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Lecture focuses on women, human rights in Afghanistan

March 17, 2011

What role has religion played in the status of women in Afghanistan’s recent history? How have international human rights discourses worked to shape opportunities for women? After decades of war, what important changes and challenges lie ahead for the women of Afghanistan?

Marzia Basel, founder and executive director of the Afghan Women’s Judges Association and the Afghanistan Progressive Law Organization, will discuss these issues in a free public lecture, “Gender, Religion, and Human Rights: Afghanistan’s Changes and Challenges,” at 4:30pm, March 22, in West Hall, room 135.

The lecture is presented by ASU’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, and funded by a grant from the Luce Foundation for the project, “Through the Prism of Rights and Gender: Religion and International Affairs.”

“Marzia Basel’s experience with Afghanistan’s legal system over the last twenty years, and her role in its ongoing development, have put her at the frontier of working through the ways in which religion, rights and gender are negotiated,” said Linell Cady, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.

Basel has been named a Luce International Fellow by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. She will be serving a one month residency at the center, which kicks off with this public lecture. During the residency, she will be participating in the Luce faculty seminar on religion, gender, and human rights, meeting with students, faculty and members of the community, and speaking to a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate classes.

“I am excited by this opportunity not only to teach about religion, rights and women’s roles in Afghanistan, but also to learn more about the relationship of religion, gender and international law in the US,” said Basel.

In addition to giving lectures, Basel will also be sitting in on classes that encompass issues of law, religion and political science.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to dialogue with someone who has such a unique and important perspective on the research goals of our project, as well as to learn more about what is really happening in Afghanistan” said Carolyn Warner, head of the political science faculty and co-director of the Luce project with Cady.

Basel has extensive training and experience in international relations, women in development, and law. She holds a bachelor’s in law and political science from Kabul University and a master’s in international law and comparative studies from George Washington University.  She was employed as a judge in both civil and criminal courts in Kabul and served in the Supreme Court Legal Aid Department and the Kabul Public Security Court.

During the period of Taliban rule (1996-2001), Basel ran a private, home-based school for women where she designed programming and taught English. After the fall of the Taliban, she was active in state reconstruction, serving on the Kabul Public Security Court and serving as a representative for the establishment of the Independent Afghan Judicial Commission and as an officer for the Emergency Loya Jirga Commission.

She was integral to women’s mobilization during reconstruction, working for the Director of UNIFEM Afghanistan as a Gender Justice Officer and serving on the Afghan Constitution Commission in a unit supporting women in the election process.

Basel founded the Afghan Women Judges Association and, in 2009, founded the Afghanistan Progressive Law Organization where she currently serves as executive director. She is also a volunteer member of the Afghan Independent Bar Association Women's Committee, and a volunteer member of the advisory committee for the Afghan Women's Ministry.

The lecture in West Hall will be followed by a reception in the Secret Garden.

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