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5/29/2001 - UN Threatens to Stop Bread Aid to Afghanistan
The United Nations World Food Program gave the Taliban until June 15 to agree to allow Afghan women to help implement a survey that ensures the UN’s food aid is getting to the neediest people in the capital city of Kabul. The Taliban has refused on the grounds that allowing Afghan women to work violates their “Islamic” principles. In response, the UN has threatened to close bakeries that supply 282,000 Afghan people with bread at 12% of retail price. The UN is also considering setting up a new organization to police the UN’s existing arms embargo and shut down terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.
In a move that does not resemble “compassionate conservative” politics, President George W. Bush overruled moderate U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on his choice of who will head a crucial refugee bureau within the U.S. State Department. While Powell chose Alan Kreczko, a longtime civil servant, to head the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the White House overstepped Powell and chose instead John Klink for the important position. Klink, as the adviser to the “Holy See,” represents the interests of the Vatican at the United Nations and is opposed to condom and emergency contraception distribution, despite the current HIV/AIDS epidemic. Bush similarly ignored the advice of moderate Cabinet Member Christine Todd Whitman in rejecting new cleaner air standards. Bush’s rejection of Powell’s nominee is a major setback for Powell as Secretary of State.
5/24/2001 - UN Condemns Taliban for ID Badges
UN Secretary Kofi Annan this week condemned the Taliban decree ordering Hindus to wear a yellow identification badge. The US, India, and other countries have also denounced the badges, likening them to the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. The badge is the most recent of the Taliban militia’s extreme and oppressive decrees. The Taliban’s religious police, the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, are responsible for patrolling the streets, shops, and hospitals of the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan (about 90% of the country). They are empowered to jail a man for having a beard smaller than his fist, lash a woman for showing bare skin, or close a shop if the owner fails to attend mosque five times a day. Women are barred from working outside the home, except in hospitals. Recently, the Taliban raided a hospital where men and women were working because they dined in the same cafeteria (separated by a curtain). Television, independent radio, and musical instruments are also banned.
The Feminist Majority Foundation continues to encourage the U.S. government to send increased aid to Afghan refugees fleeing from the Taliban. Take Action Now
5/23/2001 - Taliban Beat Unwed Couple Accused of Having Sex
Before a crowd of thousands in a packed stadium in the Afghanistan capital city of Kabul, Taliban regime soldiers delivered 100 lashes to a young man and woman who were accused of having sex without being married. The man collapsed as he was being whipped; the woman sat on the grass as a Taliban judged lashed her back and legs. This abuse comes on the heels of other atrocities committed by the Taliban, including requiring religious minorities in Afghanistan to dress in yellow so all may identify them, shutting down several of the World Food Program bread bakeries that employed Afghan women, and closing four UN offices that were instrumental to peacekeeping efforts in the country.
Since 1994, the Taliban regime has terrorized the people of Afghanistan, especially women and girls, imposing harsh decrees forbidding women from leaving their home unaccompanied by a man, requiring women to wear the restrictive “burqa” clothing, prohibiting women from going to school or working most jobs outside the home. Women have been beat, tortured, or even killed for violating Taliban decrees.
“Religious Police” Terrorize Hospital, Close Bread Bakeries and UN Offices
The same day U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced $43 million in aid to Afghanistan, Taliban “religious police”—The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice—raided a hospital in Kabul, claiming that male and female personnel were “mixing” illegally. Just two days later, the religious police shut down several of the World Food Program bread bakeries that employed Afghan women. And yesterday, the Taliban closed four UN offices that were instrumental to peacekeeping efforts in the country.
“How long is the civilized world going to stand by and watch this barbaric regime destroy the lives of millions of Afghan women and children?” asked Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “We were energized with last week’s $43 million humanitarian aid package, but clearly more help is needed from the international community.”
One million people are at risk of famine in Afghanistan and millions more are in the most desperate poverty imaginable, according to the United Nations. The Taliban’s barbaric rule, the most severe drought in decades, sub-zero temperatures this past winter, military incursions which have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and a lack of humanitarian aid have created a crisis in Afghanistan. As many as 800,000 people are displaced and without homes and food; hundreds of thousands have crossed the border to neighboring Pakistan in search of relief, only to find death and starvation in refugee camps.
“How are so many Afghans supposed to eat if the Taliban keeps closing the bread bakeries that are barely keeping women and their families alive?” added Smeal. “And now the peacekeeping agencies that risk their lives every day to help save Afghan women and children are being ordered to close their doors and go home. Who is going to help the millions of displaced, starving, and sick?”
Over 190 women's and human rights organizations join The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan in imploring the United States and the United Nations to do everything in its power to help restore the rights of Afghan women and girls. The Campaign, chaired by Mavis Leno, continues to press the U.S. government to deny the Taliban recognition until the rights of women and girls are fully and permanently restored, to increase humanitarian assistance directed to Afghan women and children, and to increase refugee admission of women and girls fleeing the brutal gender apartheid regime.
The terrorist Taliban regime has requested a religious edict or “fatwa” to force non-Muslim religious minorities in Afghanistan to wear yellow garb so they may be singled out by all. “This latest edict is reminiscent of the Third Reich that required Jews to wear a yellow star of David on their clothing, and we all know what that led to,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “The treatment of minorities in Afghanistan is bordering on a Holocaust. The civilized world must do more.”
The Taliban’s announcement resulted in an uproar of opposition. The prime minister of India, a country dominated by the Hindu religion, expressed his anger and said the Taliban’s decision is further evidence of the terrorist group’s “backward and unacceptable ideology.” There are approximately 5,000 Hindus living in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capitol, and thousands more in towns across the country.
5/21/2001 - Taliban Closes World Food Program Bakeries
The Taliban terrorist regime has again shut down several of the World Food Program (WFP) bakeries over the weekend that are run by Afghan women and which supply approximately one-fifth of the bread supply for the Afghanistan capital city, Kabul. According to the U.S. State Department, the bakeries may have been reopened today.
In August 2000, the Taliban closed the bakeries, but reopened them one day later under pressure from the United Nations (UN). The Taliban forbids women from working outside of the home or for foreign aid organizations outside the health sector, even though foreign aid officials say that projects in health, education and the provision of food largely depend on women workers. Closing the WFP bakeries forces the women who worked there to rely on begging and charity in order to survive.
The Taliban has also closed four UN offices in Afghanistan that were instrumental to peacekeeping efforts in the country. The Taliban closed the offices in retaliation to the sanctions the UN placed on the terrorist army because of the regime’s violations of human rights and continual harboring of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday announced $43 million in humanitarian aid to people in Afghanistan. The move comes after the barbaric rule of the Taliban military regime combined with severe drought and extreme temperatures caused hundreds of thousands of Afghan citizens to flee their homes. As many as 800,000 Afghans are thought to be displaced within Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands more have fled to Pakistan, only to find death and starvation in refugee camps. In his announcement, Powell stated explicity that the aid would be dispensed through the United Nations and NGOs, not through the Taliban.
Women have suffered disproportionately under the military rule of the Taliban. The Taliban has enforced a wide range of restrictive decrees against women, including banning them from school (in or out of the home) and forbidding them from leaving their homes without a close male relative. A recent survey by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) shows that 90% of Afghan women and men support the rights of women currently restricted by the Taliban regime
The Feminist Majority Foundation has been urging the increase of humanitarian assistance to Afghans, especially women and children, who are in peril for their lives. At the urging of the Feminist Majority, 13 U.S. Senators, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Powell urging the provision of emergency assistance to help both internally displaced Afghans and Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.
The Feminist Majority is also working to develop legislation that would provide more funding for healh, education, and income generation for programs to help women and girls in Afghanistan and living as refugees in Pakistan. Caring individuals have already sent thousands of letters and e-mails through FMF's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan and Feminist.org (Send an E-Mail Now).
Members of Taliban “religious police” yesterday raided the first independently run hospital in Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan, claiming that male and female personnel were “mixing” illegally. Twenty armed soldiers stormed the new Emergency Surgical Hospital in Kabul, surrounded doctors and staff at lunch in the cafeteria, and proceeded to beat and harass them. The charge was that male and female staff members were allowed to eat together, something strictly prohibited by Taliban rule. Hospital staff claims that a curtain divided the cafeteria. In protest, hospital management discharged all of its patients with cash and medicines.
The rights of women are strongly supported by more than 90% of the Afghan women and men included in the recent survey conducted in Afghanistan by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Women’s Health and Human Rights in Afghanistan: A Population Based Assessment, is the first study to systematically assess human rights concerns of a large Afghan population.
The study found that the women surveyed in areas controlled by the Taliban "almost unanimously expressed that the Taliban had made their life ‘much worse’, attributing their declining mental and physical health to Taliban policies." When the women living under the Taliban are compared to women living in non-Taliban controlled areas, they report significantly worse physical and mental health, including much higher rates of major depression and suicide.
Another significant outcome of the survey is the Afghan people’s disagreement with the Taliban regime’s claims that the restrictions they have imposed on women are dictated by Islamic Law. More than 80% of the men and women surveyed believe that the teachings of Islam do not restrict women’s human rights.
Based on their findings, the PHR report calls for the end of the "systematic discrimination against women" by the Taliban. Among its other recommendations, PHR calls for the international community to increase humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, while also reporting that more than a third of the women surveyed said that Taliban policies restricted their access to humanitarian assistance.
Read the complete report
Three Afghan women, traveling under pseudonyms and wearing the all-enshrouding burqa, visited the French parliament last week in their campaign to raise international awareness about gender apartheid in their country. The women has visited the European parliament earlier that week, and visited France at the invitation of the President of the French Assembly, Raymond Forni. The women spoke of the atrocities committed against the women and girls of Afghanistan by the terrorist Taliban regime, including the story of a woman whose feet were beaten until they bled because the was wearing white shoes – the color of the Taliban flag. They pleaded that the visit be just the first step in a political campaign against the Taliban, and called for the French to exert pressure on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, and the United States. ““We took a risk coming here,” said one of the women, “but we don’t care because what we go through every day is like death, so real death doesn’t scare us. How else could we continue our struggle for the women of Afghanistan?”
TAKE ACTION! Urge the Bush administration to continue U.S. opposition to the Taliban.
TAKE ACTION! Urge the United States to provide emergency assistance to Afghan refugees.
5/7/2001 - Namibia Makes Homophobia National Policy
In late March, Namibian President Sam Nujoma issued a statement ordering the purging of homosexuals from his African nation. “The Republic of Namibia does not allow homosexuality or lesbianism here,” Nujoma said. “Police are ordered to arrest you, deport you and imprison you.” Nujoma made similar remarks in 1997 at the Swapo Women’s Council Congress, saying, “Homosexuals must be condemned and rejected in our society.” Nujoma also argues that pushing for the inclusion of gays and lesbians under human rights campaigns is part of “foreign influence,” and that Namibian citizens are not part of the effort to gain rights for the LGBT community. The Namibian Society for Human Rights and the Rainbow Project, a coalition of Namibian gays and lesbians, are call the policy “unconstitutional,” and have spoken out against Nujoma.
Learn more about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights worldwide at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
In a bi-partisan 26 – 22 vote, the International Relations Committee approved a bill introduced by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) that would effectively overturn President Bush’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy or “Global Gag Rule,” that prohibits recipients of U.S. international family planning assistance from counseling women on abortion or engaging in political speech on abortion. Republican Congressmen Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Amo Houghton (R-NY) and Jim Leach (R- IA) joined committee democrats in support of overturning the “Gag Rule.” Rep. Lee’s bill included two provisions: Foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) cannot be denied funding based on the medical services they provide, including counseling and referral services. Foreign NGOs, as a condition of eligibility for U.S. development assistance need not sacrifice their right to use their own funds to engage in free speech and assembly activities any more than U.S. based groups are asked to do. The bill must come to a vote before the entire House, as well as the full Senate, before becoming law.
LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.
Women in the Philippines are trapped in an unbearable dilemma: the Catholic Church, whose influence over the country is strong, prohibits all forms of contraception, but extreme poverty prohibits large families. As a result, the Philippines has a very high abortion rate: 20-30 out of every 1,000 women of childbearing age have had an abortion, despite its illegal status. Filipino women, in an effort to keep their abortions secret, use crude methods, such as inserting sharp objects into the uterus or drinking toxic chemicals. The problem is so severe that illegal abortion is now the fourth leading cause of death among Filipino women.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute shows that the primary factor determining a country’s abortion rate is not the legal status of the procedure but the rate at which women experience unintended pregnancies. With no access to contraception, Filipino women are then forced into unsafe illegal abortions. The death rate associated with abortion is hundreds of times higher in developing nations where abortion is often illegal. In Latin America, the abortion mortality rate is 119 deaths per 100,000 abortions, compared to just .02-1.2 deaths per 100,000 abortions in developed nations. The Philippines is also facing a high population growth rate that, if it is not stopped, would double the small nation’s population in the next 35 years. Former President Joseph Estrada saw this, coupled with the high abortion mortality rate, as a reason to defy the long-endured Catholic Church. The church’s anger at his decision to make contraceptives available was a major factor in his forceful oust from power in January of this year.
For more information on the Catholic Church and its repressive policies and influence worldwide, visit Catholics for a Free Choice and their See Change” Campaign.
LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.
Led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), 13 U.S. senators joined in a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell urging the U.S. to immediately send $30 million in emergency relief funds to aid the hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees, primarily women and children, who have fled their homes to escape the brutal rule of the Taliban regime, a total lack of food, and the worst drought to hit Afghanistan in 30 years. As many as 800,000 internal refugees seek relief within Afghanistan; hundreds of thousands have crossed the border to neighboring Pakistan in search of relief, only to find death and starvation in refugee camps.
In addition to Sen. Feinstein, Senators Joseph Biden (D- DE), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-LA), Harry Reid (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Paul Wellstone (D-WI) also signed the letter to Sec. Powell.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has led the effort to increase funding to assist Afghan women and girls. Take Action Today! Demand Immediate Emergency Assistance for Afghan Refugees.
Today Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) will introduce legislation to the House Foreign Relations Committee that could reverse President Bush’s re-instatement of the Mexico City Policy, or “Global Gag Rule,” that prohibits recipients of U.S. international family planning assistance from counseling women on abortion or engaging in political speech on abortion. The legislation has two primary provisions: Foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) cannot be denied funding based on the medical services they provide, including counseling and referral services. Foreign NGOs, as a condition of eligibility for U.S. development assistance need not sacrifice their right to use their own funds to engage in free speech and assembly activities any more than U.S. based groups are asked to do.
U.S. international family planning assistance is crucial to lives of millions of women. Denying women the information they need about family planning and abortion forces them to seek unsafe illegal abortions. Re-instating the “Global Gag Rule” was President Bush’s first executive order and “demonstrates that he will use his presidential powers to undermine the reproductive rights of the worlds’ women,” said Lee.
LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.
5/1/2001 - Pakistan Increasing Support for Taliban
The U.S. State Department’s new report by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterroism demonstrates that Pakistan has increased its support of the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which has forced the women and girls of Afghanistan into a state of virtual house arrest. Reliable reports have confirmed that Pakistan provides the Taliban with material, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers.
This aid to the Taliban comes at a time when the people of Afghanistan are suffering from the most severe drought the region has seen. The situation is exacerbated by the Taliban’s violent actions and draconian edicts. The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees visited Afghanistan this week, and declared the situation catastrophic. With tens of thousands of Afghans being turned away by neighboring countries and the water supply dwindling, Afghanistan now has more internal refugees than any other country. International aid is desperately needed.
Take Action! Ensure that the United States continues to refuse to recognize the Taliban.
Urge the U.S. to provide emergency assistance to Afghan refugees and displaced persons.
The most recent issue of the French women’s magazine Elle is completely devoted to covering the women of Afghanistan, the abuses they suffer under the ruling Taliban regime, and the dehumanization they endure. The cover of the fashion magazine shows an Afghan woman, completely covered in the traditional burqa, with a thick piece of mesh over her face through which she must see and breathe. In the Elle interview French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said that until peace returned to Afghanistan, "Afghan women will continue to be at the mercy of a power which has imposed itself by force." Marie-Francoise Colombani of Elle expressed concern that the world showed united outrage over the destruction of the Buddha statutes, but not on the treatment of women.
Learn more about the Taliban's abuses against women in Afghanistan.
Take Action!Urge Bush Administration to Oppose Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan
4/25/2001 - UN to Increase Appeal for Aid to Afghanistan
The United Nations (UN) has decided to revise it’s appeal for 2001 far beyond the $250 million it earlier requested to aid the hundreds of thousands of starving, displaced people in Afghanistan after examining the country’s current humanitarian crisis.
The original $250 million appeal was mainly for programs within Afghanistan and did not include funds to alleviate the suffering of Afghan refugees who have fled to Pakistan and are living in desperate conditions. The UN has only received 15% of the funds and aid requested, and the situation in Afghanistan is worsening daily. At least 700,000 Afghans are displaced—the highest rate of population displacement in the world. People are fleeing their homes to escape the drought, fighting, and the brutal terrorist Taliban regime. People have also left their home in search of aid in refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan—some campus receive up to 2,000 new refugees every day, and cannot support the influx.
The worst drought in 20 years has nearly killed crop production, and this year’s dim prospects for harvest could mean an even worse situation in the future. Over 10 million people—half of Afghanistan’s 21 million-person population—have been affected by the drought. The World Food Programme projects 3 million people are completely depended on food assistance.
Take Action today to save the lives of women and girls! Demand that the United States stop ignoring the brutality, starvation and death occurring in Afghanistan. Urge immediate emergency funds to help the millions of Afghan refugees.
Demand Immediate Emergency Assistance for Afghan Refugees!
In a statement released by the United Nations, “Pakistan has reneged on an agreement reached last month with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to allow adequate UN relief supplies to be delivered to the 70,000 Afghan refugees in the Jalozai refugee camp.” One of the most desperate camps for Afghan refugees is located in the Pakistan city of Jalozai. Repeatedly Pakistani government officials have refused to grant access to United Nations aid workers and other humanitarian observers into the camp.
As time passes, the situation for Afghan refugees living in the Jalozai camp grows more severe. Inclement weather, including heavy rains, has destroyed 60 latrines and some 3,150 refugee tents, 18,000 refugees out the total 70,000 population now face death, and the UN has declared that “children are dying unnecessarily” all within the Jalozai refugee camp. Due to Pakistan’s refusal to allow vital humanitarian aid to reach Jalozai, aid groups are only able to provide less than half the amount of clean water needed per person daily making “sunstroke, skin diseases and waterborne diseases inevitable by the end of May.”
On International Women’s Day 2001, over one-hundred-thousand signatures, from 140 countries, were presented to the United Nations, urging the international community and governments to honor the commitments they made in Beijing in 1995. To recognize the role of women peacemakers, to include more women in peace negotiations and reconciliation processes and to ensure that women’s organizations gain the resources they need to build peace.
Despite their effectiveness in peace building at community and grassroots levels, women are persistently excluded from negotiations and decision-making forums in post conflict situations. The international campaign Women Building Peace: From the Village Council to the Negotiating Table, launched in May 1999, aims to highlight and strengthen the role of women in peacebuilding and conflict transformation processes. It was initiated by the UK-based conflict resolution and human rights organization, International Alert and involves over 300 women’s organizations worldwide.
“The sheer numbers and diversity of people that have signed the petition show the strength of feeling around the world to change the status quo. They are demanding that more women be included in peace processes. Why should the views of 50 per cent of the population continue to be ignored when it comes to making peace?” says Eugenia Piza-Lopez, Head of Policy and Advocacy, International Alert.
For more information about the Women Building Peace Campaign, visit International Alert.
Sign the Global Petition online or print out a copy to circulate.
As a direct result of a new French law requiring 50% of candidates on municipal election ballots to be women, the number of women municipal officeholders more than doubled from 22% in 1995 to 47.5% in 2001. At the county level, where there was no candidate parity requirement, the number of women officeholders grew only from 7% in 1998 to 9% in 2001. The March 18 election was the first time the gender parity law was in place.
The new measure goes further than any other in the world to ensure equal representation of men and women in politics and enjoys strong public support. According to a February 4 New York Times report, sixty-three percent of people polled believe the law will provide a better choice of candidates and will result in better governance. Sixty-five percent voiced a desire for a woman mayor in their town. Eighty percent believe a woman in office would result in improved education, social services and health programs and 60 percent thought women political leaders would bring about improvements in the economy, transportation systems and sports.
The Taliban have demonstrated that they unable to effectively govern, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Alan Eastham. Eastham cited the Taliban's refusal to address the needs of the Afghan people and the fact that the Taliban have not taken into account the wishes of the international community with respect to terrorism, narcotics, and protection of human rights. “We feel strongly that a country which discards half of its population, which rules out any productive role outside the home for half the population, the female half, is not doing itself much of a service,” Eastham said. “If you deny the ability of half of the population [to be] educated, you're condemning the country to backwardness essentially. That is the point of dispute with the Taliban. It's not a question of disputing their basic societal tenets or even debating Islam with them. It is that to become a country which participates in the world, Afghanistan needs its women. That is our point on human rights.” Eastham also cited the Taliban’s role in opium production and terrorism as further evidence of their inability to govern.
The Afghan people are currently living under a brutal system of gender apartheid and ethnic and cultural genocide, and the situation is further exacerbated by the region’s most severe drought, which has left thousands of people without adequate food, water, and shelter.
TAKE ACTIONUrge the U.S. to devote emergency funds to help Afghan refugees and displaced persons.
Thousands of unregistered Afghan refugees living near Peshawar, Pakistan, could be deported back to Taliban-controlled Afghanista, where gender apartheid and ethnic and cultural genocide are devastating a population already strained by a severe drought. Pakistan’s decision would directly affect more than 80,000 refugees living in Jalozai, a makeshift camp in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, and would affect any future refugees seeking to enter Pakistan. While the NWFP governor denied that deportation would put thousands of Afghans at risk for persecution at the hands of the Taliban, International Rescue Committee leader Sigurd Hanson confirmed that “many [Afghan refugees] would be at serious risk for reasons of gender, ethnicity, or politics. These groups should not be sent back.” The majority of refugees are women and children, and most of the refugees who have recently arrived in Pakistan are members of minority ethnic groups who are persecuted by the Taliban.
Take Action to help Afghan refugees by urging the United States to respond to this devastating humanitarian crisis with the release of emergency assistance funds.
3/30/2001 - Crisis in Afghanistan Deepens
One million people are at risk for famine in Afghanistan and millions more are in the most desperate poverty imaginable, according to the United Nations. The Taliban’s barbaric rule, the most severe drought in decades, sub-zero winter temperatures, military incursions which have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and a lack of humanitarian aid have created a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
This crisis has been exacerbated further by Pakistan’s and Tajikistan’s closing their borders with Afghanistan, preventing the entry of the tens of thousands of refugees who are trying to escape gender apartheid, genocide, starvation, and disease. Thirteen thousand Afghan refugees are stranded on a river island between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Pakistan is threatening to expel 100,000 Afghan refugees.
Meanwhile, most of the world, including the U.S., have admitted only small numbers of Afghan refugees into their countries. The U.S. admitted no Afghan refugees in 1996 or 1997, 88 in 1998, and, after extensive pressure, 396 in 1999, and a projected 1500 for 2000.
Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, said that this situation “brings back haunting memories of the ship of Jewish people who had no place to land” during World War II. “Hundreds of thousands of people are living in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan with virtually no shelter, food, healthcare, or sanitation, and hundreds are dying daily. Yet there seems to be more worldwide outcry about the Taliban’s destruction of the buddha statute than the human disaster,” added Smeal.
The Feminist Majority has called upon the U.S. government to provide emergency assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Feminist Majority is working with members of Congress to develop legislation to respond to the immediate humanitarian crisis and to improve the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan and those living as refugees in Pakistan. The Feminist Majority is seeking to codify U.S. opposition to recognition of the Taliban until the rights of women and girls are fully and permanently restored and to increase health, education, and income generation programs for women and girls.
The brutality of the Taliban continues unabated with the recent hangings of two women accused of prostitution and the ethnic killings of hundreds of civilians in central Afghanistan. The U.S.’s newly released Human Rights Report documents the Taliban’s continued bans to women’s and girls’ employment and education as well as their summary execution of civilians. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, hundreds of civilians, including humanitarian aid workers and even patients in medical facilities, mostly of the Hazara ethnicity, were killed by the Taliban when they took control of key cities in Central Afghanistan.
The Taliban also has demanded the destruction of historic Buhhdist artifacts, including two massive 120 foot ancient Buhhdas carved into the sandstone hills of Bamiyan. The Buhddas, which are dated to 200-300 AD, have been a presence in Afghanistan longer than Islam.
At his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned the Taliban’s treatment of women in Afghanistan as “appalling…bordering on barbaric” in response to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)’s question about whether he would continue to make the restoration of the human rights of Afghan women and girls a policy priority. The Feminist Majority is working to ensure that Secretary Powell’s condemnation of their treatment by the Taliban is reflected in policies and actions that help to stop gender apartheid and restore women’s human rights.
To learn more about the Feminist Majority’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid and to take action and urge the United States to respond immediately to this humanitarian and human rights crisis visit www.feminist.org