Testimony of Tahmeena Faryal representative of RAWA

Before the

Subcommittee of the US House
on International Operations and Human Rights

on the hearing

Afghan People vs. the Taliban: The Struggle for Freedom Intensifies

October 31, 2001

The basics of Afghanistan痴 situation have become more known in the past weeks, in the U.S. and across the world. After years of neglect, the desperate situation of the Afghan people is receiving much needed attention. However, the people痴 voices are rarely heard, and are at risk of being drowned out entirely by the horrific crash of war and global geo-politics.

Formed in 1977, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan is the oldest women's humanitarian and political organization in Afghanistan. Based inside Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan, RAWA is an independent, all-volunteer, non-violent organization calling for multilateral disarmament and the establishment of a secular democratic government in which women may once again participate fully in public life. Currently, RAWA provides refugee relief, underground medical care and education, income-generating projects, orphanages, documentation of Taliban and other Jehadis' atrocities, protest demonstrations and events, and other initiatives in both countries. RAWA members in Afghanistan have stayed to continue our work during many past crises, and we remain there today.

RAWA's work is also aimed toward giving voice to our downtrodden people, especially the women -- and empowering women and men not to forget that they 末 we all 末 deserve human rights and freedoms and to look towards a day when the guns and rockets will stop and we can begin to rebuild.

The current humanitarian situation is grave, and being made worse each day by the continued fighting, the US bombing, and the destruction and fear both continue to cause. Winter is coming and starving people are, of necessity, fluid in their alliances.

The political situation is made ever more precarious by what many Afghans perceive to be US aggression against our country and our civilians, even as we cheer the possibility of the Taliban's demise. And, continued and increasing foreign assistance to the reviled Northern Alliance has plunged our people into a horrific anxiety and fear of re-experiencing the dreadful years of the Jehadis' "emirate" of the 1990's. In the words of one refugee in Peshawar (Sept 25th of this year), many many of the people say that, " All of them, Taliban and Taliban opposition, are criminals, and we don't want them ruling Afghanistan. For the past 20 years they have all given the people only bullets instead of food and graves instead of houses."

The Afghan people want what any people on this earth would want 末 the cessation of wanton violence and establishment of basic stability so that we may re-establish civil society. What is going on now, and has for decades, is NOT our religion, our culture, nor our traditions 末 it is an abomination of Islam and all other peaceful religions, and a violation of our people who are being held hostage by fanatics. As another long-time Afghan refugee said this October, "the people of Afghanistan want peace, security, and the opportunity to rebuild under a government established by legitimate elections where the people vote without a gun to their heads."

RAWA sees the former king, Zahir Shah, as a viable non-monarchical central figure around which an interim government could form. However, if he comes to the scene while relying on the Northern Alliance and so-called "moderate" Taliban elements, he will not only betray his reputation among the Afghan people, but will also undermine the stability and viability of whatever structure he forms.

So many of those now involved in what has come to be called the Northern Alliance have the blood of our beloved people on their hands, as of course do the Taliban. Their sustained atrocities have been well documented by independent international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and others. Those in the Taliban and the Northern Alliance have also proved themselves to be incompetent and corrupt as governing forces. Our people have not forgotten the years after the collapse of the Soviet puppet regime of Najib 末 the most horrible years of terrorism and unchastity 1,2 and as well we don't forget the time not so long ago when the Jehadis' themselves were the cheap servants of Abdullah Ezam and Osama bin Laden as the Taliban are today.

Currently, RAWA and many other Afghans fear that the "Northern Alliance" groups now lie in ambush, waiting to ride the guns of the US into Kabul and working to gain western backing to establish their second "emirate." They have yet to prove, or even to offer, a single shred of reason or credible evidence suggesting that they would not repeat their prior atrocities.

In its 1995 report on the Mujahadeen wars that followed the Soviet withdrawal, Amnesty International1 documented that "Thousands of unarmed civilian women have been killed by unexpected and deliberate artillery attaches on their homesThey have been blown up or hit by rockets or bullets while walking in the streets, waiting at bus stops, working in their houses, or sheltering in large buildings. Many have died or been injured in attacks aimed at mosques, schools, and hospitals. These attacks were justified on the grounds of fighting rival groups, but the nature of the attacks, especially on residential buildings, revealed a deliberate policy of terror by the Mujahadeen against Afghans."

In addition, Mujahadeen forces, armed and trained by the US government and now part of the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, waged a brutal war against women, using rape, torture, abduction, and forced marriage as their weapons. Many women committed suicide during this period as their only escape. Given their past record, we see no possibility that any of these Jehadis will change their nature.

Therefore, any U.S., "Rome process," or multi-lateral initiatives to establish a broad-based government must exclude all Taliban and other criminal Jehadi factions from political power, unless and until a specific faction or person has been absolved of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Else the people will again be plunged into the living hell that engulfed our country from 1992-1996 under elements now involved in the Northern Alliance and continues to the present under the Taliban and other factions.

RAWA, on behalf of more than half of the population of Afghanistan, also must insist that any Loya Jirga or interim-government development process is not legitimate unless it includes and heeds women's voices from beginning to end in substantial and meaningful ways. We ask the unequivocal support of the US and other democracy- and justice-loving countries for this and our other standpoints.

Afghanistan of course needs substantial help from the international community, but we cannot tolerate external control, and even starving Afghans will resist foreign domination. RAWA as an organization does support the intervention of a multi-national UN or other peacekeeping force to assist in disarming the warring factions, establishing basic securities, and setting the stage for the establishment of an interim government.

We know that such an interim government will likely fall short of democracy, and we strongly insist that the world community assist our people in making certain that such an interim government is only that 末 a temporary stepping stone towards full establishment of citizenship rights 末 including equal rights for women in all spheres -- and democracy in a new Afghan constitution and governmental structure.

Based on historical evidence, we gravely fear that continuation of the US attacks and the resulting civilian lives lost give excuses to the Taliban and Northern Alliance to wage war, and will also empower and embolden fundamentalist forces in the region and across the world 末 endangering not only Afghans, but further American lives, and the citizens of many countries.

After the horrific terrorist attacks of Sept 11th here in the US, Afghans and Americans, like too many other peoples across the globe, share a common experience of living under the rule of fear and death. Let us make the best of this tragic commonality: Join us in advocating for U.S. and international policies and initiatives that will

- help build a lasting peace in our country,

-re-establish internationally recognized human rights for the women, children and men of Afghanistan,

- pave the way directly to a secular, broad-based, democratic government welcoming to all who are innocent of crimes against our people, and

- Bring all fundamentalist and other terrorists to justice under the rule of international law.

Thank you.


Women in Afghanistan: a human rights catastrophe, Amnesty International report, London, 1995. AI Index: ASA 11/03/95.

RAWA. Marginalised Women: Documentation on Refugee Women and Women in Situations of Armed Conflict. A publication of the Asian and Pacific Development Center, 2000

From: http://www.house.gov/international_relations/fary1031.htm

ゥ Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)

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