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry – one man who almost certainly has some influence in Kabul. I’ll also be writing to my own Ambassador to say the same thing. We can also write to Afghan Embassy’s in our own country and to the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

Another great thing to do is to sign this online petition – organised by Women for Afghan Women in New York. If you are in New York and are willing to take part in a creative act of peaceful protest when the Afghan Minister of Women’s Affairs visits New York next week leave me a comment and I’ll put you in touch with the WAW crew in New York.

Please join in, it will only take a few moments of your time. To make it easier, I’ve pulled together a sample letter which you might like to use or adapt ( this letter draws heavily on this post by Una Moore at UN Dispatch, thank you to Christine Hennebury for help drafting it):

Dear Ambassador,

You are in a unique position to help the most vulnerable women in Afghanistan.  Please take action on their behalf.

The struggle for human rights in Afghanistan received an alarming setback this week when the Afghan government announced that it will take over all women’s shelters in the country within weeks.

Both the legal system and informal dispute settlements in Afghanistan have long been skewed against women.  Independently run, safe women’s shelters are often women’s only protection against violence and even death. Less than half of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces have even one shelter for women. Yet, where shelters do exist, they save women’s lives.  The Afghan government’s plan to take over these shelters endangers the few places women find protection from violent families and forced marriages.

Under the new system, women and girls seeking protection will have to plead their cases before an admissions panel of government employees and undergo medically dubious “examinations” to prove they are not guilty of adultery or prostitution. If a woman passes both tests and is admitted, she will not be allowed to leave without official permission. In effect, Afghanistan’s few refuges for abused women are about to become prisons.

The new regulations also provide that if a woman’s family comes to claim her, she must be handed over. If enforced, this rule will cost lives. Nearly all women living in Afghanistan’s shelters are survivors of violence inflicted by members of their own families.

Since 2001, donor governments including your own have cited improvements in women’s lives as a justification for continued engagement in Afghanistan. If this change goes ahead your increasingly skeptical citizens may ask why US soldiers should die fighting the Taliban when the government is enacting Taliban-style policies anyway? This latest attack on women’s rights will further erode what little support still exists amongst your citizens for the fragile Afghan state, the collapse of which would only compound Afghan women’s suffering.

Please use your position of influence to protect the rights of vulnerable Afghan women. Urge the Afghan government to reconsider this legislation and, instead, recommit itself to protecting the women of Afghanistan and the courageous human rights defenders, many of them women, who are trying to counteract years of discrimination and sexual violence against the women of Afghanistan.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]

Feel free to make any changes you wish to this sample letter and then email it to Ambassador Eikenberry at

You do not have to be a US citizen to write to Ambassador Eikenberry, but you might like to send a similar letter to your own Ambassador as well. If you have the name and email address for other Ambassadors in Kabul please leave them in the comments and let me know if you’ve sent the letter.

Please also write to the Afghan Embassy where you are located: you can find a list of them here

You can also contact the Minister of Woman’s Affairs:

PLUS, if you are in New York then you might want to organise some kind of in person message to be delivered to the Afghan Minister of Women’s Affairs when she comes to attend the United Nations Conference on Women. Any one want to take a lead on that?

Help fill the gaps

Here are a few contact details I found this morning – but please help fill the gaps:

U.S.A: Ambassador Eikenberry – (Also on Twitter @USEmbassyKabul)

UK: Ambassador Patey – ( Also on Twitter @HMAKabul)

EU: Ambassador Ušackas –

Canada: Ambassador Crosbie –

New Zealand: Ambassador Reilly –

Australia: Ambassador Foley –

Turkey: Ambassador Basat Ozturk – email: / (cc to both addresses)

Belgian ambassador:

French ambassador: post a message here (there’s an English version but it doesn’t work).

Now – send your email and then spread the word!


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27 Responses to "What you can do to support Afghan women’s shelters today"

  1. Helen says:

    Hi Marianne,

    I found this for Aus’s Ambassador:
    Name: Mr Paul Foley

    Role: Ambassador


    Location Kabul

    🙂 x

  2. Roxanne says:

    No Greek Ambassador in Afghanistan at the moment, but I have a friend who may be able to correct the US ambassador email for us. I will get back to you and will keep spreading the word.

    Thank you, and good luck!

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by HiroBoga, Mary Gordon, Jaym Gates, Marianne Elliott, Afghan and others. Afghan said: What you can do to support Afghan women’s shelters today: Source: — Tuesday, February 15,… […]

  4. letters sent!
    thank you for the work you do.

  5. Sarah Lewis says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve written to Ambassador Eikenberry.

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amy Rootvik, Danielle LaPorte. Danielle LaPorte said: Afghan women's shelters in jeopardy of being overtaken by the gov. PLS RT & lend ur voice 2 @zenpeacekeeper 's mission […]

  7. Marta says:

    Marianne, great post!!! To contact the Polish ambassador in Kabul, please email him at His name is Maciej Lang.

  8. Marta says:

    Letters sent!
    Thank you Marianne.

  9. […] Elliott gets it. And right now she is using it to rally support to keep Afghan women’s shelters […]

  10. Sarah says:

    Hi Marianne,
    Great work! Letter sent. Just a note – there’s a tiny typo in the first line of the draft – maybe change ‘position’ as it’s easily missed when cutting and pasting! Best wishes, Sarah

    • Marianne Elliott says:

      Thanks everyone for your support. This issue is very close to my heart and I have personal experience of the quality of service currently being offered by organisations like Suraya Pakzad’s Voice of Women.

      Thanks Sarah for picking up on that typo! I’ve obviously sent my letters off with the typo included but I’ll fix it now for others.

  11. Gurjeet Kaur says:

    Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan: William Crosbie,

  12. Mariam Jalalzada says:

    Thank you Marianne. Letter sent. I hope he does listen though. I am afraid that for the fear of confronting Karzai, the ambassador doesn’t raise his voice. The government is doing anything possible to cause a reaction and outcry of the international community with which he has began a cat and mouse fight. In this fight, he has completely forgotten that he is hurting his very own people. As an Afghan woman, I strongly support and thank you for this great initiative. Any small step would eventually have a greater impact.

    Thank you so much!

  13. Karen Robinson says:


  14. rachel says:

    done! thank you for your work!

  15. fpfj says:

    Please also contact the Afghan Embassy where you are located:

    You can also contact the Minister of Woman’s Affairs:

  16. Gizem says:

    Hi Marianne,

    Turkish authorities have good relations with Afghanistan. So I believe, Turkish ambassador would be helpful as well.

    His name is: Basat Ozturk
    email: /

    cc both addresses please..

    thank you!

  17. Emmanuelle says:

    Mail sent to EU Ambassador.

    Belgian ambassador:
    French ambassador: post a message here -> (there’s an English version but it doesn’t work).

    Thanks Marianne.

  18. shana says:

    hi marianne
    just sent the letter off. i so appreciate your passion & guidance in navigating this complex issue.
    kindly from shāna

  19. […] Which is why violence of any kind directed towards women, my sisters, makes my heart bleed, all the more so when it comes from men, my brothers. Which is why I urge you today to do something that any smart blogger and social media marketing guru would strongly advise against: I urge you today not to spend too much time on my blog, but rather go over to woman-of-wonders and zen peacekeeper Marianne Elliott’s blog and read her post on Afghan women’s shelters and the Afghan government’s plans to take them over. […]

  20. marta says:

    Spanish ambassador:
    D. Juan José Rubio de Urquía.

  21. marta says:

    ok, letter sent to the Spanish ambassador. It’s worth a try although I am such an ignorant on politics, that if he (most unlikely) answers me, I’ll need your help in compiling a reply !

  22. Erin-Claire says:

    Letter sent to Australian ambassador:

    Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan
    Mr Paul Foley
    c/o- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
    R.G. Casey Building
    John McEwen Crescent
    Barton ACT 0221 Australia

  23. […] couple of weeks ago I alerted you all to a concerning move by the Government of Afghanistan to take over women’s shelters in the country. Many of you responded to this issue by writing to your Ambassadors in Kabul and to other key […]

  24. Mohammmad aslam says:

    the best way for supporting our country we should active the factory of our country and we respect all nationtty of our coountry we action according to law islam

  25. Penelope says:

    Good work, Marianne. Glad to do what little I can.

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