One of Afghanistan’s top female judges has been honoured with an international human rights award while she continues her work to advocate for her country’s women and girls from a London hotel.
Fawzia Amini, 48, fled Afghanistan last summer after the Taliban takeover of the country. She had been one of Afghanistan’s leading female judges, former head of the legal department at the Ministry of Women, senior judge in the supreme court, and head of the violence against women court.
Amini is one of three Afghan women who have received this year’s Lantos Prize, a prestigious international human rights award from the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. Previous recipients include the Dalai Lama and the Hong Kong human rights activist Joshua Wong.
The other two recipients of the prize, awarded to the women on 18 May in Washington DC, are the country’s first female tech CEO, Roya Mahboob, and Khalida Popal, co-founder and captain of Afghanistan’s first women’s soccer team. All three live abroad.
Amini, her husband and the couple’s four daughters, have been stuck in a London hotel for almost nine months along with thousands of other Afghans the UK government pledged to resettle here. Government sources have admitted there are still 12,000 Afghans in hotels, a number that has changed little since the end of November 2021, although government sources told the Guardian that officials have been working as fast as possible to move Afghan families into homes of their own. The sources described hotels as a “first step” and a “stopgap”.
The sources added that more than 6,000 people had moved – or were in the process of being moved – into permanent accommodation since the first rescue flights in June 2021.
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have begun enforcing an order requiring all female TV news presenters in the country to cover their faces while on air, as part of a hardline shift that has drawn condemnation from rights activists. Most female presenters have been seen with their faces covered after the Taliban’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice began enforcing the decree.
Amini remains focused on trying to rescue 93 female judges and their families who are at risk in Afghanistan, a figure that has not reduced in recent months.
She also continues to advocate for the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, participating in secret Zoom sessions to educate girls and women about their basic rights. These rights appear to be increasingly disregarded by the Taliban who have reneged on their promise to allow girls to attend secondary schools, and have issued new restrictions on freedom of movement for women outside the home saying that they must cover themselves from head to toe if they venture out.
Amini told the Guardian that while she was delighted to have received the prestigious human rights prize she was increasingly fearful about the safety of women judges and the lack of rights for women and girls.
“I am so worried that so many girls are losing their opportunities. They have no hope, no jobs and no food.”
She said that while she and her family were very grateful to the UK government for rescuing them and very appreciative of the kindness shown to them and other Afghans by the British people, hulle, and around 100 other Afghans in the same hotel, had no idea when they would be moved to their own homes.
“Our children are attending school and my husband and I are attending college to improve our English. This hotel has become our community and our house.”