Afghanistan’s Taliban militia group leaders met with their northern opponents this weekend for peace talks brokered by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson and sponsored by the U.N. and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Taliban and northern opposition leaders agreed to discuss a cease-fire, possible prisoner exchange and the resolution of the Taliban’s human rights violations that are leading to a decrease in international humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, according to U.N. official James Ngobi.
Taliban leader Mohammad Omar said he believed peace in Afghanistan rested on finding a religious rather than a political solution to the conflict. The Taliban militia group gained control of the Afghan capital city of Kabul in September of 1996 and currently controls 85 percent of the country. Since the takeover, Taliban leaders have inflicted decrees that violate women’s human rights, including forbidding women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a husband, brother or son, prohibiting girls from obtaining an education and restricting women’s access to healthcare. From media reports, it was unclear whether restoration of women’s rights was discussed in the first day of negotiations.
Last week, President Clinton met with the President of Turkmenistan. The leaders discussed improving relations between the two countries and creating a transnational pipeline that would pass through Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. A U.S.-based oil and gas company, Unocal, holds a 46.5 percent stake in the pipeline, which could earn the Taliban militia group $50 to $100 million a year.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .