One million people are at risk for famine in Afghanistan and millions more are in the most desperate poverty imaginable, according to the United Nations. The Taliban’s barbaric rule, the most severe drought in decades, sub-zero winter temperatures, military incursions which have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and a lack of humanitarian aid have created a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
This crisis has been exacerbated further by Pakistan’s and Tajikistan’s closing their borders with Afghanistan, preventing the entry of the tens of thousands of refugees who are trying to escape gender apartheid, genocide, starvation, and disease. Thirteen thousand Afghan refugees are stranded on a river island between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Pakistan is threatening to expel 100,000 Afghan refugees.
Meanwhile, most of the world, including the U.S., have admitted only small numbers of Afghan refugees into their countries. The U.S. admitted no Afghan refugees in 1996 or 1997, 88 in 1998, and, after extensive pressure, 396 in 1999, and a projected 1500 for 2000.
Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, said that this situation “brings back haunting memories of the ship of Jewish people who had no place to land” during World War II. “Hundreds of thousands of people are living in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan with virtually no shelter, food, healthcare, or sanitation, and hundreds are dying daily. Yet there seems to be more worldwide outcry about the Taliban’s destruction of the buddha statute than the human disaster,” added Smeal.
The Feminist Majority has called upon the U.S. government to provide emergency assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Feminist Majority is working with members of Congress to develop legislation to respond to the immediate humanitarian crisis and to improve the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan and those living as refugees in Pakistan. The Feminist Majority is seeking to codify U.S. opposition to recognition of the Taliban until the rights of women and girls are fully and permanently restored and to increase health, education, and income generation programs for women and girls.
The brutality of the Taliban continues unabated with the recent hangings of two women accused of prostitution and the ethnic killings of hundreds of civilians in central Afghanistan. The U.S.’s newly released Human Rights Report documents the Taliban’s continued bans to women’s and girls’ employment and education as well as their summary execution of civilians. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, hundreds of civilians, including humanitarian aid workers and even patients in medical facilities, mostly of the Hazara ethnicity, were killed by the Taliban when they took control of key cities in Central Afghanistan.
The Taliban also has demanded the destruction of historic Buhhdist artifacts, including two massive 120 foot ancient Buhhdas carved into the sandstone hills of Bamiyan. The Buhddas, which are dated to 200-300 AD, have been a presence in Afghanistan longer than Islam.
At his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned the Taliban’s treatment of women in Afghanistan as “appalling…bordering on barbaric” in response to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)’s question about whether he would continue to make the restoration of the human rights of Afghan women and girls a policy priority. The Feminist Majority is working to ensure that Secretary Powell’s condemnation of their treatment by the Taliban is reflected in policies and actions that help to stop gender apartheid and restore women’s human rights.
To learn more about the Feminist Majority’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid and to take action and urge the United States to respond immediately to this humanitarian and human rights crisis visit www.feminist.org