Human Beam Magazine September 1999
Interview with RAWA
- By Alex Grace
AG: Who is RAWA and how did you form?
RAWA: The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), is the sole political and feminist organization of Afghan women and was established in 1977 under Meena's leadership. It struggles against fundamentalism of all kind and desires a society based on freedom, democracy and women rights. (For detailed information please visit our Web site: http://www.rawa.org.)
AG: How has the war and Taliban Rule affected the female population of Afghanistan?
RAWA: Women became the prime victims when the Taliban came to power. They started their rule by firing female radio announcers and making the veil compulsory They called the women of Kabul "prostitutes" and their menfolk "pimps". Afghan fundamentalists not only abolished women's human rights wherever they went but committed such crimes against them that can not be found in any annals of the history of the land. No young girl was safe. Women of all ages, even grandmothers of seventy were gang-raped. Fundamentalist domination in Afghanistan resulted in a marked and unprecedented increase in the number of prostitutes and beggars.
AG: Why do you feel there are rising cases of suicide and depression among Afghan women?
RAWA: The extent of suicide among women in Afghanistan is quite high. In fact, people in general feel such an excess of degradation and poverty. A large number of women have committed suicide to avoid being raped or forced into compulsory marriage with the gunmen. If suicide was not a major sin in Islam or the fate of ones children or dependents were not an issue, the number of suicides would have been even higher, especially among women.
I quote from a letter we were sent from a young afghan woman, "four years ago a girl who was living next door to us was raped by Taliban members and later another young girl was stolen from our neighbourhood. After these two incidents I found myself in such a bitter state of depression that I tried to kill myself a number of times. However each time I remembered my old mother and my younger siblings and I could not go through with it. Once, when I was taking my mother to a hospital a Taliban official started whipping her back, while shouting abuses at us. I felt so appalled that I ran in front of upcoming cars, however I was stopped by the people passing by and by seeing my mother crying. In the future I don't think I will be able to find convincing reasons for continuing this miserable and bitter life."
AG: Has the situation worsened/improved lately?
RAWA: The situation worsens day by day. The number of people who want to flee the country increases daily. Unfortunately, most people don't have the money to leave for Pakistan. Until semi-wild people like the Taliban and their Jehadi brethren are removed from power, there will not be any positive changes. Only by their elimination from the political scene, will we obtain the desired democratic government in Afghanistan. That is why RAWA encourage unity among democratic forces against Fundamentalism.
AG: Were women allowed an education in the past?
RAWA: In the last half century the social situation of women was beginning to improve. This was mostly due to education and the fast pace of change all over the world. Women, especially in the cities were free to be educated. After fundamentalists took the power in 1992, they called the educational institutes "gateways to hell" and closed them!
AG: How is health-care for women being affected?
RAWA: Since the Taliban takeover, a large number of women have died due to the lack of doctors and medicine, either because of the ban on women to be treated by male doctors or because of the restriction on women's movement. Because of such deprivations, a large number of women either die a premature death or live an invalid life. Also, due to war, most of the people can't afford to pay for their food, let alone medicine which is so expensive in the country. Just a small number of people can visit Pakistan or Iran for treatment.
AG: What happens to the people who oppose the Taliban rule of law?
RAWA: They consider it infidelity. If someone refuses to obey it, he/she will be publicly humiliated by flogging or have their faces painted black and paraded through the streets. Amputating limps, stoning to death, and execution are the usual punishments.
AG: Can you state a few basic changes that have come about since Taliban rule?
RAWA: Besides restrictions created on both men and women by the Taliban, they have banned music, TV, film, theatre, sport, pictures of living things, and all the manifestations of modern civilized life. They force people to pray. If someone refuses, they are beaten publicly.
AG: Do ordinary people have access to the Internet?
RAWA: While almost all of the ordinary people don't have access to the telephone, how can they have access to the Internet? In the current situation, the telephone and Internet are the most luxurious things for our hungry, shelter-less, ruined and ill-fated people. They desire only for a piece of bread. Besides, can you imagine using the Internet in the 11th century? There is no Internet connection in Afghanistan.
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
Home Page: http://www.rawa.org
© Copyright 1999, Alex Grace
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