Many Vie for Control over Post-Taliban Afghanistan; Women’s Lives Hang in the Balance
Already in the media, debate has begun about what and who would constitute a post-Taliban Afghan government. Some favor allowing Afghanistan’s former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, negotiate a new representative government by calling a loya jirga, a grand assembly that could possibly determine Afghanistan’s new leadership if the Taliban is ousted. The Taliban has held the Afghan people hostage since 1996 and has instituted a brutal system of gender apartheid where women are denied basic human rights such as education, adequate medical attention, and the right to work.
Some former heads of factions in the mujahideen, are now vying for seats in the loya jirga. Pashtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who received U.S. and Pakistani military aid as a member of the mujahideen during Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan, is one such leader. Hekmatyar, also know as the “Butcher of Kabul” by many Afghans, is a vicious warrior who fought for control of Kabul before the Taliban seized power. His political party opposed women’s rights and targeted women’s rights leaders in Afghanistan as well as attacked women on the streets of Pakistan in the early 1990s.
The Feminist Majority has called for the restoration of Afghan women’s rights and the establishment of a multi-ethnic constitutional democracy in Afghanistan where women have full representation and a voice in the creation of this new government. “We cannot allow history to repeat itself,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. “Afghan women winning their freedom and rights is essential for restoring a stable, productive Afghan society that does not harbor terrorism. We cannot allow one fundamentalist extremist group to be replaced with another.”
For more information on the Feminist Majority’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan, and to find out how you can help, log on to www.HelpAfghanWomen.com.
Media Resources: Washington Post, 10/5/01; Feminist Majority