SANA, December 1, 2005

Afghan carpet weavers are unpaid slaves, rights activist says

"Children ... especially among carpet weavers... are addicted to nicotine and opium (given to them) in order to be calm"

KABUL, December 1 (SANA) Thousands of women and girls who weave world famous Afghan carpets are treated as unpaid slaves by their male relatives, a rights activist said, calling on the government to regulate the industry.

Most of them spend up to 18 hours a day working in poor conditions, with many becoming ill or taking drugs to relieve pain, said campaigner Nilofar Sayar, releasing the findings of a months-long survey of about 300 weavers.

The handmade carpets, made mostly in northern Afghanistan, are one of the war-ravaged country's few exports and can fetch thousands of dollars each on the international market.

"It's fortunate that carpets can provide ... annual profit in Afghanistan. But have you ever thought of who is behind producing these carpets?" Sayar said.

Militants Kill Teacher for Instructing Girls

Two suspected Taliban guerrillas dragged a teacher from a classroom in southern Afghanistan and shot him to death after he ignored their warning letters to stop teaching girls, police said.

Thursday's attack occurred in Helmand province's Nad Ali district, Police Chief Abdul Rahman Sabir said.
Los Angeles Times, December 17, 2005

"They're the unpaid slaves of their male relatives," she told reporters.

Sayar, who works for the non-governmental group RBMSSI, called on the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai to end the "misery of Afghan women".

They needed health clinics and schools, and limited working hours, she said.

The women and girls, some as young as 11, spend up to 18 hours at wooden looms in "dusty, dark and wet rooms," she said. Afghanistan's 2003 constitution limits the working day to eight in hours.

"They suffer from eye, leg problems. They suffer from tuberculosis," she said.

They had little access to doctors and many used opium as a painkiller. Some gave the drug to keep their children quiet while they were at work, Sayar said.

"Children ... especially among carpet weavers... are addicted to nicotine and opium (given to them) in order to be calm," she said.

Many women from the ethnic Uzbek and Turkmen minorities in warlord-dominated northern Afghanistan work in small home-based "factories" to make the country's famous carpets, known for their quality and use of natural dyes.

Uzbeks make up six percent of Afghanistan's population of about 28 million and Turkmens about 2.5 percent.

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