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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

May-22-01

Taliban Retaliates After U.S. Humanitarian Aid Package

“Religious Police” Terrorize Hospital, Close Bread Bakeries and UN Offices

The same day U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced $43 million in aid to Afghanistan, Taliban “religious police”—The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice—raided a hospital in Kabul, claiming that male and female personnel were “mixing” illegally. Just two days later, the religious police shut down several of the World Food Program bread bakeries that employed Afghan women. And yesterday, the Taliban closed four UN offices that were instrumental to peacekeeping efforts in the country.

“How long is the civilized world going to stand by and watch this barbaric regime destroy the lives of millions of Afghan women and children?” asked Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “We were energized with last week’s $43 million humanitarian aid package, but clearly more help is needed from the international community.”

One million people are at risk of famine in Afghanistan and millions more are in the most desperate poverty imaginable, according to the United Nations. The Taliban’s barbaric rule, the most severe drought in decades, sub-zero temperatures this past winter, military incursions which have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and a lack of humanitarian aid have created a crisis in Afghanistan. As many as 800,000 people are displaced and without homes and food; hundreds of thousands have crossed the border to neighboring Pakistan in search of relief, only to find death and starvation in refugee camps.

“How are so many Afghans supposed to eat if the Taliban keeps closing the bread bakeries that are barely keeping women and their families alive?” added Smeal. “And now the peacekeeping agencies that risk their lives every day to help save Afghan women and children are being ordered to close their doors and go home. Who is going to help the millions of displaced, starving, and sick?”

Over 190 women's and human rights organizations join The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan in imploring the United States and the United Nations to do everything in its power to help restore the rights of Afghan women and girls. The Campaign, chaired by Mavis Leno, continues to press the U.S. government to deny the Taliban recognition until the rights of women and girls are fully and permanently restored, to increase humanitarian assistance directed to Afghan women and children, and to increase refugee admission of women and girls fleeing the brutal gender apartheid regime.

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