6. January 2022 – AFGHANISTAN



“It’s not about Afghanistan, Germany or France: it’s about humanity. It is about our shared world. Right now, a member of the international family has fallen ill: Afghanistan. Please show your support for our country, for all the people of Afghanistan!”Zarifa Ghafari

The Women’s Conference for Afghanistan made overwhelmingly clear: we have a shared responsibility when it comes to protecting human rights around the world. Our HÁWAR.help Human Rights Award laureate Zarifa Ghafari summed this up perfectly in her acceptance speech. She is one of the many voices of wonderful, committed, and yes, also personally affected women from Afghanistan and Iraq who told us their stories during the evening.

At the start of the event the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, set the tone in a virtual greeting message: “Women have the strength and the power to make our world a better place.” In her role as Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen is responsible for the EU’s strategy and policies, and thus also for how international development aid cooperation in Afghanistan will continue. In her welcoming address, she emphasized that women like Zarifa Ghafari and Jihan A. are living proof that strong women can bring about change and lead the way forward. She stated that they have made the world a better place by sharing their stories and continuing to advocate for those who were left behind.

Virtual greeting of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Women's Conference for Afghanistan at the Französischen Friedrichsstadtkirche

Jihan A. escaped ISIS captivity and wrote a book with the title “Dankbarkeit. Die schlimmste Zeit meines Lebens”, in which she processes her painful experiences, experiences that exemplify those of thousands of Yazidi women who have been abducted and enslaved by ISIS. In her acceptance speech for the HÁWAR.help Human Rights Award, which was presented to her by our chairwoman Düzen Tekkal, she made clear: “I would like the world not to forget about what happened to us Yazidis, so that something like this never happens again to any woman in the world, no matter what skin color, religion or where she comes from. (…) We must not stop making the world aware of where injustice happens to women and help them stand up for their rights.”

During the following two panels, we discussed Germany’s and the EU’s political responsibility for the people in Afghanistan – especially those who are most threatened by the new-old Taliban regime. They panelists talked about their perspective and how they felt while witnessing the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan or during the terror offensive committed by ISIS in Iraq, how their own consternation forced them into action and how they are working to change the situation in their countries of origin for the better. 

“We have many women who show us that we are more. That Afghanistan is more. Afghanistan is not just war or terror”, said Shegufa Bayat, a mountaineer whose life was at stake in Afghanistan, and who found refuge in Germany with the help of Kabul Luftbrücke initiator Theresa Breuer. 

Kabul Luftbrücke has been able to evacuate more than 1,000 people with a great personal commitment on the part of everyone involved. A selfless act and yet one on an eye-level: Theresa Breuer, who was also awarded the HÁWAR.help Human Rights Award on that evening knows the country and the people. She lived in Afghanistan for two years and made a film about a group of female Afghan mountaineers who climbed the highest mountains in Afghanistan. Thanks to her work, these climbers have now been given the chance to build a new life in freedom. And to speak out for themselves and against the Taliban, from Germany. 

It is women like Zarifa GhafariShegufa Bayat and Jihan A. who are now setting an example against this brutal violence they had to experience. They are bearers of hope and, to some extent, have found the strength to translate traumatic experiences into the power to act, into following their own path and speaking up for human rights and justice. On this evening, we awarded Zarifa GhafariJihan A. and Theresa Breuer their HÁWAR.help Human Rights Awards – three wonderful women who inspired us with their strength and courage. 

We are grateful that the Women’s Rights Conference has raised awareness for the ongoing human rights violations of the Taliban and the genocide of the Yazidis, the effects of which are far from overcome. Just as we have not relented in our commitment to the victims of the genocide against the Yazidis, we will not waver in our commitment to the people of Afghanistan who are threatened by Taliban rule. This is what we stand for with our #AfghanistanWeSeeYou initiative. 

We have formulated a seven-point program to address political decision-makers in Germany, the international community and the broader civil society, with specific demands. 

We would like to thank everyone who made this evening so special: Our wonderful panellists, the moderators Shelly Kupferberg and Katie Gallus, the laudators, the award winners, all those who made the evening a success in front of and behind the stage, the photographers Markus C. Hurek and Richard Pflaume, and our partners: BMW Foundation, Deutsche Postcode Lotterie, comma, and The Wunderwaffe.