RAWA through the eye
of Amnesty International

From Women in Afghanistan, A human rights catastrophe (AI, May 1995)
The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has been active for over a decade. It is a left-of-center group which does not advocate violence. RAWA campaigns for women’s rights and provides education and health facilities for women and children. It has set up a number of educational and health programs in Afghanistan but has had to scale down these operations because of the threats it receives. Most of its operations are based in Afghan refugee areas in Pakistan. These include several well-organized schools in Peshawar and Quetta and a health center in Quetta. Even in Pakistan RAWA’s leaders continue to receive death threats from Mujahideen groups, and several have had go into hiding in fear of their lives. Meena, a health worker and founding member of RAWA, was assassinated along with two members of her family in February 1987 in her house in Quetta. The circumstances of the killing and testimonies received by Amnesty International from independent sources and witnesses strongly indicate that the assassins may have been closely linked to Hezb-e Islami. Prior to her assassination, Meena had received repeated death threats for her "anti-jehadi [holy war]" activities. These reportedly related to her trips to Western Europe where she made public statements about the situation of Afghan women both in Afghanistan and in refugee camps controlled by Afghan Mujahideen groups in Pakistan. Although she informed the Pakistani authorities of the threats, she reportedly received no protection from the police. When the bodies of Meena and her two relatives were found, a number of Pakistani daily newspapers closely associated with the government portrayed the victims as agents of the then Afghan secret police. RAWA members denied the allegations and urged the police to investigate the killings and bring those responsible to justice. The Pakistani police, however, reportedly took no effective action. RAWA leaders, fearing assassination by Islamist groups or politically motivated arrest by the Pakistani police, went into hiding. In February 1989 RAWA members reportedly planned a demonstration to protest against the failure of the Pakistani police to provide adequate protection to RAWA leaders, to highlight the problems faced by Afghan women opposed to both the Kabul government and the Mujahideen groups, and to press the Pakistani authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of Meena and her family members. Prior to the demonstration, however, the police raided the houses of some RAWA leaders in Quetta, reportedly at the instigation of Hezb-e Islami and other Mujahideen groups. The demonstration was reportedly canceled.

A RAWA activist described to Amnesty International in late 1994 the problems her organization had been facing: "We are working for Afghan women’s welfare in Pakistan. We are being threatened. We receive written threats. We are not allowed to provide the much needed education for Afghan women. We cannot even raise the women’s understanding of their own rights. There are Islamic Youth groups affiliated to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s party [Hezb-e Islami]. He has warned women not to go to public places and to wear Islamic clothing. The Islamic Youth members question Afghan young women in the streets about the reason why they are out of their homes. There are clinics in Islamabad, for instance, providing free medical treatment of Afghan women. The group stops women from going there, objecting to Afghan women being treated by a male doctor. We cannot distribute our publications or educational cassettes. Any shops selling these can have serious problems. The Islamic Youth members take away these and create serious problems for the shop-keeper selling them. Some have been threatened that if they sell any more of our publications, they will be killed. The Pakistani police are reluctant to act against these atrocities.
Photo of Meena
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Meena, a founding member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. She was assassinated in her house in Quetta in February 1987, reportedly by members of Hezb-e-Islami (Hekmatyar)

The gift of AI to RAWA
A gift of Amnesty International to RAWA

Amnesty International supports RAWA event
Amnesty International condemns ill-treatment against RAWA members