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FemAid statement November 14, 2001

We have decided to leave this on our site as the points we made at the time continue to be tragically relevant and what we prophecied did happen....

From the recent news on TV, one could imagine that the Taliban era is now over and that, thanks to U.S. bombings and support doled out to the "good guys", life in Afghanistan has spontaneously reverted to normal.
The media has been full of news of women apparently going back to work and girls rushing back to school. Except that there is neither work nor school to go back to. We have seen men shaving their beards and jumping gleefully for joy, next to considerably less joyous women enshrouded in veils or peeking timidly out of them.

Do not be deluded: the Northern Alliance of today are the mudjahedins of yesteryear, the self-same rulers whose corruption and mismanagement caused the Talibans to take over (with the then-blessing of the USA).
Not a single Afghan woman in any position of power has been seen on TV standing by these ‘new’ (or rather not-so-new) warlords. As far as women’s rights are concerned, the new government has put out a statement ending the ban on women working and studying. Afghan sisters,it said,would have the right to work "in accordance with Islam teachings and
based on our honourable traditions". A frightening agenda, to say the least.

Women are totally at risk in the present situation whatever the outcome: mercenaries of every kind in the service of war-lords, militias, the peace-keeping force that the U.N. plans to send pose threats to the safety of women and the upholding of their rights. Rape, forced prostitution, trafficking (just like Kosovo, but many times worse) are likely to take place in a country where women have been reduced to a sub-human status, a situation which has been fully accepted by most men by now, with or without the blessing of the Taliban.

No-one at the moment has put women in the centre of the political agenda,neither the Northern Alliance nor king Muhammed Zahir Shah, not even the UN (or Laura Bush, for that matter).The seeming changes of women’s lives is just a proof of the instability of their position.
This post-conflict period will probably develop into civil war and tribal conflict where once more women, children and the elderly will be the main victims. By then, Afghanistan will have moved out of the media and the plight of women will have been totally forgotten.
This will not happen if we don’t insist on women being represented politically in the future Afghan government as well as in the UN. It is essential to have a quota of ethnically mixed women in the decision-making circles, from ministries to refugee camps, as peace-makers and politicians.Especially important is the representation of widows which account for 50% of the population.

This is why we will continue to support RAWA, the only independent feminist organisation in Afghanistan. Their education and health programmes are essential to educate the next generation of women which,for the moment, is largely illiterate and light years away from any kind of political consciousness. As are the men. These programmes need to be expanded with the help of international organisations to train women as future parlementarians and leaders for the reconstruction of a truly democratic state which the West can insist on, and not just the ominous “honourable traditions” promised by the Northern Alliance.

This is not a case of post-imperialist condescension and interference but a case of taking our responsibilities as human beings, responding to calls for help, as voiced by RAWA for the past quarter of a century. If we had heeded the desperate voices of women crushed by Talibans, instead of averting our consciences, we could have avoided many a
catastrophe.Ultimately, we all stand to benefit from helping to bring about change in that not-so-distant land. The fate of Afghan women has been symbolic of the rise of reactionary values everywhere in the world that are ultimately threatening the rights of women and girls even in the West. We cannot allow the ignominious burqa to become the emblem of this new century.

Which is why, more than ever, we need your continued support.