The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec.7, 2001

N. Alliance, Taliban under other guise

Yomiuri Shimbun

The Northern Alliance is cut from the same fundamentalist cloth as the Taliban and is just as unlikely to respect human rights or the rights of women, the representative of a feminist organization based in Pakistan and Afghanistan told The Daily Yomiuri in a recent interview in Tokyo.

"We believe the situation of women in Afghanistan was never good," said Mariam Rawi, 27, a representative of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). "We don't have much hope for the Northern Alliance, either. They are now talking about rights of women or a democratic government, but it is just a pose for Western governments."

Rawi arrived in Japan on Wednesday morning to accept the Asian Human Rights Award on behalf of RAWA from the Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization, the Foundation for Human Rights in Asia (FHRA).

RAWA is a politically independent social organization that works for the rights of women in Afghanistan. The group is also organizing small schools for girls at refugee camps in Pakistan and covertly in Afghanistan where the Taliban prohibited education for women.

Even in Pakistan, RAWA members are under threat from fundamentalists, according to Rawi. That is why she uses pseudonyms, including Mariam Rawi, and refuses to allow her face to be photographed.

"A main problem of women in Afghanistan is whether to wear the burqa because wearing the burqa is part of our tradition and culture," Rawi said. "In 1992, one Northern Alliance group came to power, but they were using religion and tradition as a weapon against men and women. They continued fighting each other, looting, raping women, killing and carrying out executions."

Therefore, the Japanese government should provide direct assistance to groups or people working for democracy in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, because its financial assistance will just go into pockets of fundamentalists if it is given to the Northern Alliance, Rawi said


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