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Sunday, March 8, 1998 Published at 16:59 GMT


Women unite against oppression
image: [ About 10,000 Albanian women marched in Pristina in the Serb-controlled province of Kosovo ]
About 10,000 Albanian women marched in Pristina in the Serb-controlled province of Kosovo

Protests around the world on International Women's Day have targeted regimes that continue to deny equal rights.

The biggest demonstration was held in the town of Pristina, capital of the Serbian province of Kosovo, which has seen much recent violence.

Some 10,000 ethnic Albanian women there used the occasion to march outside the US centre and demand autonomy from the Serb government of the province.

[ image: Violence broke out at this Turkish rally]
Violence broke out at this Turkish rally
In Turkey, at least 24 people were injured when police used truncheons and tear gas to break up a demonstration hijacked by a banned group.

Some of the protesters responded by smashing windows at the French embassy and a police station.

About 1,500 people attend the rally. Police moved in after banners of the PKK, a rebel Kurdish party, were raised.

A larger demonstration for Women's Day in a separate part of the city passed off without incident.

Algerian women also took to the streets on Sunday to oppose a family code, which they say denies their human rights.

[ image: Women in Dhaka form a human chain]
Women in Dhaka form a human chain
Dozens of women protested outside the building of the National Human Rights Observatory in Algiers.

They said the code permitted male polygamy while making women "children for life".

In Bangladesh, thousands of women formed a human chain on the streets of Dhaka to mark International Women's Day.

Elsewhere, increasing restrictions on women living in Afghanistan provided a focus for many of the events being held.

BBC reporter Michael Voss in Kabul examines what has been called a "gender apartheid" (2'33")
Under the rule of the Taleban, Afghan women are banned from working and leaving their homes without a male escort. They are forced to wear a burqa veil, covering the entire body, at all times.

Taleban leaders say these rules show respect for women, rather than turning their bodies into sexual objects.

[ image: Afghan women are banned from working]
Afghan women are banned from working
In the Afghan capital Kabul, only a few small demonstrations were held by foreign aid groups.

But other Muslim nations, such as Iran, which boasts more female parliamentary representatives than the American Senate, are joining the international protest.

The Iranian Vice President for Environmental Affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, sent a message to the women of Afghanistan.

"Your sisters in the Islamic Republic of Iran are attentively listening to your suppressed cries," she said.

"Your unbearable present status is eyed with deep concern by the Muslims all over the world.

[ image: Iranian women back their Afghan sisters]
Iranian women back their Afghan sisters
"Your sisters in the Islamic republic are taking measures to establish Islamic human rights of women in the world, which will contribute to the improvement of the status of women and provide progress in all the areas for the Muslim communities around the world."

The British International Development Secretary, Clare Short, also sent a message of support to women living in Afghanistan.

"It is important that women worldwide seize the opportunity of International Women's Day to draw attention to the plight of women in Afghanistan, who are excluded from society by law and subjected to discrimination which is nothing short of gender apartheid," she said.

Pope John Paul II added his message of support to women around the world living under discriminatory laws.

In his weekly Angelus address to pilgrims in St Peter's Square, the pontiff said denying women their equal rights hurt everyone in a society.

"I would like to launch an appeal for the women who even today have their basic rights denied by the political regimes of their countries: women segregated, forbidden to study, follow a profession, even express their own opinion in public," he said.

"How many women have been and still are valued more for their physical appearance than for their personal qualities, their professional competence, the fruits of their intelligence, the richness of their sensibility and the very dignity of their being."

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