by Dawn Corbett, Internet/Communications Intern
Women under the Taliban rule in Afghanistan cannot leave their homes without a related male escort and they must wear a burqa at all times in public. Aghan women have been injured due to limited visibility while wearing the garment and many have been beaten for not being properly covered. Photo by S. Lyon, AP/World Wide Photos.
Women are increasingly under attack in Afghanistan, Iran and Indonesia, facing draconian restrictions and systematic violence.
"Women around the globe are living under oppressive conditions most of us can only imagine in our worst nightmares," said Vice President Membership Karen Johnson. "It is the duty of women's rights and human rights groups to make the public aware of these atrocities and to pressure the U.S. government and U.S. companies to stand up to those who abuse women's rights and bodies."
Houston Area NOW activists outside Unocal offices in Sugar Land, Texas, protesting the corporation's plans to build a pipeline in Afghanistan that will bring millions of dollars to the Taliban. Photo by Richar Leuchtag.
The Taliban overthrew the Afghan government in 1996 and has implemented strict restrictions on women under the guise of Islamic fundamentalism. Women and girls are not allowed to work or receive education. (Recently, the Taliban allowed widows with no other source of income to work.) They cannot go outside unless accompanied by a male relative and covered in a head-to-toe burqa, and health care is virtually nonexistent. Women have been beaten and killed for going out in public without a male escort.
In the last month, Taliban forces have taken over new ground in Afghanistan, increasing their hold to more than three-quarters of the country. Taliban officials have renewed the call for international recognition of their government, and after the bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Sudan, Secretary of State Madeline Albright stated that their prospects would improve if they ceased harboring terrorist Osama bin Laden, charged with masterminding the attacks.
Unocal, a U.S.-based oil and gas company, plans to build a multi-billion dollar pipeline through Afghanistan that would result in hundreds of millions of dollars for this oppressive regime. D.C. activists picketed Unocal's headquarters and Houston Area NOW demonstrated in front of Unocal's office in Sugar Land, Texas, calling upon the company not to collaborate in gender apartheid in Afghanistan. The Houston chapter had previously picketed Unocal in March; following that protest, the Houston Chronicle published an editorial criticizing corporate support for the Taliban.
Sue Ann Lorig, chair of Houston Area NOW's Task Force on Ending Violence Against Women, stated: "Just as America condemned corporations willing to stoop to doing business with South Africa while apartheid was in effect, America will not tolerate Unocal placing corporate greed above the fundamental rights to education, health care and employment of over half the population of Afghanistan."
In light of recent polticial developments, Unocal has stated that it has suspended all activities involving the pipeline in Afghanistan; however, the company is continuing a skills training program for Afghans-men only-with the University of Nebraska. Should the United States recognize the Taliban, Unocal would likely go forward with construction of the pipeline, regardless of whether or not women's rights were restored.
You can help end the oppression of women and girls in Afghanistan. Check on NOW's web page at www.now.org/issues/global/ for more information. Tell others about the abuses in Afghanistan.
Contact Unocal at email@example.com and urge the company to end its business with the Taliban until the rights of women in Afghanistan are restored. And tell U.S. and U.N. leaders they must help secure basic human rights for women in Afghanistan before any recognition of the Taliban government can occur. (See contact information below.)
The Chinese are frequently the victims of prejudice, especially during periods of political turmoil. With the recent resignation of President Suharto, the Chinese live in fear of violent attacks. Indonesia's Chief of State Intelligence recently claimed that the government has found no evidence that the rapes of at least 168 women took place. Let the global community know that you oppose the failure of the Indonesian government to conduct a thorough investigation of this organized violence against women. (See contact information below.)
The establishment of the ICC will allow international action to be taken in countries where the national government has failed to prosecute very serious crimes. It will be more effective than temporary tribunals which are restricted to one country for a specific length of time.
The U.S. government, however, refused to sign the treaty, arguing for a provision that would essentially guarantee that no U.S. citizen would ever be subject to prosecution by the court. Connect to the Human Rights Watch web site at http://www.hrc.org/ for more information on the ICC.
"NOW is committed to working with feminist and human rights organizations and our government to help bring justice, safety and respect to women around the globe." said Johnson. "No one should accept less."
|Contact the U.S. government about women's rights worldwide: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, 2201 C St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20520 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org); U.N. Ambassador William Richardson, 799 U.N. Plaza, NY, NY 10017 (e-mail: email@example.com).|