Photos of the function
Opening Speech of RAWA's function
on International Women's Day

March 8, 1998

Distinguished guests, very respected mothers and sisters,

RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, welcomes you one and all and warmly thanks you for taking the time to participate in this function to mark International Women's Day.

8th March is usually the day on which the common concerns of women all over the globe find expression and their travails and tribulations are highlighted, but the agony and tragedies besetting Afghan women have up till now rarely been touched on this day. In past years no one heard or heeded the tortured cries of agony and desperation of Afghan women and no hand reached out towards them with a comforting touch.

The depth of the tragedy of Afghan women is not only that the doors of schools and institutes of learning have been slammed shut in their faces or that they have been deprived of the right to work outside their houses. Afghanistan is now a land where lust-murders by savage beasts in human form and abduction of females from homes by "government" security posts for psychopathic orgies of religious fascists and subsequent dumping of the victim's corpses in secluded spots are routine and commonplace. If the scene or the thought of a woman's naked violated body lying amongst the ruins of demolished houses is too horrible to contemplate, the perpetrators --these blots on the face of humanity-- find fiendish glee and sport in raping the corpses and tearing apart their abdomens to see if they are pregnant.

The depth of the tragedy of Afghan women is not only that the eyes and ears and mouths and tongues of Afghan women are stitched up under the guise of Islamic hejab [veils] or that they are prevented from going to public bathhouses or going to visit dressmakers. The tragedy lies in the fact that in the vast cemetery named Afghanistan the sick mentality of the "masters" of the country is such that neither the rape of nine-year-old girls or of seventy-year-old grandmothers are considered to be too revolting or too shameful. Systematic degrading humiliation and public floggings of women innocent of any crime are everyday events; pauperisation and starvation continually turn respectable mothers and daughters into beggars and prostitutes.

Afghanistan is a land where rape victims cannot even think of sharing their agony and humiliation; they have to wall themselves in mute silence till madness brings them merciful oblivion or suicide offers joyful release. This is a land where many a mother has either put up her small children for sale so as to be spared the harrowing pain of seeing them die of hunger, or has descended into the depths of dishonour to fetch food to put in her children's mouths.

But let us spare ourselves further harrowing enumeration of such commonplace happenings in the world of Afghan women inside Afghanistan.

Distinguished friends,

The outside world has virtually remained a spectator to so much heinous atrocities taking place in our country. Up till now there has been no serious outcry of revulsion from anywhere against the crimes perpetrated by religious fascists nor has there been any condemnation of countries and governments who supply these psychopaths with money and weapons. There has not been the slightest protest or reaction against countries who have extended recognition to these fundamentalists --ignorant and corrupt to the marrow of their bones.

This silence and passivity in regard to the on-going atrocities in our country can only be interpreted as a tacit --albeit involuntary-- condonation of the perpetrators. The moral burden of responsibility for such tacit condonation should rest heaviest on the conscience of international organisations championing liberty and human rights.

On the occasion of International Women's Day, RAWA takes this opportunity to once again raise the cry of unimaginable agony and anguish of Afghan women, and calls upon all individuals and organisations who champion human rights to break this shameful silence and through protest actions and movements at whatever level possible give expression to their solidarity and support to Afghan women drowning in the sea of fundamentalist criminality.

We know full well the hardships and difficulties of the anti-fundamentalist struggle, particularly for women. This is a grim fight, calling for blood and sacrifice, in which no quarter can be sought nor expected. RAWA is prepared for the challenge, drawing strength and support from the hopes and sufferings of our chained, humiliated women and inspiration from the martyrdom of our founding leader Mina and other martyrs of freedom and democracy. We stand in staunch solidarity with Pakistani women and women of other countries fighting for liberty and human rights and call on them to show in deeds their support and solidarity with the struggles of Afghan women.

Let us celebrate the 8th of March, International Women's Day, in the hope of emancipation of Afghan women from the clutches of fundamentalist fascism. Let us celebrate International Women's Day in the hope that the cry of outrage against fundamentalist criminals will become ever more strident and more vociferous all over the world. Let us celebrate International Women's Day with a renewed covenant to intensity our fight against fundamentalist vampires!

[Photos of the function] [Resolution of the function]
[Function in Pakistan's press] [Report of the function]