The Boston Herald, September 23, 2001

Afghan atrocities warn, if you watch

by Margery Eagan

You click on the Web site and see a home video of an Afghan woman on her knees in the middle of the Kabul Ghazi Sports Stadium.

She wears a baby-blue burqa. That's the head-to-toe covering, slits for eyes, no peripheral vision, that the Taliban requires be worn by women who, before 1997, made up 70 percent of that country's teachers, 40 percent of its physicians, 60 percent of its university teachers and half of its government workers.

The kneeling woman looks behind her as a bearded man approaches with a machine gun. He puts its barrel to the back of her head. She turns to face the ground. And he shoots. Bam. No preliminaries. No hesitation, proclamations or last words. You see something dark exit the woman's head. You see what appears to be the impact of the bullet splaying dirt beneath her, before she falls. It's dated Nov. 16, 1999.

Scroll down. It's the Live Photos of Massacre of 300 at Yakawlang site, dated January 2001. Click here for ``movie clips.'' You see burqa-covered skeletons and clots of blood on walls.

Then there is the Afghan Refugees Eating Grass site: freezing temperatures kills 18 children, Jan. 16, 2001. There is the Afghan Children of Garbage in Pakistan site. Pre-schoolers eat from overturned garbage bags.

There is the site showing men hung by their necks from cranes. Another shows a home video of a public throat-slashing. At both, crowds strain for close-up views.

It quickly becomes clear that opportunities to view Taliban atrocities are sickeningly endless at Its creators warn you: the photos herein are not for the faint of heart.

But they were put there as witness to homegrown terror by an underground Taliban-opposition group known as the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan that is trying to galvanize the international community over the Taliban's subjugation of women.

At risk of torture or even execution, RAWA members have secretly filmed murders of alleged adulterers and prostitutes and gays before thousands in the Kabul stadium donated to the once cosmopolitan city by the United Nations.

Ironically, the same Internet some believe was used by terrorists to plan the World Trade Center attacks is what has enabled these women to communicate beyond their borders. Only most of us weren't paying attention.

``The world, it seems, has become emotionally immune to the continuing tragedies of Afghanistan.'' So wrote a reporter in an ``inside Afghanistan'' feature distributed by Taranaki Newspaper Limited on Sept. 5, just six days before the attack. Surely, we're paying attention now.

Some of what we've learned: that bombing Afghanistan ``back to the stone age'' won't likely get us far. It's already there.

Even if RAWA exaggerates, even if reports of modest improvments are true, about a third of Kabul, scholar Barnett Rubin wrote in yesterday's New York Times, ``is as ruined as the World Trade Center'' by a decade of war.

And children starve. And refugees freeze. And women die from diseases such as appendicitis because male doctors are still officially forbidden from seeing women and women doctors - women anything - can't work.

A brother or husband must accompany women to market lest they speak to shopkeepers, and excite them. Women who paint their nails have reportedly lost fingertips and, for wearing makeup, are publicly lashed.

Also on RAWA's Web site, alongside shots of grinning men displaying amputated hands in the streets of Kabul, there is the Painting by Afghan Children site.

It looks nothing like you'd see your own children draw. Where primitive sketches of rainbows and stick-figure families should be are pictures of guns and bloody bodies and bearded men hitting women. Two drawings show men hanging upside down, tied to poles, either dying or dead. Beside one is a woman weeping into her hands. A child watches. The child of the dead man, perhaps, a self-portrait of the artist.

Margery Eagan's show airs noon to 3 p.m. on 96.9-FM Talk.


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