Human rights violated in Afghanistan

By Jena Cole
SNN Co-editor
Cole Harbour High School
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

United Nations officials say women's human rights are violated in Afghanistan.

"We found official widespread systemic violations of the human rights of women in the Taliban areas of Afghanistan" said Radhika Coomaraswany, UN special rapporteur.

In 1996, when the Talibans conquered southern Afghanistan, they were considered gentle scholars. The Taliban are a group of soldiers trained in Pakistani Islamic Schools who profess to be soldiers of pure, fundamentalist Islam and the saviors of all Muslims. The Taliban's brand of Islam has been termed un-Islamic and condemned by most Muslim scholars and countries.

Though most countries recognize the Taliban because of their human rights abuses, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia support the Taliban with money and supplies. Taliban means, paradoxically, "students and scholars". It was thought that they were bringing peace to a war-weary population. Now less than two years after taking over Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, the Talibs are considered by the people to be more of an occupying force to the people than a government.


"Is there no one in the Muslim world to stop the cruel Taliban from killing innocent people? Who will give me the justice?", an Afghan woman wrote to a Pakistani newspaper.

Under the Taliban rule women are stripped of their basic rights. The Taliban follow a strict version of Islam that bars women from work and education, forces men to wear beards, and bans all light entertainment, including music.

Women are forced to wear burkas, a head-to-toe cloak covering their entire bodies, with a small mesh opening for the face. In public, women must be escorted by a close male relative. A Taliban representative speaking from the Attorney General's office in Kabul explained the edict to journalists: "The face of a woman is a source of corruption for men who are not related to them". The windows of the homes of widowed women are painted black so that men cannot see inside.

When the Talibans came to rule, women were forced from their jobs. Despite a shortage of doctors, qualified women are not permitted to practice. Instead, the women treat patients in fear, in back alleys, in basements, wherever the harsh Talibs won't catch them. Male doctors are not permitted to treat women, even in extreme circumstances. Many women are left to die because they do not have access to one of the few women's hospitals. There are few places where women doctors are allowed to practice. These hospitals are out of the way, and are impossible to get to in an emergency. They lack essential equipment and maternity wards consist of a few beds. Doctors are not permitted to coach in the birth of babies; birthing women are left alone.

Female children over the age of eight are not allowed to go to school. Home school is also forbidden to these girls. The Talibans believe sending girls to school is shameful. In their minds, they are protecting the honor of women, not infringing on their rights. Women and men are stoned to death on the suspicion that they may have committed adultery and persons accused of homosexuality are also punished by death.

Punishment for not obeying Taliban rule is harsh. Women are routinely stoned to death for traveling with a man who is not their close relative. Women have been beaten by the hundreds for not being dressed properly. This means a public beating if a strand of hair, a wrist, or an ankle shows from beneath the burka. Women have been shot for leaving their homes without a male escort. This includes emergencies such as need of immediate medical care. Those convicted of stealing under the Talibans have their hands amputated. Convicted killers are executed by the relatives of their victims, who also have the authority under Islam to forgive the criminal and accept blood money instead. Those convicted of homosexuality are placed in front of a brick wall and a tank knocks down the wall. After 30 minutes, the rubble is removed and anyone who survives is acquitted.

Since the Taliban took control of Kabul in September 1996, they have been calling for international recognition of their administration. Following the Taliban's capture of Kabul, Pakistan became the first country to officially recognize the Taliban administration as the government of Afghanistan. Pakistan is known to support the Taliban and many observers believe that this includes military assistance, despite Pakistan's denial of such assertions.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also formally recognized the Taliban administration as the government in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia is believed to support the ultra-conservative Sunni militia as a counterweight to the influence of Shiite Iran in the region. Iran and the neighboring Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have also backed parties in the coalition opposed to the Taliban.

The Talibans are claiming to be a government. This makes them responsible to adhere to the International Human Rights Treaties. Afghanistan has previously approved these treaties including, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights; and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The civilian population of Afghanistan has suffered many human rights abuses. Lasting peace and stability will not be achieved unless those who wield power respect the fundamental human rights of all Afghanistan's tribal, ethnic and social groups, including women.