Darkness at the Edge of Towns: Afghan Women’s Rights in Displacement

Event date: 
18 Aug 2015
6:00pm to 7:30pm
Staff Common room, UNSW Law
Internally displaced peoples in Afghanistan
Susanne Schmeidl in conversation with Claudia Tazreiter
Any questions? Contact us on 9385 1803.

Darkness at the Edge of Towns: Afghan Women’s Rights in Displacement

Susanne Schmeidl in conversation with Claudia Tazreiter


At the end of 2014, the NATO-led and UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan completed its official mission to assist the Afghan government to provide effective security across the country. Afghan National Security Forces, however, lack capacity to fully secure its borders which has led to a constant increase of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country, standing at close to 1 million. This official figure is only the tip of the iceberg of an increasing push into Afghan urban areas by rural populations in search of livelihoods and security, with women suffering the most as the absorption capacity of Afghan cities is stretched. Research in three Afghan cities, illustrates that urban displaced young women, ostensibly placed in seclusion for their protection, suffer increased domestic violence with limited access to food, health care and education and experience loss of freedom and social networks, extreme marginalisation and isolation.  Most of these women would have a right to international asylum, if they were able to leave Afghanistan. Susanne Schmeidl, who has spent over a decade working in Afghanistan, argues that international actors, who proclaimed the emancipation of women as a justification for invading Afghanistan in 2001, have a moral obligation to provide adequate protection to these displaced and disenfranchised Afghan women.


Susanne Schmeidl recently joined UNSW Australia as Lecturer in Development Studies after working in Afghanistan for 13 years advising civil society organizations and donor governments in conflict-sensitive research and programming, civilian peacebuilding and protection. A research-practitioner with a PhD in sociology, she has researched Afghan displacement since the mid-1990s and focussed her work at the intersection of peace, security and development. She is currently working on publications based on her experience in Afghanistan with the role of civil society in post-conflict statebuilding as well as a research project on community – insurgency (Taliban) relations in Afghanistan.  In addition to the report with the Norwegian Refugee Council on which her seminar will be based, she advised the Forced Migration Review on a special issue on Afghanistan’s displaced people and wrote a comprehensive overview of the Afghan displacement situation for the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB);  


Claudia Tazreiter is a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of New South Wales. Her research focuses on forced and irregular migration, human rights, the role of non-governmental organizations and civil society in social change and gendered forms of violence. She is the author of Asylum Seekers and the State. The Politics of Protection in a Security-Conscious World (Ashgate 2004), co-editor of Globalisation and Social Transformation in Two Culturally Diverse Societies: The Australian and Malaysian Experience  with Tham Siew Yean (Palgrave 2013)) and lead author of Fluid Security in the Asia Pacific. Transnational Lives and State Control with Leanne Weber, Sharon Pickering, Marie Segrave and Helen McKernan (Palgrave 2015). She is managing co-editor of The Australian Journal of Human Rights and is an associate of the Australian Human Rights Centre.