The Feminist Majority joins our fellow citizens and people of good will all over the world in mourning the deaths of thousands of women, men and children on September 11 at the hands of terrorists. These terrorist acts are crimes against all of humanity.
While law enforcement continues to collect evidence about Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the horrific acts of terrorism on September 11, the relationship between the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and the suffering of Afghan women is very clear. We know that the Taliban militia has been harboring bin Ladin and that, together, they have been leading campaigns of terror against women, women’s rights, ethnic and religious minorities, and the Western world for many years. The Taliban and bin Laden are interdependent and inextricable. Just as the Taliban is protecting bin Laden from extradition, bin Laden is providing financial resources, equipment, and highly trained mercenary fighters to bolster the Taliban regime’s war against the Afghan people.
Feminists were among the first to bring the atrocities of the Taliban to the world’s attention. Women have been the first victims of the Taliban. Wherever the Taliban came to power, they banned women from working, prohibited women and girls from attending school, and forbid women from leaving their homes without being accompanied by a close male relative and wearing a head-to-toe burqa shroud. Women who violate Taliban decrees are beaten, imprisoned, or even killed. For the past six years, Afghan women and girls have pleaded with the world to free them from the grips of the brutal Taliban militia and have warned that the Taliban’s threat to humanity would extend beyond the borders of Afghanistan.
Our Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan has worked tirelessly to bring to the attention of U.S. policymakers that the Taliban must be stopped and that the war that they are waging against women and ethnic minorities in Afghanistan poses a real threat to global security and our national security. With the help of hundreds of thousands of supporters, we played a major role in preventing recognition of the Taliban by the United States and the United Nations.
We have argued that the United States has a unique obligation to end the Taliban’s atrocities toward women. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980’s, the U.S., through a covert CIA operation based in Pakistan, supplied billions of dollars to fund, train, and arm the mujahideen, which gave rise to the Taliban.
Feminists must now sound the alarm louder than ever because the stakes are so high. For years, we have been urging a substantial increase in humanitarian aid for Afghan women and girls, who are suffering from the ravages of war, the worst drought in 30 years, and the Taliban’s atrocities. Some 3 million Afghan refugees are in Pakistan. Now, fearing military retaliation from the U.S., many more are trying to flee, but the borders to Pakistan and Iran are sealed. Worse yet, all foreign (non-Afghan) humanitarian aid workers have evacuated Afghanistan since September 11. Some 5.5 million displaced Afghans, mostly women and children, have been left with only a 3 week supply of food, according to the United Nations World Food Program. To prevent a holocaust of innocent displaced people, humanitarian assistance must not stop. Even if we cannot get aid to Afghanistan, we can get it to the millions of Afghan women and children in Pakistan who are bordering on starvation.
As steps are taken to eliminate terrorists and those who support them in Afghanistan, we must make sure that the lives of women and girls are saved and that the restoration of the rights of women and girls is not marginalized as a side issue. As our government deliberates on the appropriate measures to respond to the heinous terrorist acts committed on Sept. 11, we must urge that the plight of Afghan women and girls not be forgotten.