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September 2001

The Women’s Times

A Joint Publication of the Commission on the Status of Women and the Women’s Studies Program

Indiana, Pennsylvania 15705

Issues 1 & 2

September 2001

Beginning in September 2001, The Women’s Times was published in two shorter issues. Largely an effort to get out the information to our readers in a more timely manner, issues 1 and 2 of TWT for September 2001 were focused on providing details about upcoming Women’s Studies programs, resources for new and returning IUP students, and other items of interest. With the tragic events of the September 11 terrorist attack on America occuring in the midst of our work towards Issue 2, Jess Donald, TWT student editor, contributed an opinion piece that is also filled with important facts about the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, and the situation of women under that rule.

From Here to the Taliban

By Jess Donald

I will admit, first of all, that being able to live a place that allows me to write this kind of article makes me proud to be an American, but what we ignored as a country does not.  The Taliban was created and installing itself in Afghanistan in 1996.  We let it happen, our country saw the injustice, but few reported this and even fewer knew the background of this horrendous militia group.   Currently we are going into this area, not to stop the pain and discrimination there, but to satiate our own needs.  I also mourn for those lost, but infiltration of militia groups thought to be funded by bin Ladan should have been done long ago.  I take these pages to give you information and ask you to pass it on.  Many of us are aware of the situation, others are not - please educate to eradicate. What follows are a few documents that made me aware of the Taliban five years ago: I urge you to continue to end the ignorance that is so apparent in our society.  I compiled all of my information from The Feminist Majority archives, at www.feminist.org and it is my hope that all of you to watch this situation, learn about it, educate yourself, step outside your classrooms and open your minds.

On September 27, 1996, the Taliban, an extremist militia, seized control of the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, and violently plunged the occupied territories of Afghanistan into a brutal state of gender apartheid in which women and girls have been stripped of their basic human rights.

Gender Apartheid - The Elimination of Women’s Rights

Upon seizing power, the Taliban instituted a system of gender apartheid effectively thrusting the women of Afghanistan into a state of virtual house arrest. Under Taliban rule women have been stripped of their visibility, voice, and mobility. When they took control in 1996, the Taliban initially imposed strict edicts that:

  • Banished women from the work force
  • Prohibited women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative
  • Closed schools to girls in cities and expelled women from universities
  • Ordered the publicly visible windows of women’s houses painted black
  • Women are to wear the burqa (or chadari) - which completely shrouds the body, leaving only a small mesh-covered opening through which to see.
  • Prohibited women and girls from being examined by male physicians while at the same time, prohibited most female doctors and nurses from working. (Currently there are a few, selected female doctors allowed to operate in segregated wards.)

Women have been brutally beaten, publicly flogged, and killed for violating Taliban decrees. Even after international condemnation, the Taliban has made only slight changes. Some say it is progress that a few women doctors and nurses are working, even while hospitals still have segregated wards for women; that in Kabul and other cities, a few home schools for girls operate, although only in secret. In addition, women who conduct home schools are risking their lives or a severe beating. But the overall reality of the tragic plight of Afghan women and girls has remained virtually unchanged.

Gender Apartheid -- The Reality of Women and Girls 

  • A woman who defied Taliban orders by running a home  school for girls was killed in front of her family and friends.
  • A woman caught trying to flee Afghanistan with a man not related to her was stoned to death for adultery.
  • An elderly woman was brutally beaten with a metal cable until her leg was broken because her ankle was accidentally showing from underneath her burqa.
  • Women have died of curable ailments because male doctors were not allowed to treat them.
  • Two women accused of prostitution were publicly hung.

Taliban Law Is In Opposition To Islam

Prior to the Civil War and Taliban control, especially in Kabul, the capital, women in Afghanistan were educated and employed: 50% of the students and 60% of the teachers at Kabul University were women, and 70% of school teachers, 50% of civilian government workers, and 40% of doctors in Kabul were women.

The Taliban claim to follow a pure, fundamentalist Islamic ideology, yet the oppression they perpetrate against
women has no basis in Islam.  Within Islam, women are allowed to earn and control their own money, and to participate in public life. The 55-member Organization of Islamic Conference has refused to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s official government. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, regarded by many as an ultraconservative organization, has denounced the Taliban’s decrees.

Who is the Taliban?

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980’s the United States through a CIA covert operation based in Pakistan supplied billions of dollars to support insurgent militia forces called the mujahideen (soldiers of God). Following the Soviets’ withdrawal in 1989, factions of the mujahideen fell into a civil war and in 1994, the Taliban emerged as a dominant force.

The Taliban is comprised of young men and boys of Afghan descent who have hardly lived in Afghan society. They were raised in refugee camps and trained in ultraconservative religious schools (madrasahs) in Pakistan. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates are the only countries that have granted the Taliban official recognition.

In addition, thousands of Pakistanis and hundreds or Arabs fight alongside the Taliban. Pakistan is the primary source of support to the Taliban, supplying military aid and personnel; Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and known terrorist organizations provide the Taliban with financial support. Additionally, Afghanistan is the one of the world’s two largest producers of opium and a major drug-processing center; almost all areas of poppy cultivation are occupied by the Taliban. But perhaps the biggest potential for financial support lies in the petroleum industry.

The Taliban is sheltering Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden. In turn, bin Laden is providing substantial support to the Taliban as reported by The Guardian on September 5, 2001. Arab fighters funded by bin Laden have become increasingly influential with the Taliban and are building a foreign alliance to expand the Taliban’s extremist version of Islam, according to aid workers and political analysts. Arab mercenaries have already participated in civilian massacres against minority Shia Muslims in central Afghanistan earlier this year, and Islamic aid agencies, at least one of which is believed to be funded by bin Laden, have recently set up offices in Kabul.

U.S. Corporate Interests and the Taliban

International oil interests are in fierce competition to build pipelines through Afghanistan to link Caspian Sea oil and gas reserves to Central and South Asia. California-based UNOCAL, a US energy company, led the CentGas consortium that planned to build an oil and gas pipeline through Afghanistan. The Taliban stood to gain over $100 million a year from this pipeline. UNOCAL announced it was suspending the project at the end of 1998, citing in part, pressure from feminist organizations protesting the company’s involvement with the Taliban.

Other US and international corporate interests are vying for business in the country. Recently, Telephone Systems International (TSI), a New Jersey-based telecommunications firm, reached an agreement with the Taliban to install a satellite-based system throughout Afghanistan. Corporate investment under current conditions could mean billions of dollars to shore up the Taliban regime without regard for women’s rights.

The Humanitarian Crisis

Millions of people in Afghanistan are in the most desperate poverty imaginable. Added to the Taliban’s barbaric rule, the region is suffering under the most severe drought in decades and military incursions continue to displace hundreds of thousands of Afghans. As the U.N. asks for humanitarian assistance from the nations around the world, the Taliban puts impossible restrictions on the international organizations that are trying to deliver food and medicine to desperate Afghans. Workers for international aid organizations are continually harassed, subjected to unreasonable restrictions, and even arrested, by the Taliban.

Afghan refugees, who comprise the largest refugee population in the world today, are facing insurmountable odds. Both Iran and Pakistan are forcing Afghan refugees to return to Afghanistan to almost certain death. A ship with hundreds of Afghan refugees rescued by the crew of a Norwegian ship became an international pariah as the government of Australia refused assistance while the ship, crowded with many ill and starving refugees, sat within view of residents of Australia’s Christmas Island.

The Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid

In 1997, The Feminist Majority launched the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan to urge the US government and the U.N. to do everything in their power to restore the human rights of Afghan women and girls. Chaired by Mavis Leno, the Feminist Majority Foundation’s campaign has brought together more than 200 leading human rights and women’s organizations to condemn the Taliban’s human rights abuses against women and girls and to put pressure on the U.S. and U.N. to end gender apartheid in Afghanistan.The Campaign has been successful in increasing public awareness about the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan, preventing U.S. and U.N. recognition of the Taliban, increasing the admission of Afghan women and girls as refugees and increasing humanitarian aid to the region.

Some introductions…

Welcome back!  My name is Jess Donald and I am the student editor this year of The Women’s Times.  I wanted to take some time to extend a warm welcome to new faces and to those returning ones.  The Women’s Times will be set up a little differently this year and we need YOUR help!!!  Specifically if you would like to write for the Women’s Times or have an event you would like to include in our issue, please get in contact with us.  Instead of having one issue a month, we are going to try to do a smaller issue every two weeks.  This will help bring our publication to you more timely, so you don’t miss ANY events this year!!!!  If you have any ideas, questions or would like to write for us, please call the Women’s Studies Office at 357-4753 or email me at Jeagasse@gURLmail.com. GOOD LUCK!

Hi! My name is Aleisha Cheatle and I am the Graduate Assistant to the Women’s Studies Program.  This fall marks the beginning of my third year at IUP – I am currently a PhD/Literature and Criticism student.   As an undergraduate, the knowledge, friendship, and insights I gained as a Women’s Studies minor were central to both my academic and personal growth.  Now, I am delighted to have the chance to share the Women’s Studies program with others through my work as a Graduate Assistant.  I will be responsible for assisting with programs, maintaining our web page and supporting the Women’s Studies program in every way. As a member of the Women’s Studies Program Committee, I plan to take part in the ongoing process of planning and shaping Women’s Studies. If I can assist you, or if you have any ideas for the web page and for Women’s Studies, please email me at: womens_studies@aleisharenee.com.

Dana Jerman, an English major, will be reviewing feminist art and music this year!   Dana has participated in many Women’s Studies events and created a few of her own.  She is an amazing poet and artist.  This multi-talented woman will be a great addition to our upcoming issues! We are very enthusiastic to have her on our staff this year!  Her first article will be coming out soon, so keep your eyes open.  If you have any suggestions feel free to give us an email!

Hello, my name is Katharine Bates.  I am beginning my third year at I.U.P.  I am an art history major, and I learned of the Women’s Times through a women’s studies/art history class I participated in last year.  I have always felt strongly that women should pull together and identify with who they are and who they can be.  My mother has been an unconditional support to me in that capacity.  I feel that every woman should have a secure role model like my mother around.   All of the articles and stories that she has shown me over the years led me to believe that it is important for women to share ideas.  I look forward to becoming an active member of this year’s staff.

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