WASHINGTON – The Taliban and other militia groups slip letters under doors and post them on walls at night in Afghanistan warning teachers not to teach and girls not to go to school.
At a forum Wednesday,advocates for human rights said that is just one of the tremendous obstacles women and girls face in getting education,health care and safety,more than five years after the Taliban's strict controls were supposedly ended.
“More than 300 schools were burned as security gets worse,” said Sima Samar,chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission,adding that girls go to school in Afghanistan,but not all of them.
With deterioration of the security situation,a lot of women live a dire life stuffed with force marriages,sexual harassment,family violations and lack of basic health services,she said.
Eleanor Smeal,president of the Feminist Majority,said that majority of women are deprived of very basic rights in Afghanistan – a country that in general only partially observes human rights.
A recent report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission says that 85 percent of women and girls are illiterate,and the number of girls attending school is half that of boys. That's in part because there aren't enough schools for girls,the report adds.
The CIA World Fact Book estimates that in 1999,about 80 percent of women and 50 percent of men were illiterate.
The Bush administration announced a new “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan in 2002,but it still has not been fulfilled Smeal said. The U.S. ignored the people of Afghanistan before the 2001 invasion,she said,treating them as proxies for the Cold War. Afghanistan and Iraq have roughly the same population,and the U.S. cannot reconstruct and rebuild the country for a “cheap amount,” she said.
Mavis Nicholson Leno,chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls,said the invasion in Afghanistan succeeded but the task is not complete. Leno is married to Jay Leno,host of the “Tonight Show,” and has been active in Afghan rights issues for many years.
The U.S needs to intensify the fulfillment of its commitments in Afghanistan,because people of the country are willing to support America,she said. This will prove that U.S. not only liberates nations but also helps them restore their normal lives and will provide the U.S. with a friend in the Islamic world.
“The situation is worse than we believe,” Leno said,adding that Afghanistan needs in-depth media coverage.
Among the issues she said the press should cover is the threat to Afghanistan,which is surrounded by big nations with nuclear weapons. In addition,its neighbors want to take small pieces of Afghan territory.
Christian Delsol,a former acting deputy U.N. representative for the United Nations Population Fund in Afghanistan,said the issue of women in Afghanistan should be a priority in efforts to rebuild the country.
He is scheduled to return in July to Badakhshan – one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan located in the east,where travel is difficult – to help reduce maternal deaths,now 6,500 per 100,000 live births. In the developed world,maternal deaths are far lower.
Another critical issue that the report adds is the availability of only one doctor,five nurses and one hospital bed per 100,000 people.
In an evaluation report on the general situation of women in Afghanistan,the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission recommends that the country's laws be adjusted to conform with the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Domestic violence against women is another problem the report cites.
The report says some of the problems include self-immolation,suicide,escape from their families – when there is no other acceptable place for women to go – forced prostitution and addiction to narcotics.
The report added that 50 percent of women,in addition to suffering from other types of violence – including forced marriages,rape or sexual harassments – have been beaten and only 10 percent said that they had no economic problems.