The Taliban Is Concentrating on Incapacity-Rights Activists

Disabled Afghan women take part in a wheelchair basketball game organized by UNICEF in Herat October 25, 2020 (Hoshang Hashimi / Getty)

PUBLISHER’S NOTE:Disability rights activists’ names have been changed throughout this article to protect their identities.

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TThe day the Taliban took control of Kabul, they threw a grenade in A’s courtyard and he immediately left home to seek refuge. As a lower limb amputee and a prominent disability rights activist, he is at risk due to his disability rights organization’s association with the United States.

“We have a number of US grants and that’s why … they think me and my people are on a spy mission for the Americans,” A wrote in an email to me.

The Taliban have appeared at A three times since Monday. They also went to the disability rights organization’s office, where they asked the security forces where A was. A moves from house to house to avoid capture.

At least 50 disability rights activists like A and their families are at risk, says Isabel Hodge, executive director of the United States’ International Disability Council (USICD). In 2017, USICD and the Afghan Embassy in Washington, DC hosted a conference on the rights of people with disabilities at Georgetown University; Because of their association with the United States, the lives of these fellows and program partners are now at risk.

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These disability rights activists have been providing vital services to Afghans with disabilities for many years through organizations that provide rehabilitation services, vocational training, leadership training, and microfinance, among other things. For example, an organization with US support has worked to make school toilets accessible to wheelchair users. Others have focused on programs as diverse as trauma care for landmine victims and carpet weaver training. With the fall of the Ghana-led government, these services will almost certainly become more difficult to provide.

According to the Asia Foundation, Afghanistan has one of the highest per capita disability rates in the world, with almost 80 percent of Afghan adults are disabled, mostly due to more than 40 years of war. Despite this overwhelming number, disabled Afghans are largely left behind due to a lack of accessible infrastructure and systemic ableism. This problem particularly affects women and girls; after a 2020 report According to Human Rights Watch, 80 percent of Afghan girls with disabilities are out of school. The US intervention did nothing to address the problems; despite the fact that the US has issued $ 145 billion on reconstruction efforts in Afghan cities and metropolitan areas, Critics say that these efforts neglected the special needs of disabled people.

According to Hodge, the international community has provided little to no aid to Afghan disability rights activists. “We had a gentleman who got approval from Canada because he had all of his paperwork. He [is] an amputee … he went to the airport in Kabul, wandered around for hours to … find the right place … and was in such great pain that he had to go home. “

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This was also the case for M, another disability rights activist with a physical disability who tried three times to leave with his Canadian visa and documents but was unable to enter the airport. He also asked for support from the US. “The Biden government did not consider the rights of people with disabilities in their evacuation process from Kabul Airport,” he told me.

Hodge, who has been in contact with the State Department, is concerned that disability rights activists have not been given a priority among other Afghans. “But in my opinion they should [have been] because they are really at risk, and when you think about the stigma and discrimination, the Taliban wouldn’t think twice about killing someone with a disability. “

According to Hodge, none of the 50 or so disability rights activists she reported to the State Department have been evacuated.

She and M are also concerned that disabled war victims will lose their monthly government grant under former President Ashraf Ghani to help them pay for food and other necessities, and that rehabilitation centers will be closed and the deprivation of essential medical assistance for Afghans with disabilities. Small businesses run by people with disabilities are also closing, making them particularly vulnerable in an economy that is already in free fall.

Hodge explained the precarious situation of activists who support Afghanistan’s many disabled orphans: “A member of staff at one of the schools accepts donations and provides hot meals to some of the families who have participated in this charitable organization for children with disabilities, are orphans, and she does this at great risk for her own life. “

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In the past Afghans with disabilities were recruited by the Taliban to become suicide bombers. According to his autopsies of the remains of bombers in Kabul between 2004 and 2007, Dr. Yusef Yadgari, a senior assistant professor at Kabul Medical University, found that more than 80 percent of them were disabled or chronically ill.

“They are likely upset because they are outcasts in Afghan society,” Yadgari told NPR. “They hold a grudge because a lot of them don’t get a job. In order to make money for their families, they agree to become suicide bombers. “

A made a case for the United States: “Many people with disabilities who have implemented the US projects are in trouble and I hope the US government [will] Be careful, because they become more vulnerable if they are not helped. “

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