Afghan Women under Taliban repression

15/12/1998
Report

"A flower for the women of Kabul" : this campaign,
started nine months ago to denounce the tragic fate
of afghan women under the Taleban, and to deliver to
them a message of solidarity, has benefitted from
wide public support.

"A flower for the women of Kabul" : this campaign,
started nine months ago to denounce the tragic fate
of afghan women under the Taleban, and to deliver to
them a message of solidarity, has benefitted from
wide public support.
The oppression of which these women have been the
victims for two years does not stop getting worse and
the noose of fundamentalism gets a little tighter every
day. Consequently, last June 16th, all the clandestine
schools for girls, which the population had succeeded
in running in Kabul despite the risks, were closed by
the Talebans. The forced departure of the NGOs one
month later had grave repercussions on the already
disastrous living conditions of women, particularly with
regard to access to healthcare.
The serious deterioration in the situation is illustrated
perfectly by the following
account from a young Afghan
woman 1
"Women in Afghanistan form
the most disadvantaged sector
of society. Twenty years of war
have had a negative impact on
all aspects of life in Afghanistan
and have brought more
bitterness than ever into the
lives and fate of women.
Women represent more than
half the population and all
development will be impossible
without their involvment or their
active participation.
In the past, women occupied
positions of respect. They were
teachers, judges, lawyers,
doctors, and nurses, but at
present they are confined to
their homes. They do not have the right to work or to
go to school.
Women in Afghanistan have no right to security. If they
want to go out, they have to cover themselves from
head to foot and must be accompanied by a male
relative. in the last two years, thousands of women
have been brutally attacked or even killed for venturing
out without having covered themselves in the way
ordered by the Taleban. And even being covered is no
protection. Women are sometimes beaten for no other
reaon than the fact that they are women.
Women have no access to education. All the schools
for girls have been closed, while boys continue to go to
school. A small number of women are allowed to work
in the health sector as long as they are completely
covered, but they are not allowed to work with male
doctors. They are not even allowed to discuss or share
work responsabilities.
Traditionally, whether in a rural or urban area, women
had the right to a certain freedom of movement, but
since the creation of the new islamic regime they are
shut away in the prisons which their homes have
become.
Women and girls are deprived of their right to physical
well-being; They are sent away from hospital or
neglected because male doctors are not allowed to
treat female patients. Mothers
are in a deplorable state of
health and personal hygiene
and lack basic knowledge of the
prevention and care of illness.
Most mothers give birth at
home with the assistance of
unqualified helpers. Throughout
the country, only 10% of women
are able to read and write.
Although none of the warring
factions have really respected
the fundamental rights of
women, the action of the
Taleban has been particularly
extreme. The Taleban justify the
oppression by asserting that
the Muslim religion defines
women as inferior beings,
without rights.
Afghan women, inside as well
as outside Afghanistan, nowadays need more than ever
the support and advice of all organisations for the
defence of human rights. They expected the
international community , and notably the UN, to adopt
a stronger position towards the Taleban, particularly
with regard to their policy of excluding women from all
public life.
They are now bitterly disappointed by the attitude of
the United Nations which caved into the demands of
their oppressors (to employ only men in Afghanistan) in
order to be allowed to return to the country. Could this
really not have been avoided?".


A History of Resistance

In the face of this outdated evolution, women have gotten together to establish clandestine schools for girls. In
fact, not only do young girls not have the right to go to school but, given that most teachers are women, many
classes were shut down, and those that survive are overloaded. Very many young boys have given up studying
in these conditions, unless they are obliged to work to help their families. On the initiaitve of former women
teachers, clandestine schools flourished accross the country and were also attended by boys. During several
months, these individual initiatives received support from NGOs present in Afghanistan. Last June 16th, the
Taleban closed all the schools for girls which had been set up in private homes in Kabul.


Wearing the Veil

Concerning the wearing of the veil, and we mean here the « châdri » wich covers the face, according to Marzia
Raffiqi, part time lecturer at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilisation "there is no
compulsory instruction on this subject in Islamic Law ".
« Sura XXXIII says « Oh Prophet! tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of believers to draw their veils
around themselves. It will be the simplest way for them to be recognized and not offended ». (XXXIII,59)
Another verse in another sura is put forward as proof of the obligation to wear a veil : « Tell the female
believers to lower their eyes, to be chaste (...). Let them cover their throats with their veils. (XXXIV,31). In
neither of these two quotations is it explicitly a question of veiling the face.
During a pilgrimmage to Mecca,(...) men and women are expected to uncover face and hands.
The « Suna » texts which prescribe the daily and socio-cultural behaviour of the believer and their moral
conduct, and the two other sources of Islamic law (the consensus of the « ijma »muslim community and the
« qias » deduction by analogy) do not require any more than the Koran the wearing of a veil.2


A Courageous Appeal

The extremely courageous act of an approximately 50 year old academic, Sidiqua Sidiq, who teaches archeology
should be emphasised : she called on the Taleban to let women study and work, referring to the Koran to show
the fundamentalists that there is no religious basis for banning women from leaving their homes. She has also
called on Afghan women to fight for their rights.

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