Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 2000

First DC rally in support of women in Afghanistan

By Delinda C. Hanley

The Revolutionary Association of the women of Afghanistan (RAWA) held its first US rally and press conference in Washington DC's Lafayette Square, facing the White House, on 28, to mark and condemn the eight years since the take over of Afghanistan by the fundamentalist Taliban regime. The Feminist Majority and the National Committee of women for Democratic Iran (NCWDI) co-sponsored the rally, attended by more than 100 people.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, listed examples of repression by the Taliban rulers against the Afghan people, specially women. She said women are banished from the workforce, girls are forbidden to attend schools and universities, and women are denied even the most basic health services and allowed in public only in the company of a close male relative and wearing head-to-toe burqa covering. She said many women have been beaten or killed for violating these dress concluded by discussing ways in which Americans can help.

RAWA speakers asked the US to try to bring the Taliban leaders to the international court to be tried as war criminals against women. They also asked the US to initiate an effort in the UN to deploy peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan. This would give hope to the Afghan people and allow them security, access to health and education, as well as other basic needs.

NCWDI president Ramesh Sepehrrad welcomed the crowed and praised RAWA members for their relentless effort to promote and monitor women's rights in Afghanistan.

A representative from Sen. Harry Reid's (D- NV) office delivered a massage to the crowd condemning Taliban actions: "The United States must take a more active role in resolving the crisis in Afghanistan." the senator said: "The people of Afghanistan especially its women and girls who have suffered so much, deserve freedom and Democracy."

A statement by Congressman Carlyn Maloney (D-NY) declared, "We should support RAWA and recognize the importance of its work for Afghan women. To the women of Afghanistan, I say: We remember you. We will not forget you, we will fight for you."

For more information call (703) 585-9127 or e- mail: rawa_us@yahoo.com

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