American Relief Worker Arrested by Taliban Authorities

Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban government has arrested an American relief worker, 72 year-old Mary MacMakin, in an apparent crackdown on organizations that violate the Taliban’s strict gender apartheid policies by employing Afghan women. MacMakin runs an organization called Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Support of Afghan Women (PARSA) that teaches practical farming and crafts skills to Afghan widows. Citing her in connection with “anti-government activities,” Taliban authorities arrested MacMakin along with six Afghan women employees on Sunday, following an edict by the Taliban leadership prohibiting foreign relief organizations from employing Afghan women. Both the State Department and the United Nations are working to win MacMakin’s release and are pressuring the Taliban to ease up on its new edict. Although very few details on MacMakin’s arrest and detention are available, Taliban representatives say she is well. The Taliban reportedly offered to release MacMakin, but she refused to leave her employees behind, and “insisted that the others be freed.” Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal cites MacMakin’s arrest as another example of the Taliban’s strict enforcement of gender apartheid. “Clearly,” she states, “recent reports that the Taliban is easing up on its gender apartheid edicts are false. This latest assault on women’s rights proves that the Taliban leadership is more determined than ever to deny basic human rights to Afghan women and girls.” Since 1996, when the Taliban militia took control of Kabul, women in areas under Taliban rule have been oppressed by a strict system of gender apartheid, under which they have been stripped of their visibility, voice and mobility. The edicts imposed by the Taliban, which have been brutally enforced, banished most women from the work force, closed schools to girls in cities and expelled women from universities, and prohibited women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative.


Washington Post, Tuesday, July 11, 2000

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