Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke candidly on the Senate floor yesterday about the suffering of Afghan women under the Taliban and urged the U.S. to intensify its efforts to restore Afghan women’s rights. Wearing a Symbol of Remembrance, a small square of mesh through which Afghan women must see, Reid acknowledged that women were the Taliban’s first victims, and that the Taliban’s brutal system of gender apartheid had “nothing to do with religion” but “everything to do with power.” Reid also called for women’s participation in the reconstruction process, strongly stating, “Women must play a role in the rebuilding of post-Taliban Afghanistan.”
Reid spoke at length about the decrees under which Afghan women have lived and their efforts to resist the Taliban. Women have been barred from work, school, and public baths and are not allowed to leave their homes without a close male relative and without wearing the burqa shroud. Many women, however, do not have close male relatives, such as a brother or husband, because of war that has spanned more than two decades. Kabul alone has over 40,000 widows. In spite of the Taliban, massive poverty, and the threat of reprisal, including execution, women have attempted to maintain some semblance of civil society by running clandestine home schools and providing rudimentary health services.
The Feminist Majority provided Sen. Reid with 100 Symbols of Remembrance, which will be distributed to every member of the Senate. To find out how you can get involved, or to acquire the symbol, log on to www.HelpAfghanWomen.com.