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Spotlight on: Afghan Women Still in Urgent Need of Security
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Several months after the overthrow of the Taliban, Afghan women are still unsafe in their own country. There are widespread reports that women, particularly of Pashtun ethnicity, are being subjected to rapes, beatings, kidnappings and other intimidation. Women all over the country still do not feel safe enough to discard their burqas. Lawlessness abounds, the few peacekeeping troops are stationed only in Kabul, and virtually no international aid has yet been received. In such an environment, the Afghan people cannot hope to build a stable society and Afghan women cannot begin to assert the rights denied to them for so long.

At the Afghan Women's Summit for Democracy organised by Equality Now and other international NGOs, in collaboration with the Gender Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and UNIFEM, forty Afghan women leaders came together in Brussels on 4 and 5 December 2001 to think collectively about the future of their country, resulting in the adoption of The Brussels Proclamation, their blueprint for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Delegates of the Summit subsequently met with Secretary of State Colin Powell, members of the United States Congress, the United Nations Security Council and Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

At each meeting, the delegates conveyed the strong message that peace and women's rights in Afghanistan cannot be assured without the guarantee of security. These Afghan women specifically requested that the United Nations Security Council immediately deploy peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan and ensure the disarmament of the warring factions. Several months later, both United Nations representatives and the Afghan Interim Authority are calling for additional security forces to establish law and order in Afghanistan and provide the peace and stability so desperately needed to rebuild the country. Yet the United States Administration has stated very clearly that it opposes the expansion of the international force to other parts of Afghanistan or the scope of its duties.

Current news reports have stories of girls in Kabul returning to school. There are scarce reports of what is happening elsewhere in Afghanistan. The reality is that most buildings in Afghanistan are rubble and there are no resources to rebuild roofs and walls, let alone buy desks or books. Human rights and media commentators have suggested that if the security situation is not addressed urgently and aid does not start flowing to help build the infrastructure so desperately needed, there is a strong risk that Afghanistan will once again degenerate into civil war. In such a situation, there is no hope that Afghanistan can build a strong and stable society or that women will be able to assert even their basic human rights.

Please write to Secretary of State Colin Powell and express concern that the United States Government is not honoring the commitments it has made to support the maintenance of peace and security in Afghanistan. Ask him to assist the women and girls of Afghanistan by supporting the expansion of international peacekeepers in Afghanistan in enough numbers and with a broad enough mandate, extending beyond Kabul, to ensure lasting peace and stability throughout the country.

Please write to Secretary of State Powell at:

Secretary of State Colin Powell
US Department of State
Washington DC 20520
Fax: 202-261-8577
E-mail: Secretary@state.gov

Equality Now, April 2002

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