Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Western Female Aid Workers Targets of Rogue Violence ; after a French Aid Worker Was Raped in June - the Fourth in 10 Months - Some Western Women Consider Leaving Afghanistan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Western Female Aid Workers Targets of Rogue Violence ; after a French Aid Worker Was Raped in June - the Fourth in 10 Months - Some Western Women Consider Leaving Afghanistan

Article excerpt

Patricia Omidian looked up through her glasses. Her palm-sized diary was open to an entry on June 8 - the day that a French aid worker was gang-raped by seven men in Pul-i-khumiri, a small town in northern Afghanistan.

"It's just starting to sink in," says Ms. Omidian, an American who has been working with Afghans for two decades. "[Security personnel] are telling us if we're not careful, the same thing could happen to us."

The assault - the fourth reported rape here against a foreign woman in the last 10 years - took place more than a month ago, but hundreds of expatriate women here are only beginning to cope with the consequences.

Under the Taliban rule, foreign female aid workers were spared the rules that oppressed Afghan women, such as being forbidden to work or attend school. As foreigners, they enjoyed a sense of freedom and immunity that local women did not.

With the Taliban overthrown, however, factional fighting has increased in Afghanistan - and with it lawlessness.

The new government, under President Hamid Karzai, has little control over citizens beyond Kabul, especially in the north where armies loyal to regional warlords reign. The result is an increase in random acts of violence against civilians and aid workers. Gunmen last month robbed two aid agencies and fired on a health clinic in Sholgara in northern Balkh province. Ultimately, human rights researchers say, women - regardless of nationality - are in more danger now than when the Taliban ruled.

Male bosses are more sensitive to female employees traveling alone or working after dark. In some places, like Mazar-e Sharif, women aid workers no longer feel safe shopping alone or interacting freely with colleagues.

Jackie, a Western aid worker who did not want to give her real name for fear of losing her job, has worked in Mazar-e Sharif and other areas for about a decade.

Having endured years of negative confrontations with Afghan men and authority, she's the first to say that life for foreign aid workers has improved since the Taliban government was toppled.

"It's night and day. I can't even describe it. It's easier to work with Afghans. There are other women in the office," she said.

But since the June rape, her sense of safety and comfort have diminished. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.