Day of the Endangered Lawyer: Narrative of legal professionals

International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, January 24, is being marked as legal professionals in the country, including lawyers, judges, prosecutors and other actors involved with the legal system in Afghanistan face a growing number of challenges under Taliban rule.

UN experts said in a report last week that women have been expelled from the judicial system under the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, and that the group is trying to systematically remove women from the country’s legal system.

“Among those removed were more than 250 women judges – over 10 percent off the bench before the Taliban takeover – as well as many hundreds of women lawyers and prosecutors,” the report said.

A number of female employees of the former government’s legal system said they have lost their jobs since the Taliban takeover, and have been forced to stay at home.

Fawzia Kohistani, a former prosecutor who has served for 27 years in Afghanistan’s legal system, is among hundreds of women who face hardship under the Taliban rule.

Kohistani, 52, said that she used to work at the former Afghan attorney general office, which was dissolved by the Taliban and most of the prosecutors were also dismissed.

She used to investigate violence against women cases, however, now she is facing a difficult situation.

“All female prosecutors and employees of the department have been forced to stay at home and cannot go to work. I went to my office in August this year. But they told me that my position is not important anymore and that I have no right to sign the attendance. When we want to talk to the head of the Taliban administration, they don’t allow us to meet and even if they know that we went to the administration, they hide [in order to avoid meeting us],” she said.

Kohistani added that no women are working at the attorney’s office, “they (Taliban) have provided us a symbolic attendance sheet and we visit [the entrance of the office] to sign the attendance at the beginning and the end of the month. Women are not allowed to enter the attorney directorate and the Taliban treat women harshly and in a bad manner.”

Fawzia, who has solved more than 70 cases during her career, said that in addition to the Taliban, she is being threatened and wanted by the criminals who were released from prison by the Taliban.

Palwasha, daughter of Fawzia Kohistani, said: “My husband was an employee of the attorney and we had a good life. But now my husband is working on roads to provide us with living costs.”

A number of former employees of the attorney general’s office, however, stated that the Taliban have removed the harassment of women and gender department at the office which could promote violence against women.

Statistics about legal system employees

According to the reports, around 8,000 employees used to work at the former attorney general office.

Following the collapse of the former government, women have been dismissed from the organization and the authority of the attorney general office has been transferred to the Taliban-run supreme court.

A number of former legal employees, meanwhile, left Afghanistan after the collapse of the republic system.

There is no information about possible torture and murder of prosecutors. A number of media outlets, however, reported that at least 26 prosecutors were tortured or killed across the country since the takeover of the Taliban.

Based on reports, around 2,500 professional and experienced prosecutors – most of whom are women – have been dismissed by the Taliban.