The News International, December 8, 2001

New rulers will not be better than Taliban: RAWA

Tokyo: the interim administration for Afghanistan, agreed earlier this week, will be not better for Afghan women than the Taliban regime it replaces, a member of an Afghan women's group said here on Friday.

"Unfortunately the situation is the same as it was between 1992 and 1996 (when rival factions fought for the power in Kabul). We don't see any positive changes yet," Mariam Rawi, a member of the Revolutionary Association of the women of Afghanistan (RAWA), told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

You must not trust the reports you are getting. The reality is the same. We are in refugee camps inside Afghanistan.

"Yesterday we had some reports that Northern Alliance soldiers cut off the ears of men who shaved their beards and some women have been beaten up because they were not wearing the burqa (shroud-like full-length veil)," said the women who use the pseudonym Rawi for security reasons. For the same reason she continues to wear the burqa, albeit in a brilliant electric blue.

Between 1992 and 1996, Kabul was in a deadly vortex of vicious factional infighting, which left tens of the thousands of civilians dead.

"Many atrocities happened in those four years: 90% of Kabul was destroyed by infighting between those groups," Rawi said.

"There were killing, execution and (they were) raping women-10-years-old girls and 70 year-old women. With the guns in there hands they could do whatever they wanted."

After seizing power in 1996, the Taliban "continued the killings and torture," she said.

"They said women had to wear the burqa, could have no education, (were) deprived of primary rights, but the seeds of this violence had been planted before. The Northern Alliance people said schools had to be destroyed because they were' gateways to hell' and doors to prostitutions'."

One RAWA delegate took part in the Bonn talks on forming a new Afghan administration at the invitation of royalist supporters of former king Mohammed Zahir Shah, 87 but Rawi believes Muslim fundamentalists came out of the talks best.

"The key positions are in the hands of fundamentalist leaders," Rawi said.

She said the only way to bringing peace and security to a country ravaged by tow decades of war was to send in UN peace Keeping forces to disarm the rival groups, and "stop the support of other countries for fundamentalist there,"

The women's group-which Rawi describe as both a militant political group campaigning for democracy and women's rights, and a non-profit organization running orphanages, mobile clinic and classes in literacy and basic crafts-has 2,000 members, mostly in Afghanistan, Rawi said. She was visiting Tokyo to receive the Asia Human Rights Award and 500,000 yen (4,015 dollars) in cash from the Foundation for Human Rights in Asia. -AFP

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