Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged that the United States will not abandon Afghan women and girls today as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is visiting the United States.
According to the Associated Press, Clinton told three senior women Afghan officials who were traveling with Karzai that “We will not abandon you, we will stand with you always.” Clinton also said it is “essential that women’s rights and women’s opportunities are not sacrificed or trampled on in the reconciliation process.” Her statements indicate that the US will not support reconciliation with Taliban militants unless they “respect women’s rights,” renounce the Taliban, and abide by the country’s laws, reported the Canadian Press.
In February 2010, Dr. Sima Samar, who leads Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission and Rachel Reid of Human Rights Watch, among others, testified before two subcommittees of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and warned that Afghan women must be included in the reconciliation and reintegration process. Samar stated that the “reconciliation and reintegration cannot be successful without women’s rights and human rights being guaranteed and women being included in all aspects of the rebuilding of Afghanistan. The process must be transparent in order to gain the public support of the Afghan people.” Reid reported that women in Afghanistan “are concerned about the potential consequences of deals with insurgents for their basic rights – even those who are barely able to exercise these rights today.”
Just this week, there were more reports of alleged gas attacks on Afghan schoolgirls and teachers. Dozens of Afghan girls at a school in northern Kunduz Province and at least six from Kabul were sickened. It is unclear if the Taliban were behind the most recent attacks. The Taliban has denied involvement in these attacks, but the government is blaming the attacks on rebels who oppose educating women and girls. Other similar attacks were reported just last week and at least 88 schoolgirls and teachers became ill after similar suspected poison gas attacks at schools in Kunduz Province in April 2010 . In May 2009, more than 150 students were hospitalized after three separate incidents where students became ill soon after reporting strong odors.
In Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, violence against schools that educate girls has been a key part of campaigns against the education of women. In Pakistan’s Swat Valley, more than 130 primarily all girl schools have been destroyed, allegedly by the Taliban. In total, hundreds of schools have been destroyed in Pakistan’s northwest region over the past several years. During the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which lasted until 2001, Afghan girls were forbidden to attend school. To date, more than 1,000 girls’ or co-educational schools have been bombed or burned in Afghanistan.