Afghan policewomen form human chain to protect women's rights activists in Kabul, 2009


To prevent violence between pro-Shia Personal Status Law counter-protesters and anti-Shia Personal Status Law protesters

Time period notes

Campaign lasted less than 1 day and information is not specific enough to divide the campaign into segments.

Time period

April 15, 2009 to April 15, 2009



Location City/State/Province

Jump to case narrative

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

  • Policewomen joined hands to form chain around protesters

Segment Length

Not Applicable


Policewomen at the demonstration


Not Known

External allies

Not Known

Involvement of social elites

Not Known


Counter-protesters who were threatening the women's rights activists

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not Known

Campaigner violence

Not Known

Repressive Violence

Counter-protesters threw stones at the protesters that the policewomen were surrounding.




Third-party nonviolent intervention

Group characterization


Groups in 1st Segment


Segment Length

Not Applicable

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

4 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


1 out of 3 points

Total points

6 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The success in achieving goals is a 4 instead of 6 because it is unclear how much of the violence prevention was due to the nonviolent barrier by the policewomen or the threat of violence offered by the other police officers present at the protest. Survival score is 1 because the group of policewomen survived and a growth of 1 because the group grew only to incorporate enough policewomen to surround the crowd, but no more.

Database Narrative

In March 2009 the Afghan Parliament passed the Shia Personal Status Law, which provided many restrictions and guidelines for the personal lives of Afghanistan’s Shiite Muslims, who made up between fifteen and twenty percent of the total population.  The law was drafted by Shia Clerics and then passed by congress and signed by President Hamid Karzai.  

Afghanistan women’s rights activists, both Shia and not, were outraged at the law, in particular because of certain clauses which would have forced women to offer sex to their husbands and limited their ability to leave their house without the permission of their husbands.  International leaders also condemned the law and governments in the United States and Europe openly disapproved of President Karzai’s decision to approve the law.  

As early as March, Afghan women who opposed the law had begun meetings and workshops based around the repeal of the law.  These women held their first open protest on April 15, 2009 when nearly 200 women, some Shia and some not, began a march in front of a conservative Shia Muslim university in Kabul that had supported the law.

As the women began to march along the road and chant slogans, nearly 1000 supporters of the law came together from inside and around the university.  The counter-protest was made up of both men and women.  As the counter-protesters grew angrier they began to throw stones at the women protesting against the law.

Policewomen who were present joined arms and formed a barrier around the protesting women in an effort to protect them from the stone-throwers. These policewomen kept their backs to the counter-protesters.  Facing inwards towards the female activists and holding arms to form a circle around the women, they walked with the group of protesters as they continued their march.

While other police officers were present with riot shields and weapons, these other police did not use any apparent violence against the protesters or counter-protesters.  The policewomen remained around the female protesters with linked arms as they continued to march.  Aside from the initial stones thrown by counter-protesters, the demonstration ended with no known injuries or further violence.  The women's rights protesters continued their campaign through July 2009.

The case represents an increasing number of incidents coming to light in which non-protesters step in to reduce or prevent violence in inflamed situations, using methods that go outside their expected role or behavior.


Not Known


Oates, Lauryn. "Standing Their Ground: How Women and Civil Society Groups Banded Together to Protest Afghanistan's Shia Personal Status Law." in Herizons vol. 23 iss. 2, Fall 2009. p. 36-29

Filkins, Dexter. "Afghan Women Protest New Law on Home Life." New York Times 16 Apr. 2009: A1. New York Times. 15 Apr. 2009. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. <>.

Stones Thrown at Afghan Women Protesters. YouTube. Associated Press, 15 Apr. 2009. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. <>.

"Violence Flares at Protest over Afghan Sex Law - World News - South and Central Asia - Afghanistan -" Associated Press, 15 Apr. 2009. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. <>.

Additional Notes

This Third Party Nonviolent Intervention occurred within a larger campaign by female activists that were attempting to cause a change to the Shia Personal Status Law from March-July, 2009

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Max Rennebohm 24/01/2011