Beginning on September 27, 1996, an extremist militia group known as the Taliban seized control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Upon seizing control, the Taliban has instituted a system of gender apartheid, which has placed women into a state of virtual house arrest. Since that time the women and girls of Afghanistan have been stripped of all human rights including their voice, visibility and their mobility. The Campaign to stop Gender Apartheid, led by the Feminist Majority Foundation, has brought together numerous human right and womens organizations around the world to demand an end to the abuses of the omen in Afghanistan.
In the 1980s when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan, the United States gave billions of dollars, through a secret CIA operation, to revolutionary militia forces called the mujahideen (soldiers of God). Unfortunately, in 1989 when the Soviet Union pulled out, groups of the mujahideen entered into a civil war and in 1996 the Taliban emerged as the controlling force. The Taliban is actually made up of young men and boys who were raised in refugee camps and trained in ultraconservative religious schools in Pakistan.
The primary support system of the Taliban is from Pakistan, they rovide military aid and personnel, Saudi Arabia provides the financial support. In addition, Afghanistan is one of the worlds two largest producers of opium, which in turn makes it a huge drug-processing center. Finally, the biggest potential for financial support comes from the wealth of the petroleum industry. The Taliban claim to follow a pure, fundamental Islamic ideology, except the oppression they place upon women has no foundation in Islam.
Within Islam, women can earn, control and spend their own money; they can also participate in public life. Both the Organizations of the Islamic Conference and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have refused to recognize the Taliban as an official government in Afghanistan. Prior to the Taliban seizing control, women led very different lives. Many were educated and employed, 60% of the teachers at Kabul University were women as were 50% of the students. 70% of schoolteachers, 50% of civilian government workers and 40% of doctors were all women.
Just recently, a United Nations Reporter, Radhika Coomaraswami, voiced her shock of the violations she found in Afghanistan. She reported, ” widespread, systematic violation of Taliban areas of Afghanistan. ” She said she had never seen as uch suffering as she witnessed in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban militia took control, women have been forced to beg on the streets to simply feed their children because only a tiny percentage of women are allowed to work. Girls have been banned from attending school after the age of eight and women can not leave their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative.
If and when a woman does leave, she must be covered from head to toe with only a small opening to see and breath through. Medical access is extremely limited because male doctors cannot treat women and there are very few female physicians. Finally, the Taliban has required women to paint their windows opaque so that the women inside cannot be seen from the street. These rules are forcing women to lead a life worse than the depths of hell. There are many severe and even deadly consequences for disobeying the Talibans rules.
An elderly woman was critically beaten with a metal cable until her leg was broken because her ankle was accidentally showing. A woman caught trying to flee Afghanistan was stoned to death because the man she was with was not a relative. Many women have died of treatable illnesses because there was no doctor who would treat them. A high number of women, have attempted suicide by swallowing household cleaner rather than continuing to live under these appalling and ghastly circumstances. Ninety-seven percent of women who were surveyed by Physicians for Human Rights showed signs of major depression.
Since the Taliban has taken control of the government very few refugees have been able to flee the country to the United States. One woman, Nazira Karimi, fled the country one year ago after a long drawn out process to be exiled. Karimi was a journalist who spoke out against the Talibans actions and a death warrant was placed on her and every friend nd family member. After and initial denial from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, she sought help from the Feminist Majority.
Finally, after several more death threats and the kidnapping and torture of family members, emergency action was put into place and she was exiled to the United States. Just recently, 16 of her family members arrived safely at National Airport with help from the Department of State and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 1996 and 1997 no refugees were allow to enter, in 1998, 88 refugees entered. This year with the help of the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Department of State will allow approximately 1500 women and children to enter the United States to be saved from the deadly actions of the Taliban.
Currently, many national and international rights organizations are asking the United States and the United Nations to not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government. Recently, the United States and the United Nations have threatened to impose sanctions against the Taliban if they do not turn over Osama bin Laden, a multimillionaire terrorist extremist. The Feminist Majority Foundation has appealed to the United States and United Nations to also include he brutal gender apartheid policies and human rights violations as part of the sanction conditions.
President Clinton acknowledged the Talibans horrible treatment of women and pledged not to recognize the militia group until all human rights are restored. I, personally, am not a big fan of allowing immigrants and refugees into our already overcrowded and problematic country, but after researching this paper my views have changed. I still believe we should restrict how many refugees are allowed into the United States, but in times of such dreadful and deadly actions of the Taliban we need to do something o protect these women and children.
After looking at pictures and reading about the disgusting cruelty, I emailed government and UN officials from the Feminist Majority web-site. As I sit and type this paper, women are being beaten and killed for no reason what so ever, except for the fact that they are female. I believe for once our nation needs to work quickly to help stop these brutal acts of human rights violations. People are urged to email the Secretary of State and the President to urge him to impose sanctions of the Taliban and not recognize their appalling form of government.