CBS News, Nov.14, 2001

Struggle Continues For Afghan Women

  • Under Taliban, Women Could Not Work, Pursue Education
  • Fundamentalist Regime Banned Women From Showing Faces In Public
  • But Many Fear Next Government Could Be Just As Bad
  • (CBS) There will be no tears shed by Afghan women for the retreat of the Taliban, reports CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras. Under Taliban rule, women have been banned from work and education and forbidden to appear in public except under the suffocating shroud of the burqa. Women have been imprisoned for showing their faces, flogged for laughing out loud and stoned to death for adultery.

    "Animals have more rights than women in Afghanistan," says Tahmeena Fayral, who is in the United States to talk to Americans about the plight of Afghan women.

    "Women in Afganistan used to take part very actively in the society," says Fayral. "They had decent lives, hopes for their future and the future of their children."

    The name Fayral uses is not her own. As a member of RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, she says to show her face is to risk her life.

    Ironically the anonymity of the burqa has allowed RAWA members to take secret pictures of the atrocities committed by the Taliban. In one series of pictures, a woman is shown being beaten for showing her face. In Kabul's soccer stadium, forced to kneel, cowering in confusion, she is executed to the cheers of thousands

    "This is the most brutal regime toward women in modern history," says Larry Goodson, associate professor of international studies at Bentley College and author of "Afghanistan's Endless War."

    But many question whether life under the opposition national alliance will prove any different.

    The alliance has triumphed before, when they took over Kabul in 1992. The result for women was four years of systematic rape, abduction and enslavement.

    "The people of Afghanistan are terrified that once again they come to power the same atrocities would happen," says Fayrel. They're just as bad as the Taliban, she says, "and in some ways worse."

    Once the fighting ends, a number of factions are expected to cobble together a coalition government. Fayral hopes women will be included.

    "Afghan women can play an active part and an important role, including women in the government," she says.

    But with members of the northern alliance, even former Taliban leaders likely to comprise the next government, a role for women is hardly a certainty.

    "Women do deserve a place at the table of governance in Afghanistan," says Goodson, "and I'll be shocked if they get a place at the table."

    Even as women begin to be seen on the streets of Kabul, they can only hope their voices will be heard as well.


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