THE TALIBAN¢â‚¬â„¢S WAR ON WOMEN 2019-12-19¢  The Soviet invasion and occupation from 1979 to 1989, aided

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  • THE TALIBAN’S WAR ON WOMEN A Health and Human Rights

    Crisis in Afghanistan

    A REPORT BY PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

    BOSTON • WASHINGTON DC

  • Cover Photo: A woman wearing a burqa, begs on the streets of Kabul. Most women are prohibited from working. © Physicians for Human Rights

    Copyright © August 1998 by Physicians for Human Rights All rights reserved

    Printed in the United States of America

    ISBN 1-879707-25-X

    Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 98-067767

    DESIGN: Visual Communications

  • PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) mobilizes the health professions and enlists support from the general public to protect and promote the human rights of all people. PHR believes that human rights are essential precon- ditions for the health and well-being of all members of the human family.

    Since 1986, PHR members have worked to stop torture, disappear- ances, and political killings by governments and opposition groups; to improve health and sanitary conditions in prisons and detention centers; to investigate the physical and psychological consequences of violations of humanitarian law in internal and international conflicts; to defend medical neutrality and the right of civilians and combatants to receive medical care during times of war; to protect health professionals who are victims of violations of human rights; and to prevent medical complicity in torture and other abuses.

    As one of the original steering committee members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to the Campaign and its coordinator, Jody Williams. PHR cur- rently serves as co-chair of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines.

    The President is Charles Clements, M.D.; Vice President is Carola Eisenberg, M.D. The Executive Director is Leonard S. Rubenstein, J.D.; Deputy Director is Susannah Sirkin; Advocacy Director is Holly Burkhalter; Senior Program Associate is Richard Sollom; Director of Communications is Barbara Ayotte; Director of Finance & Administra- tion is Lori Maida; Development Coordinator is Steve Brown; Campaign and Education Coordinator is Gina Cummings; and Media Relations Coordinator is Caitriona Palmer. William Haglund, Ph.D., is Director of the International Forensic Program and Senior Medical Consultant is Vincent Iacopino, M.D., Ph.D.

    Physicians for Human Rights 100 Boylston Street, Suite 702 Boston, MA 02116 Tel. (617) 695-0041 Fax. (617) 695-0307 E-mail: phrusa@phrusa.org http://www.phrusa.org

    Physicians for Human Rights 110 Maryland Ave., NE, Suite 511 Washington, DC 20002 Tel. (202) 547-9881 Fax. (202) 547-9050

  • v

    CONTENTS

    Acknowledgments vii

    Glossary viii

    Foreword ix

    I. Executive Summary 1 Methods of Investigation 5 Summary of Findings 6 Summary of Recommendations 15

    II. Introduction 19 Background 19 Oil Companies and the Taliban 28 The Status of Women in Afghanistan 29 Human Rights Violations and the Taliban 31 United States Strategic Interests and Policy 34 Humanitarian Assistance in Afghanistan 37

    III. Women’s Health and Human Rights Survey 43 Methods 43 Characteristics of Afghan Women Respondents 46 Physical Health and Access to Health Care 47 Mental Health Status 49 War-Related Experiences and Landmine Exposures 50 Human Rights Violations 52 Attitudes Toward Women’s Human Rights 53 Comments on Survey Findings 54

    IV. Interviews with Afghan Women and Health Experts 59 Methods 59 Summary of Semi-Structured Interviews with Afghan Women 60 The Taliban’s Violations of the Human Rights of Afghan Women 64

    Restrictions on Access to Health Care 64 Prohibition on Work and the Impoverishment of Women 73 Restrictions on the Education of Girls and Women 75

  • Restrictions on Freedom of Movement and Physical Abuse 76 for Non-Compliance

    Health Status in the Context of Human Rights 80 Violations Against Women

    Women’s Perceptions of their Health 80 The Limitations of Humanitarian Assistance 84

    V. Application of Relevant International Law 89 International Human Rights Law 89 Applicable International Norms 89 Status of Afghanistan’s International Legal Obligations 98

    VI. Islam and Women’s Human Rights 105

    VII. Recommendations 109

    Appendices A. Taliban Decree of February 20, 1997 113 B. Taliban Decree of February 20, 1997 115 C. Taliban Decree of February 20, 1997 117

    vi

  • vii

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    This report was written by Vincent Iacopino, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Med- ical Consultant to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Boston, MA; Zohra Rasekh, M.P.H., a Senior Health Researcher for PHR; Alicia Ely Yamin, J.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor of Clinical Public Health and Staff Attorney for the Law and Policy Project, Columbia University School of Public Health; Lynn Freedman, Law and Policy Project, Columbia University School of Public Health; Holly Burkhalter, Advo- cacy Director of PHR; Holly Atkinson, M.D., President and C.E.O., Reuters Health Information Services; and Michele Heisler, M.D., M.P.A., Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan.

    Heidi Bauer, M.D., M.P.H., Alameda County Medical Center, Depart- ment of Internal Medicine, Oakland, CA; and Michele Manos, Ph.D, Uni- versity of California San Francisco, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, San Francisco, CA., contributed to data analysis and writing related to PHR’s health and human rights survey. Drs. Bauer and Manos are volunteer consultants to Physicians for Human Rights. The report is based on research undertaken by PHR during a three-month period in early 1998. The report was reviewed and edited by Leonard Rubenstein, J.D., Susannah Sirkin, M.Ed., and Barbara Ayotte, all of Physicians for Human Rights.

    This research was supported by a grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, New York, NY. The authors are grateful to the organi- zations that facilitated access to, and collection of, information used in this study. We are especially grateful to the Afghan women who partici- pated in this study despite years of suffering.

  • viii

    Burqa: A head to toe covering for women that has only a mesh cloth to see and breathe through.

    Chador: A veil that is culturally specific and variable among different Islamic countries.

    Hijab: Modest clothing (for women or men) that is culturally specific and variable among different Islamic countries.

    ICRC: International Committee of the Red Cross.

    Jihad: A holy war.

    Madrasas: Religious (Islamic) schools in Pakistan.

    Mahram: A family member who is a husband, father, brother, or son.

    Mujaheddin: Freedom fighters

    MSF: Médecins sans Frontières.

    Qur’an: The sacred book of Islam.

    Pashto: The language of the Pashtun ethnic group.

    Pashtun: An ethnic group of Afghanistan.

    NGO: Non-governmental organization.

    PHR: Physicians for Human Rights.

    Shura: A council.

    UN: United Nations.

    UNHCR: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

    UNICEF: United Nations Children’s Fund.

    UNOCHA: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance in Afghanistan.

    Wakeel: A community representative. Wakeels who represent city wards in Afghanistan are responsible for enlisting the needs of families in each district to the aid organizations.

    GLOSSARY

  • ix

    For a Credible Islamic Affirmation of the Universality of Human Rights As a Muslim man from Sudan, I vehemently condemn the gross and sys- tematic persecution of women and other violations of international human rights law in Afghanistan documented by Physicians for Human Rights in this report. I also affirm my unqualified endorsement of the essential premise of the vitally important work of this and other human organiza- tions around the world: that international human rights standards are uni- versally valid and applicable as the legal entitlement of every human being, without discrimination on such grounds as gender or religion.

    However, what is happening in Afghanistan today clearly shows that it is not enough for Muslims like myself to simply associate ourselves with the principled and highly professional efforts of organizations like Physicians for Human Rights. In addition to being proactive in making our contribu- tions to such efforts, Muslims everywhere must equally vehemently chal- lenge and rebut any alleged Islamic justification for any violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Muslims and their governments must strongly condemn human rights violations wherever they occur and who- ever commits them, and not only when speaking out is convenient or polit- ically expedient. This is particularly important, in my view, when violations are committed in the name of some alleged Islamic agenda. Otherwise, how can Muslims legitimately protest against negative stereotypes of Islam in the media as sanctioning terrorism, cruelty and inhumanity?

    Debates about Islam and human rights continue in many Islamic soci- eties around the world today, but that has nothing to do with what is hap- pening in Afghanistan today. As even the most conservative or radical Muslims around the world know, most of the policies and practices of the Taliban government documented in this report have no Islamic justifica- tion whatsoever. Human rights organizations like Physicians for Human Rights are condemning these policies and practices from a human rights point of view. Unless Muslims do the same from an Islamic point of view as well, the Taliban will get away with their false cl

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