Heather Barr told Asian News International in an exclusive interview that: “India being a neighbour and a flourishing democracy, has an important role to play in the overall development of Afghanistan, especially in the areas of socio-economic development and human rights.
Barr, who is the Afghanistan researcher in the Asia division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), further said: “I think India is a very important neighbor for Afghanistan, and there is a very warm feeling towards India and the Indian government.”
“The contribution that India is making in terms of aid is very important, especially because unlike many of the other countries involved in Afghanistan, India doesn’t have a deadline at the end of 2014,” she added.
“I think Afghans are hoping that India will have a long term relationship with Afghanistan, will stay concerned about the situation there, and will support the programmes that are important for human rights in Afghanistan,” Barr said.
“I think, one of the things that are particularly important about India’s role is that there are lot of social problems that are very important in Afghanistan, which India has struggled with itself. Issues about how do you make sure that girls have access to education. Fight against underage marriage, forced marriage. These are some issues India has struggled with and found solutions too, and these solutions could be very helpful in Afghanistan,’’ Barr added
She further revealed: “There has been some important progress in Afghanistan in the area of human rights in the last 10 years. Several million girls are going to school now more than that they were in 2001. There are women in the police, women in the military. There are women prosecutors. Maternal mortality has been falling steadily.”
“Afghanistan has a parliament where 28 percent parliamentarians are women, which is an achievement,” she added.
She, however, warned that there is a lot of anxiety at the moment, that the withdrawal of the international troops by the end of 2014 could also be the end of broader international environment in Afghanistan on a political level; on a level of supporting aid programme. And this could be devastating for human rights. There is a fear for women in particular that the future may be dark
Barr opined that there is a need to stay involved in the Afghanistan’s rebuilding process and the need to put pressure on the Karzai Government to remain committed to human rights
Expressing her skepticism about Karzai playing an effective role in safeguarding the rights of women, Barr said: “One of the things that is important is that there is a continued pressure from the international community on the Afghan Government to comply with the commitments that Afghanistan has made in relations to the human rights.”
“Afghanistan has ratified the convention on the elimination of the discrimination against women. But President Karzai has not always been a reliable partner on women’s rights. He has done some things that are really important for women’s rights such as signing a law of elimination of violence against women in 2009, but he has also sometimes failed to support women’s right as strongly as he should,’’ she added.
Prior to joining ‘Human Rights Watch’, Barr managed the Afghanistan anti-corruption and criminal justice programs of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Justice and Human Rights portfolio of the Afghanistan office of the UN Development Program (UNDP)
Barr has been living in Afghanistan since 2007 and she thinks that although the nation has achieved considerable progress in terms of promoting human rights, it is critical that the international community and human rights groups stay committed and involved to ensure peace and prosperity in the war torn nation.