NGOs Urge Greater Security in Afghanistan

The Feminist Majority, along with along with 78 other humanitarian, human rights, and conflict prevention organizations, called upon NATO to expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. NATO will assume control of ISAF in August, but the groups are urging NATO to order an expansion of ISAF now because it takes time to generate and deploy troops. Currently, there are only 4,800 ISAF troops in Afghanistan, and they are limited to the capital city of Kabul.

Increased security is particularly important as the country begins voter registration for the 2004 elections. In addition, Afghan citizens are experiencing increased threats for expressing their political views on the draft constitution, according to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. There is concern among Afghan women’s rights and human rights leaders and activists that unless security is improved immediately and dramatically, any opportunity for peace, democracy, and women’s rights will soon come to end. The vast majority of women in Afghanistan continue to wear the burqa because of fear and lack of security in the country.

“Expansion of international peacekeeping troops is necessary to make sure voter registration and the electoral process themselves are fair and democratic, especially for women,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “Last year, Congress passed the Afghan Freedom Support Act authorizing increased reconstruction financing and peace troop expansion. President Bush signed it into law. But where is the financing and where are the peace troops?” she wrote in a New York Times letter to the editor. “Women and girls are the first victims: warlords in some areas are placing Taliban-like restrictions on women, and more than a dozen girls’ schools have suffered violent attacks by fundamentalists.”

The Feminist Majority continues to lead the call for peace troop expansion, increased reconstruction funding, and for more resources to support the work of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission.

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NATO letter 6/17/03; Feminist Majority

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