Afghan Biographies

Basel, Marzia Mrs.

Name Basel, Marzia Mrs.
Ethnic backgr. Pashtun
Date of birth 1968
Function/Grade Judge
History and Biodata


3. Biodata:
Basel MarziaMrs. Marzia Basel was born 1968. She studied law at Kabul University's department of law and political science, but when she graduated in 1985, the leadership refused to grant her and two dozen other women their diplomas on the grounds that they first had to practice in the countryside for two years -- a requirement not imposed on male graduates. Only three women received diplomas that year, because they happened to be Communist Party members.

Basel, whose father was a judge and who has two sisters who also studied law, stayed in Kabul and worked at the supreme court as a clerk from 1985 to 1991. She investigated cases and reported to the judges, even writing some of their rulings. After studying English, she established a school for both women and men, who were taught separately. All the while she was braving harassment by the Taliban, which did not want women to work or to be educated. At times she moved around the neighborhood with her portable blackboard to keep her classrooms secret.

But when she was confronted, she said, she would fend off her accusers by telling them: "I am a judge. I know the sharia [Islamic law]. Nothing, nowhere in Islam or the holy book, says it is forbidden to do what I am doing, to teach." That was in 1998. In September 2002 Basel and 13 other Afghan women came to the United States as guests of the State Department for leadership training with the Academy for Educational Development.

Basel supplemented her teaching in recent years with training from Spanish and French doctors on how to instruct women in rural areas on traditional childbirth methods. She also worked for U.N. agencies providing emergency relief.

Whenever she traveled, she always used a male relative as her driver.

She and her family after 9/11 took refuge in a house outside Kabul. The night of the first U.S. airstrikes she saw a drone circle over Kabul.

After an agreement in Bonn in December that set up the immediate post-Taliban order in Afghanistan, she received her diploma and was asked to work as an officer with the loya jirga, the grand assembly charged with electing a new government, and with the U.N. Development Program's judicial commission. While she was spreading the word about elections, women she spoke with asked her to represent them. She became a delegate [to the loya jirga] and voted for the first time in her life for Chairman [ Hamid] Karzai. In January 2002, her duties as a judge began officially and she found herself deluged with cases on corruption, embezzlement, bribery, and drug smuggling and production.

Ten days before leaving for the United States, she was appointed to the juvenile court for three months to investigate juvenile crimes and conditions inside prisons for young people.

Marzia Basel is founder and Director of the Afghanistan Progressive Law Organization and the Afghan Women’s Judges Association. She 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.

More Background from other sources:

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, acting as a representative for the establishment of the Independent Afghan Judicial Commission, and acting as an officer for the Emergency Loya Jirga Commission. She was integral to women’s mobilization in 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.

She also served for UNICEF Afghansitan as Juvenile Justice Project Officer. Since 2006, she has been working as National Advisor to the German government's Assistant for Afghanistan GTZ, now the GIZ Rule of Law Project. After the suspension of the Afghan Women Judges Association by the Afghan Supreme Court she founded the Afghanistan Progressive Law Organization and has served as its director since 2009. 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.




Last Modified 2013-09-04
Established 2013-09-04