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United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed his deep concerns after hearing of “reports that civilians were deliberately targeted and killed during recent fighting in the Yakawlang area of Hazarajat in central Afghanistan.” The United Nations has said that 100 people were killed and one UN Afghan staff person missing after Taliban forces recaptured Yakawlang. However other non-governmental organizations report that some 600 people have been executed at the hands of Taliban forces. Reportedly, Taliban soldiers also looted the area healthcare facilities and murdered of hospital patients and staff. Yakawlang is located in Hazarajat, the home of the ethnic minority group the Hazaras. In a statement released by the UN, Secretary-General Annan called this "only the latest tragedy to befall the Hazaras," a largely Shi'ite ethnic group that has traditionally been the most disadvantaged in Afghanistan.
At Wednesday's Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Secretary of State-Designate Colin Powell, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) asked Powell whether he would continue to make the restoration of the human rights of Afghan women and girls a policy priority. Powell condemned the Taliban's treatment of women and girls as "atrocious, bordering on barbaric" and pledged to make the issue a priority. In the confirmation hearing, Boxer also raised the issues of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and global women's health.
1/17/2001 - No Rights for Women in Kuwait, Court Says
Kuwait’s Constitutional Court, the highest court in the nation, dismissed a case seeking to grant women the right to vote and to run for office. Judge Abdullah Issa, president of the Constitutional Court, stated that women’s “rights are denied” under the current law until the legislature amends it.
The Women’s Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan (WAPHA) has made an international appeal for help and humanitarian aid for Afghan refugees who have fled the brutal Taliban regime and the region’s worst drought. According to reports from the UN and the World Food Program, the drought in Afghanistan has left one million people starving and suffering from severe malnutrition. Nearly half a million Afghan refugees are displaced within Afghanistan and another 70,000 refugees, primarily women and girls, who have fled to the border of Pakistan face unclean drinking water, starvation, no shelter, and are afflicted with disease and hypothermia. According to WAPHA, there are reports that Afghan women, children and men are reduced to eating grass and that many have died. The World Food Program made an urgent appeal for $4.9 million in emergency assistance to help feed Afghan refugees. Despite the severity of the crisis, the international donors have not yet responded to the plea.
Women and girls are fleeing Afghanistan to escape the brutal gender apartheid imposed by the Taliban regime, which strips women of education, employment, and mobility. Learn more about the human rights violations committed by the Taliban, as well as the Feminist Majority Foundation’s efforts to stop gender apartheid in Afghanistan.
What you can do:
Join the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid
Call upon the US Government to release Emergency Funds to help the women and girls of Afghanistan
Urge the US Government and United Nations to work to restore women’s rights in Afghanistan
Learn more about how to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan
Thirteen-year-old Bariya Ibrahim Magazu was charged with having pre-marital sex and making “false” accusations against the three middle-aged men whom she testifies pressured her into sex. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Magazu’s own father had debts with each of the three men and therefore arranged for her to have sex with them as a method of repayment. In court, Magazu was never given the opportunity to face the three men that “pressured” her into having sex, and the corroborating testimony of several witnesses was not admitted into the court. Judge Idris Usman Gusau sentenced Magazu to 100 lashes with a cane for engaging in pre-marital sex, and an additional 80 lashes for making so-called false claims against the three men – in essence, a death sentence. “No human can survive 180 lashes using a cane,” says Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “These are very sad times when the world enters the year 2001 and women are still forced to live under draconian laws.”
URGENT: Take Action to Stop the Flogging
More than 10,000 Afghan women and children who have fled fighting inside Afghanistan and the Taliban’s military advancements, which now control almost 95% of the country, are in makeshift camps along the Pyandi River in the midst of winter. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed grave concern over increasingly poor conditions for the refugees citing “diarrhea, dysentery, and other illness” due to poor shelter, lack of access to clean water, and security for their safety. UNHCR has appealed to Tajikistan to allow fleeing Afghans to seek refuge in the country since the mass displacement of thousands following the Taliban’s capture of Taloqan. More than 100,000 ethnic minorities were reported to have fled Taloqan because of fears of ethnic cleansing by the extremist regime. In September 2000, the same month of the capture of Taloqan, Tajikistan officially closed its borders to Afghanistan and in turn sealed a dismal fate for thousands of refugee women and children.
1/3/2001 - Women Gain Equal Status In German Military
In a remarkable, yet long overdue, social policy change the German military has opened all divisions of its military to women. Until this change, women were only allowed to serve the military in medical staff positions and musical units, totaling approximately 4,460 positions available to them in Germanys’ 320,000-member armed forces. The elimination of gender discriminatory policies in job recruitment within the German military was forced by the European Court of Justice ruling “that a provision of the German constitution restricting the military role of women violated European Union rules on sexual discrimination.” Although the European Court of Justice represents the highest judicial body of the European Union its ruling has done little to change imbedded patriarchal beliefs of women’s role in society especially armed services. A leading German news magazine, Der Spiegel, featured “What to do when women cry?” as a headline of an article discussing the impact of the length of women’s hair and the wearing of jewelry while in uniform on women’s performance and capability in all military divisions.
Afghanistan was rated among the 11 worst countries in terms of democracy and human rights according to a new report by the non-partisan, moderate Freedom House. Afghanistan was listed among the 11 worst nations “in which citizens are denied a broad range of the most basic freedoms,” along with Burma, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmentistan. The report analyzes a number of factors to measure freedom around the world, including autonomy in terms of “gender equality, choice of marriage partners, and size of family” as well as “self-determination, self-government, autonomy, [and] participation” for “cultural, ethnic, religious, and other minority groups.” The report rates the Middle East as the region with the fewest “free” nations. In addition, eight of the worst 11 nations were Islamic-controlled countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and Turkmenistan.
To urge President Clinton to release Emergency Funds to Afghanistan, please visit our action center.
12/20/2000 - UN Imposes Harsh Sanctions on Taliban
The United Nations Security Council has issued an arms embargo and tightened other sanctions against the Taliban, an extremist militia that now controls 95 percent of Afghanistan. The resolution, backed by the United States and Russia, passed by a vote of 13-0 with China and Malaysia abstaining, and bars all countries from supply arms or other military aid to the Taliban. Currently, only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, and Pakistan is suspected to be a leading military supplier for the extremist regime. The resolution also tightens the existing air embargo on the Taliban, freezes Taliban assets overseas, and banned the sale of acetic anhydride, a chemical used to make heroin from poppies, to Afghanistan. Heroin production is one of the main financial sustainers of the Taliban. The UN imposed the measures largely because of the Taliban’s harboring Osama bin Laden, the terrorist suspected of several recent bombings at US embassies.
While some in the international community are concerned that the sanctions will worsen the situation for ordinary Afghans, and will further complicate humanitarian assistance to the region, the sanctions themselves do allow imports of food, medicine, and other much needed supplies. In addition, humanitarian personnel are unaffected by the travel embargo and other measures. Afghanistan, which has the largest refugee population in the world, faces severe drought this winter, and is suffering the results of a decades-long civil war, as well as the draconian edicts of the Taliban, which bar women from education, work, and mobility.
12/13/2000 - Two Girls Win Unprecedented FGM Ban In Kenyan Court
In an unprecedented move, a court order was issued banning the genital mutilation of two teenage girls in one of Kenya’s Rift Province. The courts’ ruling placed an injunction based on the girls “non-consent” that prohibits their father from allowing them to undergo the painful procedure or female genital mutilation (FGM). In another historic step, the court’s magistrate ordered the father to continue to provide financial support to the girls. Ordinarily, in communities where FGM is practiced women that do not undergo the cutting and or removal of their clitoris are shunned.
The practice of female genital mutilation is practiced and celebrated as a girl’s rights of passage in more than 28 countries in Africa, including Syria and Saudi Arabia. It has become increasingly evident among emigrant populations living in Europe and the United States. United Nations statistics estimate that 130 million women in the world have been forced to undergo FGM, and that 2 million more are at risk each year. FGM varies in form, although all are equally severe and harmful to women’s health, ranging from:
clitoridectomy, the removal of prepuce (skin covering the clitoris) and/or the removal of the clitoris;
excision, the removal of the prepuce and clitoris and/or the partial or complete removal of the labia; to
infibulation, the partial or complete removal of external genitalia and stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening. This procedure leaves only a tiny opening, about the size of a pinpoint in some cases, making it extremely painful to urinate and menstruate.
According to United Nations and the Helesnki Federation of Human Rights,some 75,000 Brazilian women have been forced and coerced into sexual trafficking and slavery in the European Union. The UN ranks Brazil as the largest contributor to the sex trade in South America. The trafficking of persons, in particular sex trafficking, is the “third most profitable activity for organized crime” with billion dollar profits made each year at the expense of more than 4 million girls and women who are coerced, bought and sold into marriage, prostitution and slavery.
Women living in Brazil not only face the ever-present threat of abduction and coercion into the global sex trade, but also poor prenatal care. The American Congress on Perinatology in Rio de Janeiro report that at least 6,000 women die annually due to pregnancy related complications. Although 91% of women who live in Rio’s urban areas report that they received prenatal care, 50% of whom never received a pelvic examination and 10% of pregnant women did not have their blood pressure checked.
In January 2001, the morning-after pill will be available without a prescription for women ages 16 and up at local pharmacies throughout the United Kingdom. The pills' availability is in part due to major governmental plans to halve teenage pregnancy rates by the year 2010. The laws governing the distribution of the pill requires a pharmacist to be present before dispensing the drug. The morning-after pill is a form of emergency contraception, a dosage of 4 pills taken in pairs 12 hours a part, which can be used to prevent pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. Yet this visible victory for women’s reproductive rights is without heavy criticism from anti-abortionists and other opponents. In a statement released by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the church condemned the government’s actions on lessening restrictions to the pills’ availability, citing that “to allow teenagers to buy this morning-after pill so freely and without a doctor’s supervision is misguided and potentially wrong.”
LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.
12/11/2000 - Historic “Comfort Women’s” Trial Underway In Tokyo
For the first time in history, claims of forced servitude and rape made by more than 200,000 women during World War II in Japan are heard before a symbolic court lead by Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, former president of International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Women from North and South Korea, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor gathered in Tokyo to demand an official apology and compensation from the Japanese government for its system of using “comfort women” to serve the Japanese Imperial Army. “Comfort Women” survivors told stories during the tribunal of being abducted as early as age 15, beaten, harassed and forced to have sexual intercourse with up to 20 men a day. Testimonies from the survivors included reports that many women were left without any money, no transportation home and ostracized from their communities after Japan’s defeat in World War II. Today, there are approximately 1,988 survivors of the comfort system with 90 percent of whom suffering from physical and psychological damage.
The last stage of the Tokyo Tribunal ends today with a public hearing involving testimonies from 14 women in areas, including Afghanistan, Mexico and Sierra Leone, where recent war crimes were committed against women.
The Brandeis University Leadership Alliance organized a presentation on the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan to a group of over one hundred high school students. Inspired by the presentation, many of the students are now participating in the Back-to-School program and working with Brandeis to establish a Mentoring Program. Good work!
Congratulations to the Leadership Alliances at SUNY Stonybrook, University of North Texas, St. Mary's College (MD) and Goucher for organizing successful fundraisers for the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan. The FMLA at the U of N. Texas hosted a benefit concert, raising over 900 dollars for the campaign and the Leadership Alliance at SUNY Stonybrook also raised over nine hundred dollars, selling Afghan crafts and swatches!
Stonybrook and Nrandeis are two of over 240 Action Teams participating in the campaign's "Adopt-a-School" Project to provide resources and educational opportunities to Afghan women and girls. As women and girls return to schools throughout the United States, Afghan women and girls continue to be barred from education. The Feminist Majority Foundation's Back to School Campaign supports Afghan girls' schools, recruit scholarships for Afghan women at U.S. colleges and universities, and petition for increased humanitarian aid to Afghan women's organizations.
Get involved in the Back-to-School Campaign!
Many Leadership Alliances joined in the "16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GENDER VIOLENCE," a campaign of the Global Campaign for Women's Human Rights. The "16 Days" was coordinated by the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University nine years ago and highlights four significant dates: International Day Against Violence Against Women (November 25th), World AIDS Day (December 1st), the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when a man stormed into the University of Montreal's engineering school and killed 14 young women in a hate-filled rampage (December 6th), and International Day of Human Rights (December 10th).
The Leadership Alliances at the University of Rochester organized many events during the 16 Days of Activism, including fundraisers and visibility actions. The Leadership Alliance at East Stroudsburg held a Candlelight Vigil and garnered support from over 18 radio stations that agreed to help make the public aware of the violence against women by playing specific pro-women songs during the 16 days of activism.
Interested in participating in a global campaign to end violence against women? To participate in the V-Day "Stop Rape" Contest to End Violence Against Women, visit www.feminist.org/Global/vdayentry.html
12/11/2000 - Celebrate Roe!
January 22nd marks the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States. To recognize the importance of this historic case, the Choices Campaign and Feminist Majority Leadership Alliances will be celebrating the anniversary nationwide! Join thousands of students and community activists around the country as we honor the importance of abortion rights in our fight for equality.
Contact a member of the Campus Team at email@example.com or toll-free at 866-444-3652 to request a Roe v. Wade action kit and watch for FMF's Roe v. Wade Day website coming soon!
12/7/2000 - Gender Crimes Remembered In Montreal Massacre
On December 6th, women across Canada gathered to mark the eleven-year anniversary of a mass shooting that killed fourteen female engineering students. The person behind the gun on December 6, 1989 at École Polytechnique in Montreal that marked Canada’s worst mass shooting in history, was Marc Lepine, who authorities charge targeted the engineering students solely because of their gender.
According to findings released by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS), 64% of women reported feeling somewhat or very worried while waiting for or using public transportation alone after dark; 51% of all Canadian women have been victims of at least one act of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16; and women account for 85% of all reported sexual-assault crimes.
Women’s rights organizations across the globe have organized major campaigns to stop violence against women and raise awareness about the numbers of women assaulted, harassed and murdered everyday simply because of their gender. The Status of Women Canada has organized to urge elected officials to pass tougher laws that will bring to justice perpetrators of gender crimes and sexual assault. December 6th was declared the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women by the Canadian parliament in lieu of the Montreal Massacre.
12/7/2000 - Aung San Suu Kyi Receives U.S. Medal of Freedom
Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy who won the 1990 free elections in Burma (Myanmar), was honored by U.S President Bill Clinton with the highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom. Due to more than six years of house imprisonment by the Myanmar military, Suu Kyi was unable to receive the award in person, instead her son accepted her award on her behalf in Washington. Suu Kyi is the first Southeast Asian woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, yet from 1989 to 1995 and since September 2000 she has lived under house arrest. President Clinton saluted Suu Kyi’s bravery, commenting that “she has seen her supporters beaten, tortured and killed, yet she has never responded to violence and hatred in kind.”
A 17-year-old pregnant Nigerian girl was sentenced to 180 lashes (flogging) between forty days and two months after delivery for her so called disobedience to Islamic Sharia law. The 17-year old stated before the Islamic Court, along with seven corroborating witnesses, that she had been forced into having sex with three middle-aged men from her village. The Court upheld their flogging sentence citing that the 17-year-old “had not provided enough proof and found her guilty of sex before marriage and making unproven allegations against the men.”
The European Parliament requested all member states in the European Union to withhold non-humanitarian economic support from the Taliban and urge Pakistan to immediately stop its military support to the regime. The Parliament cites the inhumane “ideology of the Taliban” as the reason for widespread human rights abuses in Afghanistan.
The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan urges all nations to not officially recognize the Taliban until the human rights of girls and women in Afghanistan are restored. In addition, the Campaign emphasizes the need for the Pakistani government, and other countries that support the Taliban, to hault their supply of arms and soldiers to the Taliban.
Republicans in the United States House of Representatives and Senate, led by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms, have announced their plans to not ratify the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, making it a “top legislative priority” for next year. (For a treaty to become law in the U.S., it must be approved by 2/3 of the Senate.) The ICC would serve as a breakthrough for the ongoing protection of women's rights by providing a mechanism for bringing to justice perpetrators of inhumane crimes against women and girls. It would be the first international legal court to include in its mandate the prosecution of gender crimes as crimes against humanity.
The 1998 "Rome Treaty" strengthens the Nuremberg principle of personal responsibility for atrocities regardless of rank or status to include crimes against women. Article 7 of the Rome Statute presents clear language defining gender crimes including rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; and crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Under Article 7, women living under the Taliban’s system of gender apartheid, women who suffered in rape camps during the Kosovo conflict and women who served as “comfort” to Japanese soldiers during World War II would have for the first time in international law a Court that would bring to justice these criminals.
The U.S. has spearheaded a series of proposals that seeks a 100 percent exemption for U.S. military personnel and nationals from the ICC's jurisdiction. However, the U.S. position is not necessary since the Rome Statute already includes safety provisions that would protect U.S. military personnel and nationals from so called politically charged suits filed before the ICC. Under the Rome Statute for the ICC, the Court would only have jurisdiction to hear cases when national courts are unable to provide a fair trial or when national judicial courts systems do not exist. Nearly every U.S. NATO ally has signed the Rome Statute for the ICC. Republican leaders who opposed the ICC and have pledged to block its ratification have also served to block the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Estimates indicate that at least 50,000 women are brought into the United States for sexual exploitation alone and internationally, over 700,000 women and girls are forced into sexual slavery. Lured by promises of a better life, job opportunities and escape from economically depressed areas, women from South Asia and Eastern Europe respond to advertisements promising work either as waitresses, barmaids, or childsitters abroad that turns out to be employment in the sex trade.
A feminist coalition in the United States, including Equality Now, Sisterhood Is Global Institute, the National Organization for Women, and the Feminist Majority, have campaigned to urge the U.S. government to pass greater protection laws for the lives and human rights of women and girls trafficked in the global sex trade. After months of political stalling by the Republicans in the US Senate, on October 20th Senators voted unanimously to pass the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. The legislation authorizes $94.5 million for victims of sex trafficking and slavery, and toughens current federal maximum penalties for sex traffickers. As one step further, bill specifies the U.S. to withhold certain aid from governments who fail to enforce anti-sex trafficking provisions.
In other regions, organizations in Russia have taken on this serious problem, holding a November conference with 43 anti-trafficking organizations from 25 regions of Russia and six former Soviet republics. Some organizers of the conference believe that around 90% of women trafficked abroad are unaware that they will be in the sex industry. The United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women denounced the increase of sex trafficking in Austria, Lithuania, Moldova and Romania. The Interior Ministry of Macedonia has begun to address this epidemic in European countries by strengthening the customs services at its borders and collaborating with neighboring countries to fight the organized sex-trafficking business.
11/30/2000 - Taliban Policies Hurt Aid Delivery to Women
The United Nations condemned the Taliban's severe restrictions on women as both human rights violations and imptediments to the delivery of humanitarian aid. The Taliban regime has prohibited women and girls from attending school, banned their employment, and forbid them from leaving their homes without a close male relative. Some UN agencies had won permission for limited numbers of women to work in aid delivery programs, but a July decree totally forbade the employment of Afghan women by humanitarian agencies outside of the health sector and has created a major obstacle in the provision of assistance to women. "Since onl women can work with women, [and] agencies that target vulnerable women must use the services of Afghan women to reach them," said Mike Sackett, Acting UN
Coordinator for Afghanistan.
Declaring the plight of Afghans, and in particular Afghan women, a major humanitarian concern, the United Nations this week issued a $229 million appeal for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.
Within the next week, the United Nations Security Council will consider an arms embargo on the Taliban. The embargo would pressure Pakistan to halt the flow of arms to the Taliban regime.
11/28/2000 - Taliban Military Gains Will Not Win UN Recognition
Despite the Taliban’s military conquests throughout Afghanistan, the terrorist regime’s continual violations of the human rights of Afghanistan women and girls are among the factors that will continue to prevent the militia from achieving official international recognition. UN special envoy on Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell said, “I think the Security Council continues to believe and to state that there must not be a military solution; and that military gains will not be a ticket to international recognition. There has to be progress on issues like terrorism, drug production, human rights and gender issues, before there is full engagement by the international community with the Taliban.”
11/27/2000 - Pakistan Refuses To Reopen Border
Pakistan refuses to reopen its border with Afghanistan, which it closed on November 10, 2000. The Taliban’s military advances, policies of gender apartheid and genocide and one of the worst drought in the regions history have caused ten of thousands of refugees to flee to Pakistan in recent weeks. Minister for Kashmir Affairs, Abbas Sarfraz stated at a news briefing that Pakistan cannot handle the problem of Afghan refugees on its own and that greater financial help from the international community is needed. Meanwhile, there are reports that Pakistan is still actively allowing some refugees with certain documents or of Pashtun ethnicity to enter the country.
More than three million of Afghan refugees are currently living in Pakistan. Pakistan officials report that they are now “overburdened” by the influx and will not allow any more refugees to cross the border. Those refugees that have been displaced inside Afghanistan face continued hardships as winter approaches, and as snow makes roads impassable, hindering the transport of aid. The World Food Programme has predicted that as many as 1 million Afghans could face starvation this winter. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that more than 36,000 Afghan refugees fled during the month of October alone. Other reports indicate that this number could be well over 45,000. After the Taliban take over of Taloqan, more than 150,000 persons living in the city were reported to have been displaced.