November 2001
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The women of Afghanistan
By: Jessica Paik, Age 17, Surrey, B. C.

You see the faces of Afghan women everywhere these days. Faces that just a short while ago were covered with just an opening so they could see. The plight of Afghan women is now receiving major news coverage around the globe. News reports imply Afghan women are rejoicing at the retreat of the Taliban. In Kabul, women are protesting in the streets. The question is, will their lives be better at the hands of the Northern Alliance or whatever government is put in place in Afghanistan.

Under the Taliban women are stripped of basic human rights. They are barred from work and education, forced to wear burqas, a head-to-toe cloak covering their entire bodies, with a small mesh opening for their face. In public, women must be escorted by a close male relative. The Taliban believe the face of a woman is a source of corruption for men who are not related to them. As well female children over the age of eight are not allowed to go to school or be home schooled. Women and men are stoned to death on the suspicion that they may have committed adultery and persons accused of homosexuality are also punished by death.

The Northern Alliance now poses as advocates of women's rights but are they any better than the Taliban? Amnesty International stated, "The Afghan population is at the mercy of armed political groups. Both the Taliban and Northern Alliance have appalling human rights records. We have the gravest concerns for the people of Kabul who are now at high risk of reprisal attacks and killings."

Last year the United Nations passed a resolution stating that women should have a place at the table in all conflict resolution and peace processes. To date the UN shows no sign of including women in the peace negotiations in Afghanistan.

It appears that nations around the world are concerned about women's rights in Afghanistan. If that is true, they must ensure that women have a seat at the table in negotiations for a new government in Afghanistan.

Once this conflict is over, we must ensure that the women of Afghanistan are not forgotten and are included as active participants in the rebuilding of their country. Let's not let the human rights abuses women in that country have suffered for years continue.


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