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AFGHANISTAN: UN Envoy Denounces Taliban Abuse Of Women
UN Wire, Monday, 13 September, 1999
A UN envoy "harshly criticized" Afghanistan's Taliban regime Sunday for the "widespread, systematic and officially sanctioned abuse of women," the AssociatedPress reports.
"Never have I seen a people suffering as much as in Afghanistan," said UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Radhika Coomaraswamy at the end of a two-week investigation. Calling the Taliban's Ministry of Vice and Virtue "the most misogynist department in the whole world," she urged international pressure to force its dissolution. Ministry employees, armed with rifles, patrol the streets of Kabul in pickup trucks looking for women violating Taliban edicts, which forbid them from working, attending school, going outside except in the company of male relatives and wearing white socks. Violators are publicly beaten, sometimes with radio antennae ripped off nearby vehicles, but usually "with what looks like a leather cricket bat," Coomaraswamy said. After interviewing scores of Afghan women -- both in Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan, where tens of thousands live as refugees -- Coomaraswamy concluded that discrimination against women is official policy in Afghanistan.
In Kabul, increasing numbers of women are begging, she said. Clinical depression is rampant among women confined to their homes, and she heard reports of forced marriage, prostitution and sexual assault. "The situation looks very bleak in terms of poverty, in terms of war, in terms of the rights of women," she said (Associated Press/CNN Online, 13 Sep).
UN: Abuse of women in Taliban areas officially sanctioned
September 13, 1999
Web posted at: 4:43 AM HKT (2043 GMT)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- TheUnited Nations human rightsinvestigator on Sunday harshly criticized Afghanistan's Taliban religious army for the widespread, systematic and officially sanctioned abuse of women. Accusing the Taliban's Ministry of Vice and Virtue of deep discrimination against women, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, called for international pressure to force its dissolution.
"The Ministry of Vice and Virtue is the most misogynist department in the whole world," Coomaraswamy told reporters at the end of a two-week investigation.
The ministry has banned women from working and going to school. It forces them to wear the all-encompassing burqua outfit. It demands they travel outside their home only in the company of close male relatives. Women are even forbidden from wearing white socks.
While discrimination against women exists throughout the world, in Afghanistan it is official policy, Coomaraswamy said. Her investigation included interviews with scores of Afghan women, both in Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan, where tens of thousands live as refugees.
Ministry employees, armed with rifles, patrol the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, in pickup trucks, looking for women violating the edicts.
Violators are publicly beaten, sometimes with radio antennae ripped off nearby vehicles, but usually "with what looks like a leather cricket bat," Coomaraswamy said.
The Taliban have imposed their harsh brand of Islamic law on the 90 percent of Afghanistan they rule. Islamic scholars elsewhere say that the Taliban's laws are based more on tribal traditions than the Koran, Islam's holy book.
While visiting areas controlled by Afghanistan's opposition, led by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Coomaraswamy said she was shown a girls school and was told of the opposition's support for women.
However, she pointed out that when Rabbani ruled Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996 bitter fighting between factions destroyed 70 percent of Kabul and included "some of the worst violence against women in a war."
In Kabul, increasing numbers of women are begging, Coomaraswamy said. Clinical depression is rampant among women confined to their homes. There were reports of forced marriages and prostitution, she said.
On the Shomali Plains north of Kabul, women were taken from their homes, separated from their husbands and moved to camps, she said. There also were reports of sexual assaults that Coomaraswamy said had to be further investigated.
Relentless war and poverty also have contributed to the dismal conditions in Afghanistan, she said. "Never have I seen a people suffering as much as in Afghanistan," Coomaraswamy said. "The situation looks very bleak in terms of poverty, in terms of war, in terms of the rights of women."
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