Oguibenine oguibeni at MONZA.U-STRASBG.FR
Wed Mar 17 11:14:18 UTC 1999

I forward this message at the request of the undersigned although it does
not belong to properly Indological matters (but to a field not alien to
Indologists because of the formerly known Buddhist sites!).

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Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999 10:41:15 +0100
From: josiane.olff-nathan at (Josiane Olff-Nathan)
Subject: Women in Afghanistan

Please spare a minute to read this mail. Thank you.

The government of Afghanistan is waging a war upon women. The situation is
getting so bad that one person in an editorial of the Times compared the
treatment of women there to the treatment of Jews in pre-Holocaust Poland.
Since the Taliban took power in 1996, women have had to wear burqua and
have been beaten and stoned in public for not having the proper attire,
even if this means simply not having the mesh covering in front of their
eyes. One woman was beaten to DEATH by an angry mob of fundamentalists for
accidentally exposing her arm while she was driving. Another was stoned to
death for trying to leave the country with a man that was not a relative.
Women are not allowed to work or even go out in public without a male
relative; professional women such as professors, translators, doctors,
lawyers, artists and writers have been forced from their jobs and stuffed
into their homes, so that depression is becoming so widespread that it has
reached emergency levels. There is no way in such an extreme Islamic
society to know the suicide rate with certainty, but relief workers are
estimating that the suicide rate among women, who cannot find proper
medication and treatment for severe depression and would rather take their
lives than live in such conditions, has increased significantly. Homes
where a woman is present must have their windows painted so that she can
never be seen by outsiders. They must wear silent shoes so that they are
never heard. Women live in fear of their lives for the slightest
misbehavior. Because they cannot work, those without male relatives or
husbands are either starving to death or begging on the street, even if
they hold Ph.D.'s. There are almost no medical facilities available for
women, and relief workers, in protest, have mostly left the country, taking
medicine and psychologists and other things necessary to treat the
sky-rocketing level of depression among women. At one of the rare hospitals
for women, a reporter found still, nearly lifeless bodies lying motionless
on top of beds, wrapped in their burqua, unwilling to speak, eat, or do
anything, but slowly wasting away. Others have gone mad and were seen
crouched in corners, perpetually rocking or crying, most of them in fear.
One doctor is considering, when what little medication that is left finally
runs out, leaving these women in front of the president's residence as a
form of peaceful protest. It is at the point where the term 'human rights
violations' has become an understatement. Husbands have the power of life
and death over their women relatives, especially their wives, but an angry
mob has just as much right to stone or beat a woman, often to death, for
exposing an inch of flesh or offending them in the slightest way. David
Cornwell has said that those in the West should not judge the Afghan people
for such treatment because it is a 'cultural thing', but this is not even
true. Women enjoyed relative freedom, to work, dress generally as they
wanted, and drive and appear in public alone until only 1996 -- the
rapidity of this transition is the main reason for the depression and
suicide; women who were once educators or doctors or simply used to basic
human freedoms are now severely restricted and treated as sub-human in the
name of right-wing fundamentalist Islam. It is not their tradition or
'culture', but is alien to them, and it is extreme even for those cultures
where fundamentalism is the rule. Besides, if we could excuse everything on
cultural grounds, then we should not be appalled that the Carthaginians
sacrificed their infant children, that little girls are circumcised in
parts of Africa, that blacks in the US deep south in the 1930's were
lynched, prohibited from voting, and forced to submit to unjust Jim Crow
laws. Everyone has a right to a tolerable human existence, even if they are
women in a Muslim country in a part of the world that Westerners may not
understand. If we can threaten military force in Kosovo in the name of
human rights for the sake of ethnic Albanians, then NATO and the West can
certainly express peaceful outrage at the oppression, murder and injustice
committed against women by the Taliban.
> *************
> STATEMENT: In signing this, we agree that the current treatment of women
in Afghanistan is completely UNACCEPTABLE and deserves support and action
by the people of the United Nations and that the current situation in
Afghanistan will not be tolerated. Women's Rights is not a small issue
anywhere and it is UNACCEPTABLE for women in 1998 to be treated as
sub-human and so much as property. Equality and human decency is a RIGHT
not a freedom, whether one lives in Afghanistan or anywhere else.
> *****
> 1) Bruce J. Malina, Omaha, NE
> 2) Raymond Hobbs, Hamilton, ON, Canada
> 3) Elizabeth Demaray, Kanata, ON, Canada
> 4) Fred Demaray, Kanata, ON, Canada
> 5) Leslie Penrose, Tulsa, OK
> 6) Susan Ross, Perkins, OK
> 7) Jeannie Himes, Tulsa, OK
> 8) Lois Adams, Tulsa, OK
> 9) Mona M. Miller, Fort Collins, CO
> 10) Kara A. Sheldon, Colorado Springs, CO
> 11) Gay Victoria, Colorado Springs, CO
> 12) Catherine Euler, Leeds, UK
> 13) Faith Muimo, Leeds, UK
> 14) Sanna Vehviläinen, Helsinki, Finland
> 15) Jussi Onnismaa, Helsinki. Finland
> 16) Marjatta Hahkio, Helsinki, Finland
> 17) Jouko Hahkio, Helsinki, Finland
> 18) Colin Sydes, Helsinki, Finland
19) Gavin Cowie, Helsinki, Finland
20) Andrew Walker, London, UK
21 Roberto Battista, London, UK
22) Richard Wolfstrome, Brighton, UK
23) Louise Jorden, London, UK
24) Jonny Shipp, Brighton, UK
25) Gabriel de Kadt, Brighton, UK
26) Emanuel de Kadt, Brighton, UK
27) Dominique Egger, Geneva, CH
28) Jean louis BARA, Colmar, FR
29) Rodolphe Echard, Colmar, FR
30) Josiane Olff-Nathan, Strasbourg, France
31) Boris Oguibenine, Strasbourg, France
> **** Please sign to support, and include your town and country. Then
> copy and e-mail to as many people as possible. If you receive this
> list with more than 50 names on it, please e-mail a copy of it to:
> Mary Robinson,
> High Commissioner,
> webadmin.hchr at
> and to:
> Angela King,
> Special Advisor on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women,
> UN,
> daw at
> Even if you decide not to sign, please be considerate and do not kill
> the petition. Thank you.
> It is best to copy rather than forward the petition.

Josiane Olff-Nathan
Groupe d'Etude et de Recherche sur la Science de l'Universite Louis Pasteur
7, rue de l'Universite
67000 - Strasbourg (France)
Tel : +33 (0)3 88 52 80 60
Fax : +33 (0)3 88 52 80 57
Email : josiane.olff-nathan at

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