Terror Won't Stop Me from Going Back to My Family in Afghanistan; as America Began Military Action Last Night against Terrorist Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban Regime and Refugees Flee from Afghanistan, One Merseyside Aid Worker Tells Laura Davis Why She Is Desperate to Return

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AS LIFE on the streets of war-torn Afghanistan grew more dangerous by the hour, Jane Holford was forced to leave behind her charity work in the country's rural villages.

Deciding, 14 years ago, to dedicate her life to the battle against poverty in the Middle East, she now considers it her home. Jane met her husband in Afghanistan and they have a little boy.

But shortly after last month's terrorist attacks, the aid worker was told to pack her belongings before she was flown back to England with her family. They are now staying with her parents in Merseyside, eagerly awaiting permission to return home.

Jane, who would not give her real name for fear of recriminations against her Afghan husband and son, says: "I had just got back from a field mission. Everybody listens to the radio and word travelled fast. We have been told that we can't go into Afghanistan and we're not sure what's going to happen."

This is the second time Jane has been recalled from the job she is so passionate about. When the Taliban regime came into power in 1996, troops loyal to the ousted government began to mass outside Kabul ready to attack. The charity that Jane worked for at the time - running a women's centre in the capital city - decided it was unsafe for her to stay there and flew her back to England.

But determined not to be stopped by the Islamic fundamentalist sect, whose new laws have drastically restricted women's lives, she returned to the city later the same year. Jane now lives in Pakistan, regularly visiting the rural areas of Afghanistan to assess humanitarian projects carried out in the area.

As a foreigner, Jane was free from the constraints binding the local women, who risk inviting the wrath of the Taliban if they so much as step outside their homes unaccompanied by a male relative.

They are made to wear a long shroud, called a burqa or chadri, which covers them from head-totoe. Banned from showing their faces in public, the thick veil they are forced to put on is so stifling that asthma sufferers have trouble breathing. A chadri can cost so much that a whole community has to share one.

Under this barbaric regime, ruled by men taken from their homes at an early age and educated at fundamentalist schools, women are forbidden from studying and working. Those already educated were ordered to give up their jobs with teachers and engineers among those who have seen their lives restricted to home and family.

"Many women are educated and the want the same for their children but it is very difficult. There are few opportunities and those that are available are not really quality services. Many women have left because of this, it's a big concern for them, " says Jane.

For those who break the rules the punishment is severe. Religious police patrol Kabul's streets, delivering instant whippings to any one not obeying their orders. A wife found guilty of adultery is likely to be stoned to death. Executions of this kind are the only public gatherings women are encouraged to attend. …