N. v. Sweden |2010

Afghan woman facing gender-based persecution saved from expulsion

. . . women are at particular risk of ill-treatment in Afghanistan if perceived as not conforming to the gender roles ascribed to them by society, tradition and even the legal system.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, October 2010


N. taught women in her native Afghanistan. This put her at odds with religious hard-liners among Kabul’s leading elite. She eventually had to flee to Sweden with her husband to escape persecution. 

Sweden refused to grant asylum to N. The authorities were not satisfied that there was a real risk of her being harmed if she returned to Afghanistan.

N. separated from her husband, who was also facing expulsion, not long after arriving in Sweden. Her own family disowned her because of this. They said she had brought shame on them. N.’s husband opposed her wish to divorce him, and N. feared reprisals from his family. She faced being shunned for having broken with tradition if she went back to Afghanistan.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found sufficient evidence of risks of reprisals from N.’s husband, his family, her own family, and from Afghan society if she was to be deported from Sweden, which would lead to a violation of the human rights convention.


Following the European court's judgment, the Swedish Migration Board granted N. a permanent residence permit in Sweden, which meant that the deportation order against her was cancelled.