Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Women under the Taliban

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Women under the Taliban

Article excerpt

WOMEN UNDER THE TALIBAN

Dr. Soheir Stolba, medical anthropologist and president of The SHARE Institute, spoke Oct. 16 on "Women under the Taliban: a Tale of Tragedy and Hope" at the Marin Chapter of the World Affairs Council. More than 250 people attended the lecture, which was held at Dominican University at San Rafael, California.

"I met women with the worst lives I've ever seen," said the Egyptian-born Stolba of her work in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. In September 2000, her organization held an educational workshop in Peshawar to help the refugees rebuild their lives. Although more than 2 million Afghans reside in camps in Pakistan, the refugees do not have access to Pakistani governmental assistance programs.

Because the Taliban require that women be completely covered in public, the women usually wear a burqa, a head-to-toe garment with netting covering the eyes, which Stolba displayed to the audience. However, the women told Stolba, the burqa was not their main concern. Rather, they said, their first priority was to educate their children. "We have no opportunity to teach our children," the women refugees explained. "We can live with the veil. It is not our concern. We cannot go to school, work or educate our children."

Before the Taliban came to power in 1996, many Afghan women were highly educated, and 40 percent of the teachers were women. Now, if women are caught with educational materials relating to reading, writing, science or mathematics, they will be beaten or even beheaded by the Taliban authorities, Stolba told the shocked audience. …

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