An emotionally exhausted Afghan woman spoke about her nation’s atrocities against women to a sympathetic and tearful crowd Friday night.
The Taliban recently issued a fatwa, or religious edict, ordering Tahmeena Faryal’s death, in part because of her speeches accusing the Taliban and the northern alliance of civil abuses toward women.
Faryal is the foreign affairs representative for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. On Friday, she spoke at the Earl Warren Showgrounds about the current plight of Afghan women. The event raised funds to benefit the reopening of Malalai Hospital in Pakistan.
Faryal talked about the history, achievements and goals of RAWA, and about how the events of Sept. 11 have affected the attitudes and hopes of Afghan women.
“People in Afghanistan have lost everything, but the worst thing they have lost is hope. They are totally hopeless, and that is why there is such a high suicide rate. Our main project is to provide them with hope,” she said.
RAWA has defined three basic goals: to provide health care to women and their children, to educate the women and children of Afghanistan and to generate income for widows who have no one to provide for them.
Founded in 1977, by a woman known as “Meena”– who was assassinated in 1987for her involvement with the group — RAWA was originally formed in resistance to the Soviet invasion. Today, the organization fights the restrictions of fundamentalist groups, including the northern alliance, which the U.S. has backed during the current military campaign in Afghanistan.
“The people of Afghanistan definitely celebrated the destruction of the Taliban, but they do not and will never celebrate the coming of the northern alliance,” Faryal said.
Currently, Afghan women cannot not hold a job or receive an education. In public, they must be accompanied by a close male relative and wear a burqa, a full-length robe that covers the entire body, including the face. If an Afghan woman laughs, speaks out loud or makes noise when walking, she may be publicly whipped. But these laws existed before the Taliban came to power, Faryal said.
After the collapse of Soviet power in 1992, several different fundamentalist groups, now known as the northern alliance, struggled for power. During the struggle, they targeted women and placed limitations on their liberties, Faryal said.
“We don’t see any difference between the Taliban and those fundamentalists. This is not practiced in any other Muslim country in the world, but it is practiced in the name of Islam. It is their own misinterpretation of religion and the Koran,” she said.
Amnesty International described the Afghan situation as “the largest forgotten tragedy of the world.” UNICEF has estimated that the literacy rate of Afghan women is between 3 and 4 percent.
Faryal said RAWA’s dedication to all human rights will further the fight for women’s liberation.
“Until we have our national emancipation, we cannot be an organization for women’s emancipation. We must struggle for human rights and then for women’s rights,” she said.