Afganistan`s Apartheid


     Beginning on September 27, 1996, an extremist militia group known as the Taliban
seized control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Upon seizing control, the

Taliban has instituted a system of gender apartheid, which has placed women into
a state of virtual house arrest. Since that time the women and girls of

Afghanistan have been stripped of all human rights including their voice,
visibility and their mobility. The Campaign to stop Gender Apartheid, led by the

Feminist Majority Foundation, has brought together numerous human right and
women’s organizations around the world to demand an end to the abuses of the
women in Afghanistan. In the 1980’s when the Soviet Union occupied

Afghanistan, the United States gave billions of dollars, through a secret CIA
operation, to revolutionary militia forces called the mujahideen (soldiers of

God). Unfortunately, in 1989 when the Soviet Union pulled out, groups of the
mujahideen entered into a civil war and in 1996 the Taliban emerged as the
controlling force. The Taliban is actually made up of young men and boys who
were raised in refugee camps and trained in ultraconservative religious schools
in Pakistan. The primary support system of the Taliban is from Pakistan, they
provide military aid and personnel, Saudi Arabia provides the financial support.

In addition, Afghanistan is one of the world’s two largest producers of opium,
which in turn makes it a huge drug-processing center. Finally, the biggest
potential for financial support comes from the wealth of the petroleum industry.

The Taliban claim to follow a pure, fundamental Islamic ideology, except the
oppression they place upon women has no foundation in Islam. Within Islam, women
can earn, control and spend their own money; they can also participate in public
life. Both the Organizations of the Islamic Conference and the Muslim

Brotherhood in Egypt have refused to recognize the Taliban as an official
government in Afghanistan. Prior to the Taliban seizing control, women led very
different lives. Many were educated and employed, 60% of the teachers at Kabul

University were women as were 50% of the students. 70% of schoolteachers, 50% of
civilian government workers and 40% of doctors were all women. Just recently, a

United Nations Reporter, Radhika Coomaraswami, voiced her shock of the
violations she found in Afghanistan. She reported, " widespread, systematic
violation of Taliban areas of Afghanistan." She said she had never seen as
much suffering as she witnessed in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban militia took
control, women have been forced to beg on the streets to simply feed their
children because only a tiny percentage of women are allowed to work. Girls have
been banned from attending school after the age of eight and women can not leave
their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative. If and when a woman
does leave, she must be covered from head to toe with only a small opening to
see and breath through. Medical access is extremely limited because male doctors
cannot treat women and there are very few female physicians. Finally, the

Taliban has required women to paint their windows opaque so that the women
inside cannot be seen from the street. These rules are forcing women to lead a
life worse than the depths of hell. There are many severe and even deadly
consequences for disobeying the Taliban’s rules. An elderly woman was
critically beaten with a metal cable until her leg was broken because her ankle
was accidentally showing. A woman caught trying to flee Afghanistan was stoned
to death because the man she was with was not a relative. Many women have died
of treatable illnesses because there was no doctor who would treat them. A high
number of women, have attempted suicide by swallowing household cleaner rather
than continuing to live under these appalling and ghastly circumstances.

Ninety-seven percent of women who were surveyed by Physicians for Human Rights
showed signs of major depression. Since the Taliban has taken control of the
government very few refugees have been able to flee the country to the United

States. One woman, Nazira Karimi, fled the country one year ago after a long
drawn out process to be exiled. Karimi was a journalist who spoke out against
the Taliban’s actions and a death warrant was placed on her and every friend
and family member. After and initial denial from the United Nations High

Commissioner for Refugees, she sought help from the Feminist Majority. Finally,
after several more death threats and the kidnapping and torture of family
members, emergency action was put into place and she was exiled to the United

States. Just recently, 16 of her family members arrived safely at National

Airport with help from the Department of State and the Immigration and

Naturalization Service. In 1996 and 1997 no refugees were allow to enter, in

1998, 88 refugees entered. This year with the help of the Feminist Majority

Foundation, the Department of State will allow approximately 1500 women and
children to enter the United States to be saved from the deadly actions of the

Taliban. Currently, many national and international rights organizations are
asking the United States and the United Nations to not recognize the Taliban as
a legitimate government. Recently, the United States and the United Nations have
threatened to impose sanctions against the Taliban if they do not turn over

Osama bin Laden, a multimillionaire terrorist extremist. The Feminist Majority

Foundation has appealed to the United States and United Nations to also include
the brutal gender apartheid policies and human rights violations as part of the
sanction conditions. President Clinton acknowledged the Talibans horrible
treatment of women and pledged not to recognize the militia group until all
human rights are restored. I, personally, am not a big fan of allowing
immigrants and refugees into our already overcrowded and problematic country,
but after researching this paper my views have changed. I still believe we
should restrict how many refugees are allowed into the United States, but in
times of such dreadful and deadly actions of the Taliban we need to do something
to protect these women and children. After looking at pictures and reading about
the disgusting cruelty, I emailed government and UN officials from the Feminist

Majority web-site. As I sit and type this paper, women are being beaten and
killed for no reason what so ever, except for the fact that they are female. I
believe for once our nation needs to work quickly to help stop these brutal acts
of human rights violations. People are urged to email the Secretary of State and
the President to urge him to impose sanctions of the Taliban and not recognize
their appalling form of government.