The Guardian (UK), September 28, 2001

Behind the burka

By Polly Toynbee


Women are missing from the story so far when they should be up at the front - literally and metaphorically: this war between reason and unreason is ultimately about them. With such a dearth of satisfactory allies, the coalition should turn to one Afghan group completely ignored so far - the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. Their leader was a poet called Meena, who was assassinated by the KGB with fundamentalist help, in exile, in Quetta in 1987. They are secular, sane and working hard in the camps of Pakistan, running schools and clinics. They get no help from any government because rationalist feminists naturally have no sway with any tribal warlords. With all the money now flooding in, pushing these women forward and backing their progressive work would be an act of good faith in a democratic equal rights future. Or will realpolitik come before real women?

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