Let Us Listen to What Afghanistan Has to Say
Let Us Listen to What Afghanistan Has to Say
  • By Yeowool Cho-Lee, cognate@womennews.co.kr
  • 승인 2001.10.29 00:00
  • 수정 2013-07-12 16:27
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(October 4, 2001)

As the world closely watches how the US retaliation war unfolds, President Bush announced on October 2, "war against terrorism will be launched in our own time."

In fact, the US is "ready" for war, as it completed deployment of armed forces, weapons and warships near Afghanistan and Iraq. However, world media believes that the proposed war of a secret nature may have already started.


Due to frequent change of positions on the part of the US administration, it is impossible to predict. However, two things are clear. First, the war will unfold on realistic calculations. Second, the Taliban leadership claims to have nuclear weaponry and intends to use it in the case of the US attacks. It also said an overthrow of the regime would lead to a long-term war.

Meanwhile, anti-American sentiment is rapidly spreading in the Arab and Islamic countries, triggering anti-globalization demonstrations across the world, including Europe. Indeed, citizens in the world are voicing strong protests against the unilateral retaliation attacks of the US.

In particular, women in anti-war campaigns are calling on the US to "listen to what Afghanistan has to say." In an anti-war rally of 10,000 citizens of San Francisco on September 29, a picket sign showed "As a woman I have no country," a quote from Virginia Wolf. 

American feminist magazine Ms. pointed out, "if we are going to root out terrorism we need to hear more from women, who, like the canaries in the mines, are usually among the first in their societies to feel the effects of this poisonous air." " We need to hear from Afghan women and Palestinian women and Iraqi women; American women and Bosnian women and the women of Northern Ireland and Israeli women; Congolese women and South African women and Salvadorian women and Timorese women. We need to hear from women from all points on the globe who know what terrorism feels like."

How should we look at the US retaliation war? We propose you to fist listen to the Afghan citizens in a war situation, to the Afghan women, who have endured oppression by the Taliban, to the millions of minorities, who have no choice but to "wait for war", stranded, starving, with no transportation, money, nor strength.

[Retaliation War Benefits Women?!]

- Lives of the Afghan women and RAWA

After the US pointed to Afghanistan as a target of retaliation attacks, the world directed its attention to the Palestinian region.

Most vivid descriptions of the situation in Afghanistan are provided by RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), a group of grass-root women in Afghanistan.

RAWA is a secret organization of around 2000 members, established in 1977. It has revealed, on the Internet, the Taliban's repression on the Afghan women and citizens, and pursued various activities for supporting the Afghan women and children.

Women are Locked in Walls at Home


Lives of the Afghan women revealed by RAWA are beyond imagination. Wars of the past 20 years made 4 million refugees out of 22 million population in the 1980s, scattered outside of Afghanistan.

40% of doctors and 70% of teachers were women in Afghanistan 20 years ago. However, they were deprived of rights to learn and work in the name of Islamic fundamentalism, when Taliban came into power after a civil war. Under the Taliban regime, women cannot leave houses unaccompanied by men in their direct family, should not expose face in public places, should wrap their entire body from head to toe with a long veil, and should not wear heels or sound-making shoes.

A woman arrested for having a pre-marital relationship is stoned to death in a public place. A woman with colored fingernails loses her finger. A woman with exposed ankles is whipped. The Afghan police can beat women for violation of the Taliban regulations in public places.

RAWA criticizes the Taliban regime for "prohibiting people from locking birds or animals in a cage, while locking women in walls at home." "To them, women are nothing more than baby-givers, housekeepers, and sex objects."


A documentary film, 'Beneath the Veil: Inside the Taliban's Afghanistan', produced by a female journalist Saira Shah last August, revealed a birth-giving place in Afghanistan, full of wastes and dirt. In the country, women cannot consult a male doctor. However, as women doctors are very rare, for most women, disease often means death itself.

In fact, Afghanistan ranks world no.1 in terms of mortality of infants and birth-giving mothers. Statistically, one out of four babies dies before they reach 5 years of age.

"Many are dying, but the world is not interested any more. However, I saw hope in the most vulnerable. By living out day by day, they are resisting against dictatorship", said Shah about her father's homeland.

Courageous Women in the Face of Death


Most courageous people against dictatorship and oppression probably are the Afghan women and RAWA members. RAWA, established in 1977 mainly by college-educated women, promotes democracy and equality. RAWA members are engaged in secret activities with no operation base, mostly on the Internet.

Considering the Taliban's strict control on women, RAWA members, if found, will be "hanged" for their "illegal" activities. In fact, many RAWA members have been tortured or killed, caught taking photographs, teaching girls, or providing medical care for women in secret places. Meena, RAWA's leader, was also assassinated in 1987 by a suspected Islamic fundamentalist.

The Taliban regime prohibits the Afghan people from using modern technologies in Afghanistan, but RAWA uses all of technologies in its. RAWA said in an interview with Shah, accoding to BBC, "we will do everything that the Taliban forbids us from."

Creating jobs for women, building schools for girls, throwing a beauty party, treating sick women, rationing food to refugees, publicizing the Afghan situation to the world are some of RAWA's activities.

"They don't even allow us freedom to think, but we will keep our spirit."

Women's Lives are Devastated in Every War

RAWA activities are challenged by the US' declaration of war. The members mostly live in Pakistan and collect data from frequent travels to Afghanistan, but this channel was blocked.

RAWA is telling the world that "the Afghan people are neither bin Ladens nor the Taliban." A RAWA member said, "[RAWA] has received hate mail from the United States, but those who sent it don't know that we are also victims of the brutal Taliban."


"I believe attacking Afghanistan will not ease sorrows of Americans", said Saima Karem on September 22 to a question from the US side- whether retaliation war would help eliminating the Taliban. Karem, who volunteered to speak for RAWA, repeatedly stressed RAWA's anti-war position.

"The US, in fact, has nurtured terrorism by providing military and financial support to Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan over the past years," she pointed out. "When the former Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, a democratic government was about to be established in the country. However, the US left the country," she criticized. In London-based Guardian, Aruntardi Roy described it as "bin Laden was created by CIA and is now wanted by FBI."

RAWA announced support for the former Afghan king's peace plan, but it has not supported any military or attacks on anyone so far.

10 years of war and civil conflicts in Afghanistan murdered, raped, and maimed women in the country, and they have been afraid to even breathe under the repressive Taliban regime. Now they are "waiting" for the retaliation attacks, completely defenseless.

The Afghan women, who have seen how their lives were destroyed with every war, may already know what is coming with the US retaliation.

Websites for Supporting Afghan Women

RAWA's website at www.rawa.org provides a detailed description of situations in Afghanistan as well as RAWA activities.

US-based FMF (Feminist Majority Foundation), a supporter for the Afghan women, recently opened a website at www.helpafghanwomen.com , pleading people to take part in the campaign.

[No One Can Even Imagine Our Horrors]

- Horrors in Afghanistan

"The US asked Pakistan to block its national border as well as all transportation routes to the Taliban. Afghan citizens in the border area are stranded with no aid. Passing the border takes climbing a rough mountain range, which is impossible for women, the old and the sick," reported AP about Pakistan border areas on September 22.

According to BBC, "around 6 million Afghan people are affected by famine and war, and few millions are close to death from hunger." "The UN believes withdrawing aid programs from the country alone will affect 2.5 million people. Crimes are on a rapid increase amid social unrest in Afghanistan."

ABC also reported, "the weak and the poor have no choice but to stay and wait for war." An Afghan woman said in an interview, "the Taliban will try to maintain power at all costs. In the end ordinary citizens will be paying price for the atrocities they did not commit."


Another Afghan woman said, "no one can ever imagine how horrified we are about the US attacks," in her e-mail, ABC reported.

According to the Associated Press, a veiled woman, a former teacher in Afghanistan, said, "I pray to my God that as soon as American attacks the first cruise missile hits my house and kills me and my family."

40-year-old Marida, who begs on Kabul streets after losing her husband in civil war (all Afghan widows do, as women are not allowed to work), complained, "I haven't seen Osama. I don't know Osama bin Laden. Why when things happen in the east, the west or the north of the world, do the problems have to come here and hit straight at the people of Afghanistan?"

Meanwhile, international aid agencies including the UN and even the public opinion-conscious US government are said to be seeking ways to help the Afghan refugees. However, the refugee camps, disclosed by RAWA, are not so friendly even about the UN.

When RAWA visited an Afghan refugee camp for food rationing last August, Mr. Mohammad Akram, a camp representative, said, "the UN has committed heinous actions under the name of Human Rights. They are liars and have abstained fom telling us the thruth...We heard that the UN took the responsibility of the security of some families who were return to Afghanistan, and we all saw what happened to them. We don't accept anyone's offer to take the responsibility for our security, we are going to stay right here, we are not returning to Afghanistan."

He further stated that although the UN and other NGOs say they help Afghan refugees, refugees are not receiving any assistance. Media that interviewed the refugees "didn't report it," he said.

"we are warning [the UN] that soon very bad disasters are going to occur in this camp. Houses will be burnt, people will burn themselves....," "We want you to raise our voice to the people of the world so that they know the real situation of Afghans."

[Bush Administration's Frequent Change of Positions]

- Is the US really committed to peace and equality as it claims to be?


The US announced on October 2 that it submitted to NATO evidence that relates Osama bin Laden with the terrorist attacks. Although a "secret dirty war" seems to have already begun, the US is expected to draw broad assistance from the international community before official launch of attacks. Currently the US is weighing the timing of its full-swing attack.

The Bush administration seemed less aggressive than when it declared war, mainly because anti-American sentiment is spreading not only in the Arab and Islamic countries, but also in Europe and other regions.

While it earlier intended to overthrow the Taliban, the Bush administration changed its opinion and said, through a White House representative, that it would not overthrow the Taliban regime. But soon the US changed its stance yet again, after studying activities of the Afghan military, and said it would attack the Taliban.

In addition, although President Bush earlier declared that Iraq and other Arab regions may be targets of retaliation, he allegedly said otherwise in his meeting with King of Jordan. However, US Secretary of State Collin Powell hinted in his interview with CBS that Iraq may be a target.

US Media Actively Justifies the War

Meanwhile, the US media is building a pro-war atmosphere in the country. In New York Times September 28th edition, columnist Thomas Freedman said, "President and advisors talk too much they don't make sense. For the kind of war we are facing, we should be terrorists. Let our action talk."

CNN, for its part, is also trying to justify war with its headline reading "War Against Terrorism". Unlike what local sources say about the Afghan women and children stranded in the country, dying from hunger and diseases, CNN reported , "most Afghan women and children arrived in Queta, Pakistan, fearing retaliation war."

Furthermore, CNN reran a documentary program on Afghanistan, broadcast last August, and reported that RAWA expected the retaliation war to end the ongoing conflicts and gave opportunities to the Afghan women and children. For certain, RAWA has clearly expressed its position against the retaliation war.

The US administration, for its part, is tightening its control on media. A TV talk show emcee Bill Mayer was criticized as "unpatriotic" by White House representative, for saying "cowards are not the hijackers, but Americans who shoot cruise missiles at targets thousands of miles away." Major advertisers withdrew commercials from the program.

In addition, columnists at two newspapers were fired for criticizing President Bush' hiding in his Air Force One immediately after the attacks. Recently President Bush and White House reporters even signed a "gentle report pact" regarding the war.

Mr. Eric Sidoti at Human Rights Council of Australia pointed out on September 22, "war will be used by all opportunists, while limiting access to information and hiding truth."

'Guilt by Ethnicity' 

Robin Morgan wrote, "flag sales are up. Gun sales are up. Some radio stations have banned playing John Lennon's song, "Imagine." Despite appeals from all officials (even Bush), mosques are being attacked, firebombed; Arab Americans are hiding their children indoors; two murders in Arizona have already been categorized as hate crimes--one victim a Lebanese-American man and one a Sikh man who died merely for wearing a turban." she continued, describing serious racial discrimination in the US.

On September 20, three Arab passengers were rejected from an airplane by other passengers and flight attendants.

A Berkeley-based Women of Color Resource Center issued a statement on September 29, saying, "we are greatly alarmed by reports of the rise in racist and xenophobic attacks against Arab Americans, Muslims, South Asian Americans and other ethnic minority people "mistaken" for being Arab or Muslim." The Center stated, " we firmly stand opposed to snap judgments of 'guilt by ethnicity' and the racist scapegoating of entire groups." 

" We fear that in the rush to war the government will intensify domestic repression, including deprivation of hard-earned civil liberties." the Center said.

Mr. Asma Hussein, an Arab American student, wrote in an online reader's column of New York Times, "I must I must fear Islamic extremists as well as my own countrymen. Instead of being able to lean on my fellow American for emotional support, I must live in a fear which is two-fold " "This country is great because we fight for freedom and equality " he stated.

[Korean Women Against War]

- Street demonstration "1010" against war

WAW (Women Against War), an anti-war organization of Korean women, expanded its organization for full-swing activities.

Other than its significance as anti-war feminist organization, WAW also presents new opportunities for women's solidarity in other issues, such as feminist media, feminist website, and various voluntary feminist organizations.

In only a week after opening a website at www.freechal.com/kwaw , over 100 individuals applied for membership, and WAW currently has 5 teams- for website operation, translation, media evaluation, college organization, and international cooperation.

WAW plans to hold a street demonstration in Gwanghwamun Square at 12:00p.m., October 10 (Wed), speaking out for women and minorities against war. WAW will further be committed to cooperation with similar foreign organizations and anti-war websites.

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