Asia Pacific Radio (Australia), March 12, 2002

AFGHANISTAN: women fear fundamentalist threat

Presenter/Interviewer: Tricia Fitzgerald
Speakers: Tahmeena Faryal, RAWA spokeswoman.

Afghanistan's most prominent women's group says the country's interim government includes war criminals who should be tried for past human rights abuses. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, or RAWA, says the international community made a mistake when it allowed the Northern Alliance - the dominant faction in the current administration - to return to power.

FARYAL: "They basically destroyed moral and maternal values in Afghanistan. They destroyed hospitals, schools, the Museum of Afghanistan, they raped even a 70 year old grandmother and a 7 year old girl child, and they looted the houses and properties of the people. They forced hundreds and thousands of people to flee the country and as a result of their internal fighting from '92 to '96 more than 50,000 innocent people were killed."

"So how is it possible for our people to forget those crimes and atrocities and think that they're good guys, that they have changed their nature and misogynist mentalities in that they should be the rulers of Afghanistan? In fact there was nothing left at all for Taliban to destroy in Afghanistan in '96 when they took power. They were welcomed just because people were fed up with the crimes and atrocities of the Northern Alliance."

FITZGERALD: So although the international community thinks it's installed a brand spanking new interim government in Kabul, ordinary Afghans are seeing this as a return to something bad from the past?

FARYAL: "Yes after September 11th in November, the Taliban were gone from the political scene, people were definitely celebrating that, but they were (also) mourning for the arrival of the Northern Alliance soldiers."

FITZGERALD: You're talking about past history, past experiences, but is there any evidence that those fears about the Northern Alliance and the way they rule, that those fears are becoming a reality?

FARYAL: "Yes, they've already been conflicts and fighting among the warlords of the Northern Alliance, especially in the northern part of Afghanistan and one of the provinces - that there have been stories of rape, looting, abducting and forcing Pashtun ethnic groups to leave that province because it's ruled by an Uzbek warlord, or they're put into prison or some of them were killed, as well as it's happening in other parts - that one or another warlord from the Northern Alliance has the power."

FITZGERALD: So rather than being rewarded by being given positions of power, what sort of fate do you think these Northern Alliance leaders should suffer?

FARYAL: "We believe that they should brought to the International Court of Law, to the court where nowadays there are efforts to bring Milosevic - the war criminals - and they're placed in the court - not leadership positions in Afghanistan. People of Afghanistan cannot forgive them and want them to be punished for their destruction, death, the misogyny, the mental and emotional problems that they have been creating for our people."

FITZGERALD: But this is the best that could be achieved isn't it at the time, it's a compromise solution hammered out under pressure in Bonn with UN and US backing. What other alternatives are there?

FARYAL: "The alternative is supporting and relying on the democratic forces. We thought, and the people of Afghanistan were hopeful that after the 11th of September there might have been enough lessons for the United States, the United Nations or other countries that fundamentalists must be eliminated from the political scene of Afghanistan. That they have proven themselves not dangerous elements to the people of Afghanistan, but to the people in that region and to the people in the world, and the 11th of September was a clear example of that which RAWA has been warning for years that supporting and nurturing these fundamentalists is very dangerous for our planet, but unfortunately they didn't hear and listen to that."

FITZGERALD: So what about the elections that were set down to happen within two years I think from the blueprint that came out of Bonn, do they often any light at the end of the tunnel, particularly to Afghan women who do make up more than 50 per cent of the population?

FARYAL: "We believe that it will offer a hope only if the United Nations take part more actively in Afghanistan and others by deploying more peacekeeping forces, not just in the capital city but also in other parts of Afghanistan and disarm the northern alliance, and really believing that the Northern Alliance should not be in the future government of Afghanistan."


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