Afghanistan: "Climate of Fear" Growing
Religious fundamentalism is on the rise in Afghanistan, an international human rights group warned officials this week at the 59th session of the UN Human Rights Commission. Human Rights Watch (HRW) representative Loubna Freih addressed the Commission saying, "The international community has allowed warlords and local military commanders to take control of much of the country..." creating an environment "not unlike under the Taliban," according to HRW's statement before the Commission.
Despite repeated calls by feminist and progressive groups urging expansion of peacekeeping troops, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) remains limited within Kabul. Without adequate security and UN human rights monitoring, "efforts to break the cycle of impunity and the stranglehold of gunmen are unlikely to succeed," Freih continued.
The return of women and girls to school, once hailed as a milestone in the Taliban's removal from power, continues to face setbacks. Villagers near Gardez told the Christian Science Monitor, "We are happy the Taliban are gone; we have no choice but to be happy...But the problem today is that our areas are not safe. If you rebuild a school, but it's not safe, then the children can't go and what's the use of the school? If you build a road, but there is no security, then what's the use of the road?" Throughout the country, militias are forming, purporting to keep the peace. Currently, local warlords command an estimated 100,000 militiamen. The Afghan government intends to eventually replace those forces with a new national army, reported the Associated Press.
Moreover, Afghan Education Minister Yunus Qanooni said Wednesday that despite a promised $200 million budget for this school year, which started March 23, the ministry of education had only received $86 million so far, according to Agence France Presse. "If we are not successful in getting our proposed budget, this year we will be forced to stand at the school gates and tell the children not to come to school," he told AFP.
The Feminist Majority continues leading the call for ISAF expansion, increased reconstruction funding, and for more resources to support the work of the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission.
TAKE ACTION Urge Congress to Appropriate Funds for Peace Troops and Reconstruction in Afghanistan
Media Resources: Agence France Presse 4/23/03; Associated Press 4/21/03; Christian Science Monitor 4/24/03; Reuters 4/22/03; HRW 4/2003; Radio Free Australia News 4/23/03; Feminist Daily News Wire