Afghan women were fighting for democratic rights even before the Taliban arrived. But now the women are fighting for their lives.
One group, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), founded in 1977 by Afghan feminist poet Meena Keshwar Kamal, continues its fight in secret.
RAWA was established as “an independent political/social organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and for social justice in Afghanistan,” according to its Web site, www.rawa.org.
Before the Taliban took over in 1996, RAWA tried to increase the number of “Afghan women in social and political activities aimed at acquiring women’s human rights and contributing to the struggle for the establishment of a government based on democratic and secular values in Afghanistan.”
Now, RAWA, numbering about 2,000 members, finds itself fighting just to give women basic rights like healthcare, education and work.
Days after the Taliban took Afghanistan, women lost their right to an education, their representation in government and their jobs. Forty percent of doctors had been women, according to abcNEWS.com.
Now, women can appear in public only if they are accompanied by a male relative and clothed in burqas, tent-like coverings that shroud the entire body, including the face. Women cannot laugh, wear makeup, talk in public, show their ankles or make noise when they walk. If they do, they may be beaten.
RAWA, headquartered in Pakistan, runs underground schools for girls and secret health clinics staffed by female nurses and doctors displaced by the Taliban regime, abcNEWS.com reported.
Tahmeena Faryal (not her real name), a RAWA leader, was named a Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine. She appeared on Good Morning America Oct. 30 with her face hidden to protect her identity.
Faryal told Good Morning America host Diane Sawyer that in addition to establishing literacy programs and mobile health teams, RAWA has smuggled children out of the country to protect them. Women involved in RAWA are also enlisting their own daughters to help the cause, realizing life is not worth living without freedom.
The RAWA Web site offers poetry, photographs and even video footage of the horrors Afghan women face daily.
“If you are freedom-loving and anti-fundamentalist, you are with RAWA,” reads a statement on the site.
RAWA founder, Meena, as she is known, wrote about the struggling women of Afghanistan, but also about finding a “path” that would lead to democracy. She wrote, “I have found my path and will never return.”
RAWA too has found its “path” and claims the Taliban will not force them to stray from it.
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.