Address of Tahmeena Faryal, representative of RAWA
at the World Vision, "Women of Vision" dinner, The Hilton on the Park, Melbourne
March 8, 2002
On this great occasion of International Women's Day I greet you on behalf of RAWA and the women of Afghanistan.
First of all allow me to extend, on behalf of RAWA, our sincere thanks to World Vision for sponsoring this trip and giving the opportunity for RAWA to be in Australia for the first time
You are aware that for the past 23 years Afghanistan has languished in the grasp of the most despotic and cruelest of regimes.
Yes, first our people suffered enormous pain in the Russians' coup d'état, and suffered even more when the Russians openly invaded our country in 1979. After the Russian invasion and a decade of resistance war, we thought that a nation and its women could not suffer more than this. An example of the pain our people bore is that in 1979 the people of Kabul, who were counting seconds for the return of their loved ones, suddenly had to face a list of 13 thousands prisoners who had been massacred by the puppet regime.
After the Russians left and their puppet regime collapsed in 1992, people thought that freedom will at last prevail and the darkness of the past ten years along with the brutalities and crimes will turn into a hopeful future. But contrary to our people's expectations, the vicious circle rolled on and on.
The domination of the Jehadi fundamentalist (the present "polished" Northern Alliance) was the second incurable wound. The Jehadi Islamic fundamentalist bands-which had been created, nurtured and equipped by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, US and its allies during the anti-Russian war- gave another meaning to crime, brutality and looting. They turned Afghanistan, especially Kabul, into a blood bath by committing unprecedented hair-raising crimes. Crimes which whitewashed the Russians and their puppets faces. They killed and raped thousands of girls, women and men. More importantly they were the first who imposed numerous restrictions on women including wearing the veil. Even the UN Special Envoy, Mr. Mehmoud Mestiri, rightly called them a batch of bandits.
And after the failure of the Jehadis to fulfill the vicious plans of their masters, another force was unleashed in the battle ground for the Afghan pie.
In 1996, one of the most misogynist and brutal fundamentalist forces emerged on the surface of our planet, the Taliban. They surpassed their Jehadi brothers in their treatment towards women.
For five years under the Taliban in the name of religion, massacres of non-Pashtun ethnics were carried out with extreme barbarity. New inhumane and sadistic techniques had been found for killing the people. Children were taught that the followers of every other religion are the enemies of Islam, that there can be no peace between Jews and Muslims, that democracy is against the tenets of the Qur'an, and that all thoughts and sayings that go against their decrees are evil.
Tragically the world was silent against all these happenings because there was not any loss of life in the western hemisphere of our globe until the 11th of September.
Tragically they didn't listen to the repeated warnings of RAWA about the danger of fundamentalism to the security and stability of the world. And it was only after the New York and Washington attacks that the US woke up and found about the danger of its own created and nurtured Frankenstein(s).
If the US hadn't supported the fundamentalists in Afghanistan during the cold war and if only it paid the least attention to the Afghan fundamentalists' human rights abuses, New York might never had to pay such a huge price and the innocent Afghan people might never had to face such a heavy air strikes with lots of civilian casualties and hundreds of thousands of internal and external displacement.
Though the recent developments removed the Taliban from the scene, it unfortunately wasn't the end of the horrible miseries of our tortured nation. Contrary to the aspirations of our people and expectations of the world's freedom loving people, the Jehadi Northern Alliance as the main part of the current interim government shattered the dream of our wounded people for liberation, peace and safety.
Speaking on behalf of RAWA and on behalf of the agonized women of Afghanistan I hereby would like to ask the great people of Australia, other human rights organizations, eminent personalities, intellectuals and all centres and gatherings of social activism to mobilise all the forces at their disposal, to utilise any available resource open to them to make sure that the fundamentalists of the Northern Alliance are not enabled once again to extend their sinister domination over Afghanistan. With this alignment you will be standing on the side of the people of Afghanistan and their aspirations for peace, democracy and an honourable place amongst the nations of the world.
We also want to say in a loud voice that the place of the leaders of the Northern Alliance is beside war criminals at the Hague Court, and not the seat of government in Afghanistan and issuing of order about our women. As long as they have not given an account to the people, and have not appeared at an international court, they have no right to rule over our people. As far as RAWA is concerned, our battle against these enemies of democracy and women, whose only difference with the Taliban is merely wearing Western clothing and neckties, will continue as before and may be in different forms. Did the world forgive Hitler, Franco, Suharto, Khomeini, and more recently, the Taliban and Osama? Why then should the Northern Alliance be forgiven?
As the only humanitarian, political, democratic, anti fundamentalist and feminist organization, RAWA for years has been advocating for a democratic government as the only cure for the wounds of Afghan people and the real liberation of our women from the shackles and bonds of fundamentalism and similar mentalities.
The fundamentalists have sounded the drum of opposition to democracy in various forms, and many danced to that drum as well. RAWA, however, is proud that it was not intimidated even for one moment, and kept the banner of democracy raised without paying attention to threats from fundamentalist terrorists.
We also believe that Democracy without secularism would be incomplete. The fundamentalists and their partners have used as much as they can to frighten people and to rant against secularism. They have tried to misrepresent secularism purely and simply as a profane and un-Islamic form of government, while secularism is the only means of keeping religion free of the influence of fundamentalists and other opportunistic elements. A long history in Western countries, and even in some Islamic countries, proves the fact that in those societies where secularism governs as democracy's essential foundation, religion has by no means been destroyed.
For these and many other stand points we have always been told, and there are still people who continue to tell us that the word "Revolutionary" in our name sometimes scares people away. In response, we have always maintained that the struggle of women for liberty and democracy in a country suffocating under native and international terrorists, and in conditions of extreme oppression and persecution, cannot but be revolutionary. Being irreconcilable against fundamentalism is revolutionary. Standing up for democratic feminism under the shadow of a general death sentence issued against members of RAWA, was and is the highest criterion of being revolutionary. Practical experience has borne out the revolutionary nature of our viewpoints, policies and activities which has drawn the support and commitment of countless of freedom and justice loving national and international supporters towards our cause.
We hope the supporters of women's rights, human rights and democracy who are here today, by realizing the nature and danger of the NA and putting pressure on the international community, do not let the fundamentalists of any brand to rule Afghanistan any more and longer.
In an interview US play write Eve Ensler said: "Afghanistan is everywhere." But our Afghanistan is deadlocked, a deadlock that the late Ahmad Shamlu, an Iranian poet, powerfully describes:
In This Deadend
They smell your breath.
You better not have said, "I love you."
They smell your heart.
These are strange times, darling...
And they flog
at the roadblock.
We had better hide love in the closet...
In this crooked deadened and twisting chill,
they feed the fire
with the kindling of song and poetry.
Do not risk a thought.
These are strange times, darling...
He who knocks on the door at midnight
has come to kill the light.
We had better hide light in the closet...
Those there are butchers
stationed at the crossroads
with bloody clubs and cleavers.
These are strange times, darling...
And they excise smiles from lips
and songs from mouths.
We had better hide joy in the closet...
Canaries are barbecued
on a fire of lilies and jasmine,
these are strange times, darling...
Satan drunk with victory
sits at our funeral feast.
We had better hide God in the closet.
This deadlock must be shattered. Our women must be at the forefront of the movement to shatter this humiliating deadlock.