Shelters fighting to provide safe havens for abused women in Afghanistan now find themselves battling a new--and unexpected--enemy: television.
In the past several weeks, controversial television presenter Nasto Naderi has stepped up a campaign he began this year accusing women's shelters of supporting prostitution and other behavior considered immoral. In December, Naderi showed footage of a family guidance center run by the organization Women for Afghan Women, followed by pictures of family guidance and women's shelter staff entering their offices. According to Naderi, women's shelters encourage behavior that violates Islam, though he has yet to offer any evidence to support his allegations.
The unwanted attention has sent a chill through women's rights supporters in Kabul and created an environment of both fear and defiance among shelter workers. In a conservative country with little history of providing safe havens for domestic-violence victims, the concern is that Naderi's charges could do great harm -- and put shelter workers at risk.
“By these kinds of programs, people's minds may be swayed, and they may think negatively about these kinds of safe houses,” said Selay Ghaffar of the organization HAWCA, which offers legal aid and temporary shelter to Afghan women seeking to escape domestic abuse.