IRIN, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 6 Feb 2002
Women's group concerned at fundamentalists in government
ISLAMABAD, 6 Feb 2002 (IRIN) - A leading Afghan womens rights group told IRIN on Wednesday that women's rights would not become a reality in Afghanistan until such time as all elements of Islamic fundamentalism were removed from government in the country. Tehmina Faryal, a spokeswoman for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) said that now was the time to put an end to rhetoric and take firm action.
"There are still fundamentalist elements in the interim government," she said, adding that fundamentalism remained the major obstacle to the rights of women. Faryal maintained that some former Northern Alliance commanders who are now members of the new government, despite their opposition to the Taliban, were fundamentalists and that so long as they remained within the government democracy and a secular political culture in the country would remain elusive.
Faryal made the comments in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Wednesday in response to a statement of solidarity from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) earlier in the week, which called upon the interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai to encourage women's participation, "as full and equal partners with men" in the reconstruction and development of the country.
CEDAW is an international treaty body charged with the monitoring of human rights of women and girls in 168 states. Afghanistan signed the convention in 1980 but more than two decades of fighting devastated the lives of women.
IRIN, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 21 Feb 2002
Kofi Annan calls for greater gender-equality
ISLAMABAD, 21 Feb 2002 (IRIN) - A report released on Wednesday by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan calls for increased international support for measures to promote gender equality in Afghanistan. "Afghan women should be seen as the primary stakeholders and agents of change who have identified their own needs and priorities in all sectors of society," the report said.
Entitled "Discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan", the report will be considered by the UN Commission on the Status of Women next month.
Reacting to the issues raised in the document, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has warned that if the Northern Alliance stays in power, incidents of violence against women will increase.
"The Northern Alliance are in power, and they have ruled before, so we know what their past record in dealing with women is like," Danesh Hamid, a spokeswoman for RAWA in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, told IRIN. "Many women committed suicide under the Northern Alliance to stop themselves from being raped," she asserted.
The UN report highlights the fact that women suffered "massive abuses during the civil war and the Taliban regime", and urges that special attention be focused on the human rights of Afghan women and girls, calling for their effective participation in civil, cultural, economic, political and social life.
During the rule of the brutal Taliban regime, women were invisible, banned from being educated and from working. Although women are now gradually beginning to live a normal lives again, there is still much work to be done, RAWA maintains. "Our sources on the ground in Afghanistan have told us that the situation for women has not changed much. Many are still wearing the burka [the long all-enveloping garment worn by Muslim women], because they are scared that they will be attacked [if they do not]," Hamid said.
RAWA has long maintained that a better Afghan government is needed in order to improve the situation of women in the country. "These people [Northern Alliance] are the same as the Taliban so far as we are concerned," she said, adding that the Western world and media were still very misguided in the way they saw women under the new government. "Their situation has not changed overnight," Hamid stressed.
She also raised concerns over the acceptance of the Northern Alliance by the international community. "I have attended international conferences recently, and I can tell you that the outside world is not aware of what these people [Northern Alliance] are capable of doing." She added that if the international community wanted to bring about change it must effect a political transformation.
Commenting on the security situation, the RAWA spokeswoman said: "There needs to be a peacekeeping force for the whole of the country. Afghanistan is by no means safe, especially for women."
Established in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in 1977, RAWA has been at the forefront of promoting women's rights in Afghanistan, and has a network of about 2,000 women who worked underground during the rule of the Taliban.