Women around the Globe Face Threats to Human Rights

Article excerpt

Women are increasingly under attack in Afghanistan, Iran and Indonesia, facing draconian restrictions and systematic violence.

"Women around the globe are living under oppressive conditions most of us can only imagine in our worst nightmares," said Vice President Membership Karen Johnson. "It is the duty of women's rights and human rights groups to make the public aware of these atrocities and to pressure the U.S government and U.S. companies to stand up to those who abuse women's rights and bodies."

Women Denied Basic Rights in Afghanistan

Under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban, women in Afghanistan continue to be deprived of basic human rights. On July 21, NOW and other feminist activists in Washington.Cf Los Angeles and Houston protested against any U.S. support of the Taliban.

The Taliban overthrew the Afghan government in 1996 and has implemented strict restrictions on women under the guise of Islamic fundamentalism. Women and girls are not allowed to work or receive education. (Recently, the Taliban allowed widows with no other source of income to work.) They cannot go outside unless accompanied by a male relative and covered in a head-to-toe burqa, and health care is virtually nonexistent. Women have been beaten and killed for going out in public without a male escort.

In the last month, Taliban forces have taken over new ground in Afghanistan, increasing their hold to more than threequarters of the country. Taliban officials have renewed the call for international recognition of their government, and after the bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Sudan, Secretary of State Madeline Albright stated that their prospects would improve if they ceased harboring terrorist Osama bin Laden, charged with masterminding the attacks.

Unocal, a U.S.-based oil and gas company, plans to build a multi-billion dollar pipeline through Afghanistan that would result in hundreds of millions of dollars for this oppressive regime.

D.C. activists picketed Unocal's headquarters and Houston Area NOW demonstrated in front of Unocal's office in Sugar Land, Texas, calling upon the company not to collaborate in gender apartheid in Afghanistan. The Houston chapter had previously picketed Unocal in March; following that protest, the Houston Chronicle published an editorial criticizing corporate support for the Taliban.

Sue Ann Lorig, chair of Houston Area NOW's Task Force on Ending Violence Against Women, stated: "Just as America condemned corporations willing to stoop to doing business with South Africa while apartheid was in effect, America will not tolerate Unocal placing corporate greed above the fundamental rights to education, health care and employment of over half the population of Afghanistan."

In light of recent polticial developments, Unocal has stated that it has suspended all activities involving the pipeline in Afghanistan; however, the company is continuing a skills training program for Afghans-men only-with the University of Nebraska. Should the United States recognize the Taliban, Unocal would likely go forward with construction of the pipeline, regardless of whether or not women's rights were restored.

You can help end the oppression of women and girls in Afghanistan. Check on NOW's web page at www.now.org/ issues/global/ for more information. …