The Taliban is not just bad because of what they did on 9/11, but also for the brutal way they treated women when they were in power.
WOMEN AND GIRLS IN AFGHANISTAN
Fact sheet released by the Senior Coordinator for
Issues, March 10, 1998.
- Since the Taliban became a military and political force in late 1994, women and girls in Afghanistan have become virtually invisible in Taliban controlled portions of the country. The impact of Taliban imposed restrictions are most acutely felt in the cities where women had enjoyed relatively greater freedoms. In 1996, the University of Kabul reportedly had several thousand women students while thousands of professional women worked in different capacities in the city. Since the Taliban takeover, women are not allowed to attend school and others have been forced to leave their jobs.
- The Taliban have issued edicts forbidding women from working outside the home, except in limited circumstances in the medical field. Hardest hit have been over 30,000 widows in Kabul and others elsewhere in the country, who are the sole providers for their families.
- The Taliban prohibit girls from attending school. There are a few home based schools and some schools in rural areas which quietly operate to educate girls. They fear closure.
- Women and girls are not allowed to appear outside the home unless wearing a head to toe covering called the burqa. A three inch square opening covered with mesh provides the only means for vision. Although the burqa was worn in Kabul before the Taliban took control, it was not an enforced dress code and many women wore only scarves that cover the head. Women are also forbidden from appearing in public with a male who is not their relative.
- Women’s and girls’ access to medical services has been drastically cut back. Women are treated primarily by female doctors and the number of female doctors has been greatly reduced. It is also dangerous for women to leave their homes. For example, one mother in the city of Farah reportedly was shot by the Taliban militia for appearing in public to take her toddler to a doctor. The child was acutely ill and needed immediate medical attention.
- Taliban militia mete out punishment for violations of these rules on the spot. For example, women have been beaten on the street if an inch of ankle shows under their burqa. They have been beaten if they are found to move about without an explanation acceptable to the Taliban. They have been beaten if they make noise when they walk. According to one report, a women struggling with two small children and groceries in her arms was reportedly beaten by the Taliban with a car antenna because she had let her face covering slip a fraction.
- Taliban edicts require that windows in houses that have female occupants be painted over.
United States Response
- Secretary of State Albright characterized the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls as “despicable” during her recent visit to the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan. She said “We are opposed to their [the Taliban] approach to human rights, to their despicable treatment of women and children, and their lack of respect for human dignity, in a way more reminiscent of the past than the future.”
- Promoting the observance of human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls, is one of our highest foreign policy priorities in Afghanistan. We will continue to press the Taliban in public and private, to extend equitable and humanitarian treatment to women and girls. We call upon the Taliban to lift its restrictions on the mobility and employment of women and the schooling of girls; we also call upon the Taliban and all factions to abide by internationally-accepted norms of human rights.
- The United States is neutral toward the various Afghan factions fighting in that country, but our neutrality does not extend to violations of international norms of behavior. We condemn Taliban human rights violations, particularly against women and girls.
- The United States does not plan to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban or the Northern Alliance. We do not plan to recognize any government unless it is broad-based, representative of all Afghans and respects international norms of behavior in human rights, including the human rights of women and girls.
- The United States has taken a leadership role in the region and in the United Nations to promote peace in Afghanistan. We believe the United Nations is central to the peace process and support the efforts of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, and the work of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan. We participate in the Group of Six Plus Two (the six countries bordering Afghanistan: Pakistan, Iran Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China, plus the U.S. and Russia) in a serious attempt to see how progress can be made toward a peaceful negotiated settlement.
- The United States has a commitment to providing humanitarian assistance to women and girls of Afghanistan. United States officials play a key role in making the issue of assistance to women in Afghanistan a major focus of the donors’ Afghanistan Support Group. In 1997 the United States government contributed $26.4 million to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Program to run a variety of programs that directly benefit Afghan women and girls. This was nearly a quarter of the total funding for the UNHCR and ICRC programs.
- In 1997 the United States also provided $1.7 million for non-governmental organizations such as CARE and the International Rescue Committee for health and education programs and services. These programs directly benefit women and girls in Afghanistan and in neighboring refugee camps in Pakistan.
- The United States recently called for an UNHCR investigation of reports of violence against women and girls in refugee camps in Pakistan. Due to United States efforts, an investigation is now underway. United States funding supports UNHCR procedures to provide protection to women and girls in refugee camps.
- The United States is committing up to $2.5 million in new funds for women’s grass roots organizations in Pakistan and for training to improve the skills of women in Afghanistan.
- In Pakistan, this funding pays for activities such as training health workers and teachers, and training women’s groups to familiarize themselves with and advocate for their legal rights, and to communicate with other organizations, locally and internationally. This training will enable women to provide services in refugee camps, as well as prepare them with skills that they can take with them when they eventually return to Afghanistan. Some of the women have been in these camps for 20 years.
- In Afghanistan, this training focuses primarily on health such as training local women to be community health workers; training women to be traditional birth attendants; and building the capacity of the local community to deal with basic health issues, particularly diseases that affect children. Funding also supports training women to participate in the development of rural rehabilitation projects. This will allow them to have a say, for example, in determining the location of the water well since the women are the ones who carry the water.
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