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Progress in Afghanistan?

Capricious and selective enforcement of the Taliban’s brutal gender apartheid edicts
is a far cry from restoration of women’s rights."

-- Eleanor Smeal

WASHINGTON, DC In light of a May 11, 1999 Washington Post story on the status of gender apartheid in Afghanistan, the Feminist Majority Foundation -- the organization spearheading the nationwide and worldwide Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid (chaired by Mavis Leno) -- reviewed the status of basic human rights under continued Taliban oppression of women and girls.

"Recent stories show some indications that the Taliban regime is responding to international pressure either by taking small steps to selectively ease some of their draconian restrictions or by trying to create the impression that they are easing the restrictions." said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

"Since the reports show evidence of the Taliban orchestrating, limiting or controlling information available to observers and reporters, we must question the viability of any real improvements in women’s daily lives," said Smeal. "And it is no coincidence that these reports and public relations efforts come to us just as other reports show the Taliban losing ground in the civil war with the Northern Alliance to win control of Afghanistan."


The Feminist Majority Foundation, with the support of more than 130 U.S. organizations, has been urging the United States and the United Nations to withhold recognition of the Taliban until girls’ and women’s human rights are fully and permanently restored. (Currently only three nations recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.)

Smeal also called on the United States to take a prominent role in helping the three million Afghan refugees. "The U.S. must open doors for Afghan women and girls, especially widows and their children and female students," she said, noting that in 1996 and 1997 no Afghan refugees were admitted, and only 88 were allowed to enter the U.S. in 1998. "We also need to provide more humanitarian aid for refugees and for women and girls in Afghanistan," she added.

"The international community must hold the Taliban accountable for their gross violations of women’s human rights by intensifying their supervision of the situation," Smeal said. "We need an independent, international team of human rights monitors to be able to travel freely throughout the country, so we will have access to unbiased reports on the treatment of women and girls and can prevent further human rights atrocities," she said.


Before the Taliban took over Kabul, education had been gender integrated for decades in Afghanistan’s major cities, and both girls and women had educational opportunities. The current system denies women any education and severely limits girls’ education and teachers for both girls and boys.

In Kabul, for example, all women teachers (who made up about 70 percent of the education workforce) have been fired, leaving both boys and girls without instructors. And despite new claims of educational opportunities for girls, the Taliban militia cannot cover-up that, even according to their most recently announced policies, there is no formal education for young girls in Kabul, outside of very limited religious education, which is allowed for about two hours every day. While boys attend regular education classes, girls are sent .


After initially denying all health care to women, by banning them from seeing male doctors and prohibiting female doctors and nurses from practicing medicine, a few hospitals now have separate wards where women are allowed some medical care. Recent Taliban announcements also say they have eased other health care restrictions, and indicate some male doctors may operate on women patients when necessary.

"If this is true, perhaps some women’s and girls’ lives, that would otherwise be lost,

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