Augusta Chronicle, December 19, 2002

Afghan women need help

Augusta Chronicle Editorial Staff

There may be no creature that walks the Earth that has had a tougher time of it in the past few decades than the endangered Afghan woman.

Even before the Soviet invasion of 1979, the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan was trying to help her achieve some measure of social justice in a cruel male-dominated society. Then, the Soviets needed to be expelled - but not before coldly and cynically assassinating key RAWA figures.

Then, the Islamic fundamentalists, and the Taliban, ruled women with a whip and a perverted view of the Quran. RAWA described that struggle as one "against the fundamentalists' and the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban's criminal policies and atrocities against the people of Afghanistan in general, and their incredibly ultra-male-chauvinistic and anti-woman orientation in particular."

Tragically, the U.S. liberation of Afghanistan has failed to improve life dramatically for Afghan women.

"Women and girls are still suffering severe abuse, harassment and repression at the hands of Afghanistan's post-Taliban leaders," said a recent Associated Press report.

Indeed, some 1,800 women marched on Islamabad's United Nations offices on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, courageously demanding more attention to the plight of Afghan women. If not for police, the crowd might have been much larger.

The women merely want some degree of stability, peace, security, reconstruction and economic recovery - as well as basic human rights and freedoms, both political and personal.

Sadly, though, the women profess no hope of achieving any of that under the ragtag Afghan government, which they said is manned by "former 'Northern Alliance' criminals."

A recent report by Human Rights Watch says that, particularly in the western Afghan province of Herat, "women's and girls' freedom of expression, association, movement and rights to equality, work, education and bodily integrity steadily deteriorated throughout 2002."

If the atrocities committed against Afghan women over the years had been perpetrated by one race against another, the world would have been appalled, and more would have been done to end it. Does not half the world's population warrant equal consideration? Basic human rights? Freedom?

This is not just a women's issue. It is about one of the most abhorrent human-rights abuses of our day. And conditions in Afghanistan are a dramatic illustration of the degradation that comes from the oppression of women.

Is it any coincidence that such a society is in shambles, is a haven for ne'er-do-wells, and is in a state of chronic warfare?

Afghanistan will never pull out of its death spiral until it learns to treat its women with respect and extends them the basic human freedoms they have fought bravely for all these years.

The rest of the world should help see to it.


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