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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

February-03-98

U.S. Feminist Organizations and European Parliament Join Forces to End Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan

BRUSSELS -- Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal today joined Emma Bonino, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, other members of the European Parliament, international non-governmental organizations and women from Afghanistan in launching an international campaign, "A Flower for the Women of Kabul," to end gender apartheid in Afghanistan.
"Today, American feminists join with the European Parliament and the international feminist community in expressing our outrage at the situation of women in Afghanistan and in intensifying our campaign to compel the Taliban to cease and desist their abhorrent treatment of women. We cannot stand silently by as Afghan women become victims of inhumane gender apartheid. If this were happening to any other class of people around the world, there would be an international concerted government response. We must make sure human rights standards are applied when it is women and girls who are brutally treated. How can women be safe anywhere if some governments can carry out gender apartheid with impunity?" Smeal said.

"Over thirty national organizations in the United States -- including the YWCA, American Nurses Association, National Organization for Women, and the Council of Presidents which represents all major women's organizations -- and thousands of individuals have joined the Feminist Majority's campaign to stop gender apartheid in Afghanistan. We are demanding that neither the United Nations nor the United States recognize the Taliban government until the human rights of women and girls are restored," added Smeal.

"Moreover, U.S. women's groups are urging American oil and gas companies not to proceed with plans to build a multi-million dollar pipeline from the oil fields of Turmenkistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan until this outrageous gender apartheid is ended in Afghanistan. The price of a pipeline cannot be the enslavement women. Thus far, Unocal, a California-based company, with a 46.5% stake in the pipeline consortium has announced it will not move forward with the project until Afghanistan has an internationally recognized government. But women's groups, which have been credited with stalling the pipeline, must remain vigilant because rumors persist that the pipeline is going forward."

On September 27, 1996, the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic militia group, overthrew the government of Afghanistan and unilaterally declared an end to women's basic human rights. Women can now no longer work outside of the home. Afghan women have been prohibited from working and attending school. The Taliban has since increased restrictions on women, beating women who leave their homes without the required "burqa," a restrictive head-to-toe garment. Women can only leave their homes if they are accompanied by a close male relative. And windows in homes have been painted over so that women cannot be seen from the outside. Women are effectively under house arrest.

Additionally, women are often denied medical care, since they cannot be treated by male doctors. Tens of thousands of families have been thrown into destitution because thousands of Afghan women, widowed during decades of civil war, are prevented from earning a living. "We have heard reports from journalist Jan Goodwin, that girls at the state orphanage in Kabul, already living without a sewage system or adequate food, have not been allowed to go outside of the building since September, 1996. Meanwhile, boys at the same orphanage go outside every day to attend school and to play," said Smeal.

Founded by Smeal in 1987, the mission of The Feminist Majority is to encourage feminists to take power and to win equal representation for women in decision-making in all arenas. Today, the Feminist Majority is one of the most prominent non-government organizations in the United States dedicated to the equality of women. The Feminist Majority's name is its message. Inspired by a 1986 Newsweek/Gallup poll, which showed th

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