Global celebrities wear green scarves in solidarity with Afghan women

Famous women and men from throughout the world including British actress Helen Mirren and Pakistani singer and songwriter Hadiqa Kiyani are backing the new Green Scarves for Solidarity campaign, which calls on world leaders to keep their promises to Afghan women 10 years since the start of military intervention in Afghanistan.

The campaign calls on people around the world to wear a green scarf to show their support for Afghan women. Green scarves are the symbol of the Afghan Women’s Network, a leading women’s organization in Afghanistan, whose members wear green scarves as a show of strength and unity.

Other famous supporters include German-born television presenter Kristiane Backer, Iranian film directors Samira, Hana, Mohsen and Marziyeh Makhmalbaf, Spain’s Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, and Nashwa Al Ruwaini, who has been dubbed the “Oprah of the Middle East.”

The protection of women’s rights was promoted as a positive outcome of the international intervention which began on 7 October 2001, but the campaign says that there are mounting fears that the gains women have made are in danger of slipping away. There are now 2.7 million girls in school and women are back at work. But the number of women in the civil service has dropped from 31 percent in 2006 to 18.5 percent in 2010 and more than 87 percent of Afghan women have experienced some form of violence.

The Green Scarves campaign calls on world leaders to renew their promises to Afghan women at December’s Bonn Conference, which will set the course for Afghanistan beyond the withdrawal of international troops by the end of 2014. The campaign calls on world leaders to pledge that any political settlement with the Taliban and other armed groups will explicitly guarantee women’s rights; to ensure that women play an active role in any peace negotiations, and to renew efforts to improve women’s access to basic services, such as health and education.

Dame Helen Mirren said:

“Afghanistan is still one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women, but women there have made real gains over the last 10 years. Millions of girls are enrolled in school and women are working as doctors, lawyers and businesswomen. But Afghan women are worried about what the future will bring. Our leaders need to promise them that any peace settlement will not come at the cost of their hard earned gains.”

Hadiqa Kiyani said:

“For me the green scarf symbolizes the fight back to demand the right of existence with dignity and honor and above all the right to be counted and never be pushed back into the abyss of darkness and oblivion.  By wearing green scarf, I pledge to stand by all underprivileged women in Afghanistan in their quest not to be bullied and gain recognition as respectable citizens and human beings."

Samira Hamidi, Director of the Afghan Women Network, said:

“Afghan women have made a lot of gains and achievements in the past 10 years. There are thousands of Afghan women who directly support their families on a financial basis. There are Afghan women MPs in Parliament. There is a Ministry of Women’s Affairs whose role is to focus on women’s welfare. There is a strong Afghan women’s movement speaking up for women's rights. But fears still remain.  One of the major concerns is the absence of Afghan women in discussions and decisions on peace. No negotiation or decision can be complete if half the population’s views are ignored.”

Women and men are being asked to upload photographs of themselves wearing green scarves and caps as part of an online photo petition to show they support Afghan women. The petition will be presented to foreign ministers before the Bonn conference. It will also be made into a solidarity photo wall that will be displayed outside the Bonn conference – to remind everyone in the conference of the promises made to the women of Afghanistan. The campaign is supported by 17 aid and women’s rights organizations, including Oxfam, CARE UK, Women for Women International and Muslim Women's Network UK.

Women and men interested in supporting the campaign can upload a photograph of themselves wearing a green scarf at www.ch16.org.

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Watch: Green Scarves for Solidarity (Channel16org video)

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New report: A Place at the Table: Safeguarding Women’s Rights in Afghanistan – At the 10th anniversary of the intervention, Oxfam calls on world leaders not to sacrifice the hard-won gains that Afghan women have made.

Notes to editors

Public figures supporting the campaign include Miranda Richardson (UK), Dame Helen Mirren (UK), Juliet Stevenson (UK), Dame Harriet Walter (UK), Rebecca Hall (UK), Anna Friel (UK), Riz Ahmed (UK), Professor Amina Wadud (US), Aryana Sayeed (UK/Afghanistan), Kristiane Backer (Germany/UK), Laila Rouass (UK), Shabhana Rehman (Norway), Shazia Mirza (UK), Alesha Dixon (UK), Dawn Porter (UK), Laura Bailey (UK), Livia Firth (Italy), Mariella Frostrup (UK), Aminatta Forna (UK), Miriam González Durántez (Spain/UK), Hana Makhmalbaf (Iran), Maysam Makhmalbaf (Iran), Marziyeh Makhmalbaf (Iran), Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Iran), Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran), Annie Khalid (UK/Pakistan), Hadiqa Kiani (Pakistan), Paloma Faith (UK), Jane Shepherdson (UK), Charlotte Riley (UK), Pippa Small (UK), Nashwa Al Ruwaini (Egypt/UAE), Yasmeen Khan and Sajeela Kershi (UK), Sonia Panesar (UK), Rita Morar (UK), Sohail Anjum (UK), Maz from Bonafide (UK), Khiza Monir (UK), Sinbad Phgura (UK), Shizzio (UK), Metz and Trix (UK), Sham D (UK), Asjad Nazir (UK), Kaser Mehmood (Qatar).

Organizations supporting the campaign include:  Oxfam, Muslim Women's Network UK, Safe World for Women, Women for Women International, Soroptimists GBI, CARE UK, Women in Black, WISE, Working Muslim, Saferworld, Womankind, UK Feminista, Gender Concerns (NL), Keinkhan Youth (NL), F-Word, Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS).

The Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) is the cornerstone of Afghanistan’s fledging women’s movement, serving as a well-established network for the growing number of women’s organisations operating in the country. AWN has had a strong presence in Kabul, Herat and Jalalabad, while also working through local partners in several Afghan provinces. AWN fulfils the function of a network of organisations, as well as undertaking its own projects addressing issues such as gender-based violence, youth empowerment and girls’ education.

Contact information

For more information and images of famous women and Afghan women wearing green scarves, please contact:

Rebecca Wynn on rwynn@oxfam.org.uk, + 44 (0) 1865 472530 or + 44 (0) 7769 887139