Reuters, Nov.14, 2001

Taliban Retreat, but Afghan Women's Group Despairs

By Andrew Marshall

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - A fiercely anti-Taliban Afghan women's group said Wednesday life would be no better now the opposition Northern Alliance -- who it branded "rapists and looters" -- had seized Kabul, and urged foreign intervention.

The Taliban, who banned the education and employment of women, forced them to wear a head-to-toe burqa veil and forbade them from being alone with a man who was not a relative, retreated from Kabul before dawn broke Tuesday.

But the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) said in a statement the entry of Northern Alliance troops into Kabul would only fuel more violence.

"The retreat of the terrorist Taliban from Kabul is a positive development," RAWA said.

"The Taliban and al Qaeda will be eliminated, but the existence of the Northern Alliance as a military force would shatter the joyful dream of the majority of our people for an Afghanistan free from the odious chains of the barbaric Taliban," it said.

"The Northern Alliance will horribly intensify the ethnic and religious conflicts and will never refrain from fanning the fire of another brutal and endless civil war in order to retain ... power."

It said the "wounds of the years 1992-96 have not healed yet," referring to the period when members of the current Northern Alliance held Kabul after driving out the Soviets and the Communist Afghan government they had installed.

Bitter infighting among mujahideen -- holy warrior -- commanders in Kabul in the 1990s sparked almost daily rocket attacks on the capital and killed 50,000 residents.


The Northern Alliance advance was backed by the U.S., which says it is targeting the Taliban to punish the fundamentalist militia for harboring Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, suspected of carrying out the September 11 hijack attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that killed about 4,600 people.

But the U.S. and its international allies had told the Northern Alliance not to enter Kabul until agreement was reached on a broad-based post-Taliban government -- an agreement that remains days or even weeks away at best.

The Northern Alliance says it has learned from past mistakes, saying it entered Kabul to keep order because otherwise there would have been a political vacuum.

But RAWA said the Alliance had not changed from the days when it unleashed civil war in Kabul.

"Though the Northern Alliance has learned how to pose sometimes before the West as 'democratic' and even a supporter of women's fact they have not changed at all, as a leopard cannot change its spots," the RAWA statement said.

"Time is running out," it said.

"We would like to emphatically urge the U.N. to send its effective peacekeeping force into the country before the Northern Alliance can repeat the unforgettable crimes they committed."

The United Nations has said it hopes to convene a meeting of Afghan factions within days to agree on a political transition.

RAWA was founded in 1997, and calls itself "an organization of Afghan women struggling for peace, freedom, democracy and women's rights in fundamentalism-blighted Afghanistan."

It says it has hundreds of thousands of supporters among more than four million refugees in camps in Pakistan and Iran, as well as tens of thousands in Afghanistan itself.


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