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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
What is the role for Afghan women in this conflict?
President Bush has repeatedly assured the world that the current attacks in Afghanistan are not against the Afghan people but against terrorists and those who harbour them.

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has also spoken in defence of Afghan women, implying that one of the underlying justifications for unseating the Taleban's repressive regime has been their maltreatment of women.

But a spokeswoman for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan has voiced her fears that the bombing will actually strengthen the Taleban regime.

If that is the case, Afghan women are not only at risk from the continuing restrictions on their liberty but also the bombs raining on their country.

Could the liberation of Afghan women be one of the outcomes of the war on terrorism?

Or will their suffering increase as they are caught in the crossfire? Tell us what you think.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

I think the West is using the plight of Afghan women to rally support for the bombing.

Saima, UK
I think the West is using the plight of Afghan women to rally support for the bombing. We are told that we are bombing Afghanistan for its own benefit and to free the Afghans from the Taliban. This is patronising because no one has carried out a survey to ask them what they want. We are doing it for ourselves.

The suffering of women is not just confined to certain cultures or countries. Even in Britain, the fourth richest country in the world, there are a lot of women who suffer domestic violence. However, as a Muslim woman living in the West I know that Islam does not oppress women, contrary to what we read in the newspapers every day. Women are very highly regarded in Islam and are encouraged to contribute towards society in a religious, social, political and educational realm. In Islamic history, women have made so many valuable contributions to society. For me it is sad to hear the way some Muslim women are treated in certain societies. This is shameful and does not reflect Islam.

In the short term I really fear for the Afghan women, whose husbands have been killed or forced to fight and I think their plight will be ignored as the fighting continues. They have suffered from the Taliban and will further suffer from the bombing,forcing them to leave home with their children, without any money and nowhere to go. The Taliban may have oppressed them but we are adding to their suffering as well.
Saima, UK

It is another moment of dark irony in the history of humankind that women are the main victims of military actions led by US and British forces to avenge the September 11 attack committed by an exclusively male group of terrorists. Afghan women have been pawns in the hand of men from all three sides of the frontline: the Taleban, the Northern Alliance and the US and British governments. For years women were systematically suppressed and stripped of their hard-won rights and freedoms by the Taliban regime as a political tool to achieve power and secure control over the population. US and British government officials - fully aware of years of serious human rights violations against Afghan women - did not intervene until after the September 11 attack. Yet the Taliban┐s suppression of women is now used to justify a war with an entire nation. By posing as liberators of the suppressed women of Afghanistan the Western governments paint the mass bombings and military maneuvers with an humanitarian face. But who believes it when the majority of people fleeing the war are women - as many as 20% of them pregnant?

Afghan women have been the pawns of men from all sides of the frontline

Name Here
As if to emphasize the hypocrisy of their humanitarian claims, the British and US governments support the Northern Alliance in a future political role, ignoring that their treatment of women in the four years before the Taliban seized power has been described as worse than the Taliban┐s.

Recalling the name of the US military operation "Enduring Freedom", I ask myself whose freedom are these Afghan women enduring? Is it not time that they recover their basic human rights to define and determine their own freedom? I can only hope that the women of Afghanistan will be able to participate actively in the construction of a new Afghan nation once the war is over.
Friederike Emonds, USA

The most useful role a woman can play, can be played only when she is educated and independent. By education I do not mean just literacy. If the oppressive Tailban has been able to find so much support, I am sure that they have already eliminated the educated and independent women from Afghan society. The other women in Afghan society, who have been blindfolded for life in their purdahs, can probably contribute by refusing to bear in their wombs any more new recruits for the likes of Taliban and Pakistan.
Mani, USA

The war will create social and economic trauma for women

Prativa Subedi, Nepal
Afghan women are restricted in every aspect, as they are denied the basic rights including mobility and education. Taleban's oppressive regime has set many brutal rules for them. The war will create social and economic trauma for women. Women will suffer as they lose male members of the family providing economic support. After the war women will be bound to work for their survival and when the women join the workforce some changes will happen. After this war next revolution should come from Afghan people for women's liberation in their country.
Prativa Subedi, Nepal

The pity is that Afghan women have no role at all in Afghan "society". It goes without saying that their suffering will increase due to the bombing campaign - after all, they (and children) are the only elements of that country without guns and those with guns (whether Afghan, Arab, Pakistani or others) are unlikely to give any thoughts to those without.
Rustam Roy, England

We can only pray for Afghan women until Taliban are out of power.
Viji Palaniappan, USA / India

Why suddenly, after Sep 11th, has the UK become so worried about the rights of women in Afghanistan?

Ishtiaq Qadri, US
Why suddenly after Sep 11th, has the UK become so worried about the rights of women in Afghanistan? For decades these women of Afghanistan have lived in miserable conditions in the refugee camps of Pakistan and Iran. No one cared for them. Where were Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush, so called advocates of human rights, prior to Sep 11th? Do we really believe them now that they cared for the women or even men of Afghanistan? They do not. It is just propaganda to win the support of their own citizens against the war.

If they are really concerned about the miserable conditions of women, they should start with improving these conditions in the puppet regimes (US and UK installed) of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, UAE. If they are really sincere, they should tell, advise, order these dictators of middle east that they should provide the freedom to their citizens including women. This will be test. Why it is OK if a woman cannot drive in Saudi Arabia, but wrong if she cannot go outside alone in Afghanistan? Excellent justice of the western leaders.
Ishtiaq Qadri, US

Americans cared about the Afghans before September 11th, but can you imagine the outcry if we had launched a military campaign?

Ryan, USA
Mr. Qadri - Americans cared about the Afghans before 9/11, I assure you. But can you imagine the outcry from the Muslim world if we had launched a military campaign to free the Afghanis from the Taleban on 9/10? It would have been an enormous rejection of our "imperialist" war. It was inconceivable. Presidents and Prime Ministers talk about the problems they can solve, not the ones they can't - and they couldn't solve the Taleban problem on 9/10.

You are categorically wrong in your assertion that the Arabian states are puppets of the US & UK. If the Saudis were a puppet, they'd be doing a lot more in the war. The sheikhs of Arabia are the same fellows who were in power when we first started to care about the region. There has been no better alternative, so we support these states against worse regimes like Iraq. Americans hate the way women are treated in Saudi, but there is no way for us to change that whch would be worth the risk to us or the Arabs. In Afghanistan it has become worth it, for us and for them.

To the best of my ability to read the Arab attitude toward America, we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. Wherever we do nothing, we are considered to be supporters of the status quo and therefore guilty of it's injustices. Wherever we act, we are foreign interferers who have no business in the domestic affairs of whatever nation.
Ryan, USA

I hope and pray that Afghan women come out of this ordeal stronger and participate more in the political and social affairs of the country. The men of Afghanistan have taken the country on a downward spiral.
Vivek Manchanda, India

Listen now both sides of the debate
See also:

18 Oct 01 | Forum
Women and the Taleban
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