Iran arming Taliban, says top Afghan general

Afghan commandos participate in a combat training exercise at Shorab Military Camp in Lashkar Gah in Helmand province. Marines in Helmand say President Donald Trump’s decision to keep boots on the ground indefinitely gives them ‘all the time in the world’ to retake the province, once the symbol of US intervention but now a Taliban stronghold. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2017

Iran arming Taliban, says top Afghan general

KABUL: Iran provides arms and military equipment to Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan, an army chief has claimed, marking the first confirmation from a high-ranking official of the war-torn country.
President Ashraf Ghani raised the matter with his Iranian counterpart during his recent visit to Tehran, Lt. Gen. Mohammed Sharif Yaftali, chief of general staff for the Afghan National Army, told the BBC Persian Service.
Yaftali said Kabul had documents showing “Iran was providing arms and military equipment to the Taliban in western Afghanistan.” He gave no further details.
Some local officials in western Afghanistan in the past had spoken about Iran’s role in the Afghan war and its backing of the insurgents.
Yaftali’s comments are however the first from a high-ranking Afghan official pointing to Iran’s alleged support for the Taliban.
Taliban spokesmen were unavailable for comment, and the Iranian embassy in Kabul could not immediately be reached. Tehran, which opposes the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, has in the past rejected claims that it backs the Taliban.
Dawlat Waziri, the chief spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense on Thursday said Yaftali’s comments were “misquoted” and that he expects a correction. He told Arab News that Afghanistan had “reports, not evidence about Iran’s involvement” and that it was verifying the reports.
Others say however that there is firm evidence that Iran is supporting the fundamentalist political group.
“Iranian land mines and weapons are used by the Taliban and it is directly engaged in supporting the Taliban militarily and financially,” analyst Bashir Bezhen told Arab News.
“It has its reservations over water distribution with Afghanistan and secondly is locked in a deep rivalry with the US in Afghanistan. It wants to see the US defeat and ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Iran has long been at loggerheads with Kabul, often over water disputes.
Much to Kabul’s anguish, Iran has in recent years officially hosted mid-ranking Taliban commanders at gatherings of Islamic scholars. Reports of its military and financial backing of the Taliban have increased ever since Ghani’s government signed a strategic security pact with Washington in 2014.
Former Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan last year, was reportedly en-route there from Iran where, according to media reports, many mid-ranking Taliban commanders have transferred their families to live.
Some Afghan observers say Iran is part of a regional block pushing the withdrawal of US troops that overthrew the Taliban regime 16 years ago in Afghanistan.


France grapples with high domestic violence rate

Updated 22 November 2019

France grapples with high domestic violence rate

  • EU studies show France has a higher rate of domestic violence than most of its European peers
  • By the hundreds, women have walked silently through city streets after each new death

LES MUREAUX: Sylvia. Dalila. Aminata. Céline. Julie. Their names are plastered on buildings and headlines across France, calling attention to their shared fate: Each was killed, allegedly by a current or former partner this year.
More than 130 women have died from domestic violence this year alone in France, according to activists who track the deaths.
European Union studies show France has a higher rate of domestic violence than most of its European peers. And frustrated activists have drawn national attention to a problem President Emmanuel Macron has called “France’s shame.”
Under cover of night, activists have glued posters with the names of the dead and calls to action to French city walls. “Complaints ignored, women killed,” read the black block letters on one such sign.
By the hundreds, women have walked silently through city streets after each new death.
Two years after Macron made a campaign pledge to tackle the problem, the government has begun to act.
A Justice Ministry report released earlier this month acknowledged authorities’ systematic failure to intervene to prevent domestic violence murders. On Monday, the government will announce measures that are expected to include seizing firearms from people suspected of domestic violence, prioritizing police training and formally recognizing “psychological violence” as a form of domestic violence.
Women are not the only victims of domestic violence, but French officials say they make up the vast majority.
Lawyers and victims’ advocates say women are too often disbelieved or turned away by law enforcement. But they’re encouraged by the new national conversation, which they say marks a departure from decades of denial.
“In France, we always have the impression that we are perfect,” feminist activist Caroline de Haas told The Associated Press.
A 2014 EU survey of 42,000 women across all 28 member states found that 26% of French women respondents said they been abused by a partner since age 15, either physically or sexually.
That’s below the global average of 30%, according to UN Women. But it’s 4 percentage points above the EU average and the sixth highest among EU countries.
Half that number reported experiencing such abuse in Spain, which implemented a series of legal and educational measures in 2004 that slashed its domestic violence rates.
Conversations about domestic violence have also ratcheted up in neighboring Germany, where activists are demanding the term “femicide” be used to describe such killings.
In France, victims and advocates say government action is overdue — and that more training is needed for police who are often ill-prepared to protect women in danger.
Police inaction made national headlines in France after Macron visited a hotline call center in September and listened in on a call with a 57-year-old woman whose husband had threatened to kill her. He heard a police officer on the other end tell the woman he couldn’t help her.
The hotline operator told Macron that such responses weren’t unusual.
Police officers across Europe often dismiss domestic violence as a private matter and fail to intervene at crucial moments, an EU study found this year.
But France is particularly bad, said EU researcher Albin Dearing, who led a study this year that examined domestic violence in seven European countries, including France.
“When it comes to violence against women, it showed actually that police do very little to protect women who turn to them for protection,” he said.
It can take between three weeks and two months for authorities to act on a complaint, leaving the victim “in a very fragile situation,” according to Frederique Martz, who runs anti-domestic violence organization Women Safe.
The Justice Ministry report this month found that 41% of “conjugal homicide” victims studied had previously reported incidents of domestic violence, and 80% of complaints sent to prosecutors went uninvestigated.
“Our system doesn’t work to protect women,” Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told French TV channel LCI after another French woman was allegedly killed by her husband in Alsace last week.
Many officers respond appropriately to reports of domestic violence, according to Maj. Fabienne Boulard of the national police.
Those who don’t — the ones who react “clumsily” or ask the wrong questions — usually don’t mean harm, she added; they just don’t recognize domestic violence or know how to intervene.
This is particularly true when women receive threats but not yet physical blows, victims say.
Officers “absorb this violence into the category of violence between a couple that is going through a difficult period,” said one woman whose ex-husband repeatedly threatened her and their children. She spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
The woman divorced him after years of what she describes as psychological abuse that left her “terrified to cross him.” His threats only grew worse from there, she said.
She filed multiple complaints, but she said police officers suggested she didn’t seem like a victim or and wasn’t able to prove she was in danger.
Earlier this month, Boulard, the police major, led the first supplementary training on domestic violence for police in the Paris suburb of Les Mureaux. She emphasized to the eight officers there that among victims, “shame is an extremely strong feeling.”
Participants traded stories of issues they had encountered: the surge in complaints on Sundays, the woman who retracts her complaint, the partner who insists everything is fine.
“We can’t do anything,” one female police officer complained.
Boulard told The AP that the three-hour session aimed to help officers understand the pressures victims face and “why the victim is not what they imagined, why sometimes they don’t correspond with the criteria they expect to see.”
Trainings like Boulard’s take place in some parts of France, but regional authorities can decide whether to hold them. Activists hope they’ll become routine.
“A year or two ago, no one used the word ‘femicide’ apart from feminist organizations,” Haas said. “There is very much a change in public consciousness.”