Former member of Afghani Parliament Noorzia Atmar was banned under strict refugee laws from applying for asylum from within Afghanistan’s borders forcing her to flee.
According to The Guardian, the United States embassy did respond to her cry for help, but it was not able to assist her with asylum or a visa unless she applied from another country. Atmar mentions, “I love my country and even though I was under threat in some way I tried to get work, not to be lazy or rely on anyone else.”
More importantly, she stated, “The situation pushed me to leave. No one respects women in our country. It is really difficult to find a space just to live.”
Previously an affluent and powerful politician, Atmar now lives in a single run down room in extreme poverty outside of her original borders. Her current location is not being released for fear of herself and her family she now does not in contact.
Despite her horrendous situation she is still passionate about women’s rights and hopes to begin working again. Like Atmar, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) is working for women as the oldest political/social organization of Afghan women struggling for peace, freedom, democracy and women’s rights in fundamentalism-blighted Afghanistan since 1977, according to its website.
Even though she was lucky enough to escape her situation, Atmar knows there are many other women still suffering. One main issue is the fact that a refugee cannot apply for asylum while in their home country. In a male-dominated Afghanistan, it is extremely difficult for a woman to be able to have the job, money or status to pass rigorous western visa requirements.
RAWA’s work inside of Afghanistan mainly consists of support for female victims of war and other aggressive groups much like Atmar’s situation. The government they are after is one of democratic values that ensure freedom of thought, religion and political expression while protecting women’s rights.
Policy and research manager at Asylum Aid said, “Our overall sense is that the asylum system here is that it’s not sensitive to the needs of women fleeing countries like Afghanistan and doesn’t respond as it should to their cases.” This is part of the motivating cause behind RAWA and the work it is doing to fight for women.
– Lindsey Lerner