March 06, 1999
|What are the Islamic Traditions regarding women in Afghanistan? Is this how most Islamic societies regard women or is Afghanistan unique in any way?|
|What are the Islamic Traditions regarding women in Afghanistan? Is this how most Islamic societies regard women or is Afghanistan unique in any way?|
|During the past fourteen centuries Islamic traditions have deeply affected peoples lives, however there are male chauvinistic ideas which have been established and propagated under the guise of Islamic traditions and are effectively used to demean and mistreat women. I could say that most Islamic traditions with respect to women limits their freedom or ignores their rights in someway or other. Most of the Islamic traditions enforced on women in Afghanistan is present in other Muslim countries, however there are traditions which I don’t think you can find even in other Muslim countries and similarly there are traditions in other Muslim countries that you would not find in Afghanistan. For example despite the fact that women live under extreme amount of oppressions in Afghanistan fortunately female circumcision and Sigha (very short duration marriages) which is formal green light to prostitution and treatment of women as sex objects are legal in Iran but not present in our society. Conversely, restrictions created by Taliban on women in Afghanistan are not present in other Muslim countries.|
|What happens when women deviate from Islamic tradition? In public and at home?|
|I imagine, human evolution and inevitable flow of time will force people to adopt to newer ages and this will cause the religion (including Islam) to lose its dogmatic position in the heart and minds of most of the people and its affects on every day live. Women’s deviation from Islam - we rather call it adaptation to technological age- will lead women toward more freedom and will open their eyes and minds without loss of most of the basics of religion. Different societies or political forces deal with this phenomenon in their own way. For example in secular countries such as western countries women’s deviation from Islam either in the family level or community level is treated as a private matter and no legal punishment is ensued, but under a fundamentalist government such “deviations” will lead to stoning or execution by the ruling forces. In the family level except for a very small number of cases such “deviations” are not treated as total disaster even in a conservative country such as Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning here that during the past six years people has been so badly persecuted by the fundamentalist criminals that even if someone is shouting abuses against Islam in the street, if he/she is not attracting applause at least will not be berated by the people. In one of the issues of “Payam-e-Zan” it was reported from Afghanistan that an individual got so fed up with compulsory praying that he was abusing even the Prophet Mohammed in the public!|
|Is domestic abuse a problem in Afghanistan? How about in other Islamic societies?|
|Family violence is one of the most wearing and most painful
problems for women in Afghanistan and most other Muslim countries. This
problem fed on the Islamic teachings that are given to the men (and women)
from their childhood. There are Quranic verses in this respect that:
“Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will” (2:223)
“And all married women (are forbidden unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.” (4:24)
“Men are in charge of women… As for those form whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart.” (4:34)
“And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four;” (4:3)
“…or ye have touched women, and ye find not water, then go to high clean soil and rub your faces and your hands (therewith).” (4:43)
There are a lot of such verses in the Quran.
Men justify their mastery and inhuman treatment of women based on these verses. And of course a number of sayings by Prophet Muhammad or other religious sources and large amount of poems and stories incidentally by popular poets reinforce these verses and all together they affect men so badly that if they treat a women with slight humanity and kindness, they feel as if they are committing the biggest sin of their lives! In the mentioned books and sources there are some words of compassion and kindness toward women but they have failed to shield women from the flood of those against them.
In those Muslim countries where secularist principles have found some space within the society the depth of these violence is not as bad as those infested with fundamentalism. Anyway it seems obvious that the questions facing societies in this day and age of computers and atomic energy, can no longer be answered by Islam or some other religion, the way which is portrayed by some self interested ideologues.
|Is spousal abuse an accepted means of enforcing the values and traditions of the Islamic faith?|
|Yes, as I mentioned before most of the incidents of violence against women are supported by Islamic traditions and values. But in addition to this, it is also a fact that Afghanistan is a country where male chauvinism is in the highest possible level and women are only looked at as slaves and child producing machines. Most of these views if they haven’t got a religious base, a religious base has been created for them.|
|Are the Afghan women, in general, in favor of the guidelines imposed on them by the Islamic faith?|
|Yes and no. In the past fourteen centuries Islam has taken a deep roots in Muslim women as they learn that Islam is not just a religion which spiritually connects them to their creator but is a way of life and an answer to all questions. However the advances in science and technology as well as the crimes and oppression committed by Muslim rulers and parasitical existence of the so called religious scholars who mostly justify the oppression of tyrannical governments and rulers has made women aware that how easy it is for a religion to be severely abused by rulers and power brokers. They have also learnt that being religious and living in a technological age are not mutually exclusive. Abuses of name of Islam, especially in the past six years, had an extraordinary role in making women realize that they are not solely born to serve men and without them the society would not move ahead. The enlightened women of Afghanistan (whose numbers are very small as yet) have learnt that considering veil as sacred or slaving to their husbands or not fighting for their rights are not principles of Islam that they are bound to follow which is how it is portrayed by the fundamentalists.|
|Is there much spoken dissent by women in the home regarding their role in society?|
|This is more common among families living in countryside but less common among relatively educated and city dwelling families.|
|Is there any dissent among the men of Afghanistan regarding the treatment of women? If so, what means do they use to get their voices heard?|
|Women’s rights are well-established facts within intelligentsia in Afghanistan. Many male supporters of women’s rights have entered into dialogue with opposition and have tried to increase their awareness either with their writings and speeches or by example in treating their own female family members with humanity and respect in front of others. They have supported women struggle or have entered into struggle against enemies of women’s right and liberation. Unfortunately, we haven’s seen a massive movement among men in this regard. Even within the leftist movements whose tall claims of gender equality and women liberation is abundant, there are instances of idiotic regressions and male chauvinism. Most of these organizations lack especial programs on women’s issues or on struggle for their liberation.|
|What medical - physical and psychological - problems do women face as a result of their oppression and lack of autonomy in the home?|
|For example if there is any problem or conflict within a family and the wife is ill and in severe need of doctor or medicine, either she would not be taken to hospital or the husband will not try to find her a doctor or medicine. After the Taliban government, a large number of women have died due to the lack of doctor and medicine, either because of the ban on women to be treated by male doctors or because of the restriction on women’s movement without being accompanied by a close male family member or because of the indifference by their menfolk. Because of such deprivations a large number of women either die a premature death or live an invalid life. The psychological effects of these deprivations on the women are a hundredfold more debilitating. Although the number of suicides have skyrocketed among women in the past six years, we were not unfamiliar with female suicides in the past. But in the past it was mainly due to strangling restriction from within the family. In our society family is the first social unit where female members are subjected to severe restrictions and their spirits get broken. These restrictions will prepare them to enter the bigger context of society with sheepish acceptance of any kind of injustice and cruelty toward them and without uttering a single word of objection.|
|Is suicide and depression a problem in Afghanistan or in other Islamic societies?|
|The extent of suicide among women in Afghanistan is quite
high. In fact people in general feel such an excess of degradation, poverty
or watch their country or city destroyed into rabbles that in reality everyone
is dying a gradual death. 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.
In a letter from a women we read “ four years ago a girl who was living next door to us was raped by Jehadis and later another young girl was stolen from our neighborhood. 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 I could not go through with it. Once when I was taking my mother to the hospital and saw a Taliban whipping at the back of my sick mother while shouting abuses on us I felt so appalled that I ran in front of upcoming cars, however I was stopped by the people passing by and seeing my mother crying and asking me to stop. However I don’t think I would be able to find convincing reasons for continuing this miserable and bitter life.” This situation is applicable to a large number of girls and women in our country.
The situation is at different levels of similarity among different Muslim countries. As far as I know the number of suicide among women in fundamentalism infested Iran is also very high. When life seems like a never ending nightmare and there is no hope or familiarity with a way of struggling for change, naturally suicide seems as an only way of “liberation”. I am sure the number of women with psychological difficulties in Afghanistan would be the highest in the world.
|Do the women of Afghanistan want to be liberated? If not, why not?|
|The desire for liberation is naturally present in the Afghan women but this desire or potential for liberation has a long way to go before it can be articulated into action. The influence of specious interpretations of Islam by self interested rulers and religious scholars can not be taken lightly where any sort of objection or demand of their fundamental human rights by a women in Afghanistan is labelled as “sinful”, “ immoral”, or the women is labelled as “atheist” or “communist prostitutes” by the fundamentalist preachers. This naturally creates fear in the heart of women. It is one of RAWA’s main objectives to destroy this wall of fear in the heart of Afghan women. RAWA itself has been one of the most frequent victims of these low and idiotic accusations. Our demonstrations are usually attacked by fundamentalist with the most filthy language. We have included some of these attacks on our web site.|
|Who do the Afghan women look to when they think of a society where the women are more properly treated? Do they think Western ideals are more appropriate?|
|Western thoughts have been contorted and defamed quite extensively and systematically by fundamentalists. To them any thought coming from the west is immoral, excessive, sexually pervert and morally destructive, and then it is compared to Islamic thoughts which is full of whatever goodness in the world is and therefore not only suitable to Muslim countries but the entire world! Once again whip of religion is used to scare the Muslim women away from feminism or democratic values which have western origin. Most women organizations and women activists add the irrelevant qualifier of ‘Islamic’ in front of their names or demands to save themselves being labelled as “Westernized” or “liberal” (also a bad word in Muslim countries). RAWA, who considers democracy as essential for a civil society as other technological advances are, has been attacked from left and right for this reason. And they never had a logical respond to the question of if everything western is so bad why don’t they go and live in caves where they could be save from any kind of technological and scientific “immorality”. Our women have realized that western values first of all has a values of liberation, democracy and human rights than anything else. To Afghan women oppressed under the darkest form of fundamentalist dictatorship, even the relative liberation in some Muslim countries seem as something odd not to mention the liberation of women in western countries.|
|What new guidelines have the Taliban placed on women?|
|Click here for a list of some gudelines.|
|How does the Taliban impose these guidelines on women and society?|
|Taliban government, who are supplied with enough money and weapon by foreign countries, implement their decrees either by shear force or under the name of God and Sharia (Islamic laws). In other words they have sword in one hand and Quran in the other. It is common knowledge here that if their or other fundamentalist groups’ financial and military supplies are blocked they will lose the government under a fair election quite decisively. The fundamentalist parties of Pakistan have never won an election in the past 50 years of Pakistan’s existence.|
|What measures do they deem appropriate for punishing those who deviate form their standards?|
|Any word of love between a man and a woman is shut with bullets or stoning. A starving man hands and feet are amputated for stealing bread for his family. People are shot or hanged without due course of justice or accurate evidence. People are publicly humiliated by flogging and their faces are painted black and exhibited in streets and other public places for small misdemeanors. From the beginning the Taliban acted with such violence which is unseen in our history. This is to force people into slavish obedience or keep them under constant terror. People although have got used to the war as a fact in their lives but are weary of being labelled as “enemy of Allah and his Prophet”.|
|What has been the emotional effect on the women of Afghanistan as a result of the Taliban?|
|Women in Afghanistan generally consider themselves helpless, downtrodden and worst of all alone and forgotten. After the overthrow of the puppet regime unspeakable crimes by Jehadis shattered their dreams of a humane and just life. While they could not have imagined a darker force than Jehadis, entered Taliban even worst in their animosity toward women, education or anything civil. Again in a letter a women says “ God might never has punished man and women the way people in Afghanistan are punished for the past six years, although I don’t exactly know the sin of this poor nation. If I am not sleeping and this is not a nightmare then why the people in peaceful countries are not shocked by the crimes the fundamentalists commit in our country?”|
|What is the general consensus of the women in Afghanistan regarding the Taliban?|
|Taliban began their movement with anti-jehadis slogans and support for King Zahir. People including women innocently believed them. However when they marched into Kabul and started on their executions, stoning, amputations, sever restriction on women’s movements and education, public floggings etc, women as well as men quickly realized that they are dealing with a bunch of illiterate, ignorant and barbaric mullahs with a mind set from middle ages and in addition are lackeys of foreign powers and people will not see light of days as long as they are in power.|
|Do any women feel as if their treatment is the same?|
|Yes, there are women, especially in the rural areas who may not see visible difference between the satiation under the Taliban and the past.|
|Before the Taliban ruled in Afghanistan, what types of jobs did you find women in?|
|If you are referring to the time before the Taliban as those of their Jehadi brethren, they also started their rule with firing female radio announcers and making veil compulsory, they called women of Kabul “prostitutes” and their menfolk “pimps”. In their cabinet and few hundred person Council their wasn’t a single women etc. They didn’t get enough time otherwise they weren’t far behind of their Taliban brethren in their hatred of women, education, science or culture. However if your are referring to the times before 1992, women were involved in almost all respects of life.|
|What percentages of women were in each field prior to the Taliban?|
|There are no accurate statistics on number of women who were working outside their homes. In fact no census has been carried out in Afghanistan in the past 20 years. Before Taliban about 10% of women were working outside their houses.|
|Are women able to work now? What percentages of women are now in those same fields?|
|Women not only have no right to work (except for nursing in a few hospitals) but are not allowed to come out of their houses without a close male relative.|
|What has suffered most as a result of the Taliban rule in your opinion?|
|Taliban are torturing the men and women of our country not only physically but also mentally. They are systematically depriving people of their self-respect. But the one area, which they have caused the most severe damage, is the loss of traditional unity and friendship among different ethnic groups in Afghanistan.|
|What misrepresentations are the Taliban giving to the public in response to the accusations of severe female oppression and violence?|
|As I said before, Taliban commit most of their violent
atrocities against women under the name of Quran and Sharia (Islamic law).
They have appointed themselves to be the sole protectors and champions
of Islamic cause and justify their cruelty and oppression against women
on the ground of cleansing Afghanistan from the evil of the west and other
infidels and also to establish the purist Islamic state in the world. So
if anyone tried to open their mouth against them first they are labeled
“enemy of Islam” and if they kept on anyway he/she will face the mouth
of their guns.
Even in a country like Iran some publication has objected to the inhumane act of stoning and had declared it Non-Quranic, which we have repeated in our publication as well. However Taliban with their condescending attitude have sufficed to call us “Immoral and puppets of the West” and have avoided answering it even in their typical childish way.
|How do RAWA and the women of Afghanistan feel they will be able to ameliorate their problem?|
|Here in RAWA we are fully aware of the fact that our
struggle against fundamentalism and for the establishment of democracy
and women’s liberation we are facing a long, difficult and revolutionary
path which needs sacrifices. Although the women’s movement in Afghanistan
is a small force today but it will be a gigantic force once the energy
of half of the population joins it. The 22-year history of RAWA has proven
this where it was a small group active only in one or two provinces of
Afghanistan and now our members are active in all the provinces of Afghanistan.
We believe that as we disclose the lies and crimes of fundamentalists to
our people and the world, we are destroying the shaky pillars of fundamentalism
and one day with the help of other democratic forces we would clean our
country from the presence of these armed groups. We also believe that as
long as we have not destroyed the rule of fundamentalism there is no end
to the problems of our people and especially our women.
Women in our country can be divided into three major groups. One is the group of women who does not see any difference in their situation between now and the past. Second are those women who have given up and do not see any way out. The third is the group who carries a deep hatred of fundamentalism in their hearts. This is the group of women that must be organized and this is the group that its coordinated roar would send shivers to the bones of fundamentalists. RAWA consider organizing this group of women as its main objective.
|Do you or your country seek the intervention of a country or an international organization?|
|We want, not a particular country, but United Nation to send its peacekeeping forces into Afghanistan and disarm the warring factions. And then observe the election and transfer the government power to those party or parties which are duly elected (as they did in Cambodia). However fundamentalist Jehadis and Taliban consider disarmament as equal to their end, will be very hard to convince them, unless their foreign benefactors are convinced of that first.|
|What measures have you and the women of Afghanistan already taken to help the situation?|
|As a women’s organization we are opposed to violence
and believe in human suffrage therefore we have concentrated our work on
increasing awareness among women and encourage them to struggle for gaining
their basic rights. As far as our economical means allow us (which is critical
at this moment) we have engaged in organizing demonstrations, conferences,
publicity campaigns through our normal publication and also Internet. We
have gained experience using this means to deliver the voice of our women
to the people of the world and we have had some success in it.
There are other women’s organizations in Afghanistan but due to their submissive attitude toward one or another fundamentalist group and lack of desire for total dislodgment of these fundamentalist forces, they do not, and will not, have a valuable contribution in the promotion of awareness and organization among our women.
|Are there currently any laws that help women in cases of domestic violence in Afghanistan or any other Islamic societies?|
|Laws against domestic violence are present in some limited way in some Muslim countries. In Afghanistan the fundamentalist government treat women as animals and under the name of Islam they have invented rules that will only keep women in chain of their oppression forever.|