“Holy” War on Human Rights : A hermeneutic study of the complex situation of human rights activists in Afghanistan

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Teologiska institutionen

Abstract: Title: “Holy” War on Human Rights - A hermeneutic study of the complex situation of human rights activists in Afghanistan Author: Zandra Bergman Supervisor: Maud Eriksen Examiner: Johanna Romare Department of TheologyMaster program of Religion in Peace and ConflictMaster’s thesis, 15 credits  In September 2020, the latest attempt to bring peace to Afghanistan, the intra-Afghan peace talks formally began. The opening of the peace negotiations failed to produce the long-desired ceasefire. Instead, it marked an increase of violence: a sharp number of deliberate killings of human rights defenders. The purpose of this study is to examine lived experiences of human rights activists in Afghanistan and the complex situation in which they are operating and to gain a deeper understanding of why they have increasingly been subject to violence. Furthermore, it is an attempt to explore the meaning of violence against Afghan human rights activists promoting women's rights. This is a hermeneutic study primarily based on data collected through interviews with two Afghan human rights activists. Rather than touch every topic and present data about an objective reality or truth, the aim is to shed light on the shared experiences of the respondents, providing snapshots of the current situation of Afghan human rights defenders, and to discuss their stories in the light of selected theories. The following research questions have been used to guide the study: (1) How can we understand the complex situation of human rights activists in Afghanistan, and (2) What are the underlying reasons they are being targeted? By adopting mainly, the concepts of hegemony: to decode underlying dimensions of power struggles, and a critical feminist approach: to grasp the gender dimensions of the conflict, I have exposed how my respondents in their positions of human rights defenders bring new life to a historical conflict of interests impinging on the future nature of Afghanistan. Moreover, they expose a recurrent clash between opposing hegemonic aspirations: a struggle over the maintenance of social order in the Afghan society, in which they are being placed at the center.

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