United Nations officials
say women's human rights are violated in Afghanistan.
"We found official widespread systemic violations of
the human rights of women in the Taliban areas of Afghanistan"
said Radhika Coomaraswany, UN special rapporteur.
In 1996, when the Talibans conquered southern Afghanistan,
they were considered gentle scholars. The Taliban are a group
of soldiers trained in Pakistani Islamic Schools who profess
to be soldiers of pure, fundamentalist Islam and the saviors
of all Muslims. The Taliban's brand of Islam has been termed
un-Islamic and condemned by most Muslim scholars and countries.
Though most countries recognize the Taliban because of their
human rights abuses, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia support the Taliban
with money and supplies. Taliban means, paradoxically, "students
and scholars". It was thought that they were bringing peace
to a war-weary population. Now less than two years after taking
over Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, the Talibs are considered
by the people to be more of an occupying force to the people
than a government.
"Is there no one in the Muslim world to stop the cruel
Taliban from killing innocent people? Who will give me the justice?",
an Afghan woman wrote to a Pakistani newspaper.
Under the Taliban rule women are stripped of their basic rights.
The Taliban follow a strict version of Islam that bars women
from work and education, forces men to wear beards, and bans
all light entertainment, including music.
Women are forced to wear burkas, a head-to-toe cloak covering
their entire bodies, with a small mesh opening for the face.
In public, women must be escorted by a close male relative. A
Taliban representative speaking from the Attorney General's office
in Kabul explained the edict to journalists: "The face of
a woman is a source of corruption for men who are not related
to them". The windows of the homes of widowed women are
painted black so that men cannot see inside.
When the Talibans came to rule, women were forced from their
jobs. Despite a shortage of doctors, qualified women are not
permitted to practice. Instead, the women treat patients in fear,
in back alleys, in basements, wherever the harsh Talibs won't
catch them. Male doctors are not permitted to treat women, even
in extreme circumstances. Many women are left to die because
they do not have access to one of the few women's hospitals.
There are few places where women doctors are allowed to practice.
These hospitals are out of the way, and are impossible to get
to in an emergency. They lack essential equipment and maternity
wards consist of a few beds. Doctors are not permitted to coach
in the birth of babies; birthing women are left alone.
Female children over the age of eight are not allowed to go
to school. Home school is also forbidden to these girls. The
Talibans believe sending girls to school is shameful. In their
minds, they are protecting the honor of women, not infringing
on their rights. 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.
Punishment for not obeying Taliban rule is harsh. Women are
routinely stoned to death for traveling with a man who is not
their close relative. Women have been beaten by the hundreds
for not being dressed properly. This means a public beating if
a strand of hair, a wrist, or an ankle shows from beneath the
burka. Women have been shot for leaving their homes without a
male escort. This includes emergencies such as need of immediate
medical care. Those convicted of stealing under the Talibans
have their hands amputated. Convicted killers are executed by
the relatives of their victims, who also have the authority under
Islam to forgive the criminal and accept blood money instead.
Those convicted of homosexuality are placed in front of a brick
wall and a tank knocks down the wall. After 30 minutes, the rubble
is removed and anyone who survives is acquitted.
Since the Taliban took control of Kabul in September 1996,
they have been calling for international recognition of their
administration. Following the Taliban's capture of Kabul, Pakistan
became the first country to officially recognize the Taliban
administration as the government of Afghanistan. Pakistan is
known to support the Taliban and many observers believe that
this includes military assistance, despite Pakistan's denial
of such assertions.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also formally recognized
the Taliban administration as the government in Afghanistan.
Saudi Arabia is believed to support the ultra-conservative Sunni
militia as a counterweight to the influence of Shiite Iran in
the region. Iran and the neighboring Commonwealth of Independent
States (CIS) have also backed parties in the coalition opposed
to the Taliban.
The Talibans are claiming to be a government. This makes them
responsible to adhere to the International Human Rights Treaties.
Afghanistan has previously approved these treaties including,
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the
International Covenant on Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights;
and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman,
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The civilian population of Afghanistan has suffered many human
rights abuses. Lasting peace and stability will not be achieved
unless those who wield power respect the fundamental human rights
of all Afghanistan's tribal, ethnic and social groups, including