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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 13:11 GMT
First ladies back Afghan women
Women wearing burqas
The burqa has become a symbol of Taleban repression
The plight of women under the the Taleban is set to be highlighted in a new campaign fronted by Cherie Blair and US first lady Laura Bush.

The prime minister's wife will join female cabinet ministers at an event at Downing Street next week in order to "lift the veil" on the treatment of women under the regime that banned their education and forced them to wear burqas.

Cherie Blair
Mrs Blair will join women cabinet ministers
Meanwhile Mrs Bush will make a radio broadcast in the US on the issue.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "We do believe that we need to lift the veil and show what has been happening to women in Afghanistan under the Taleban regime.

"That is something you will see a focus on both on this side of the Atlantic and in the States.

"I don't think you can underline too often the way [women's] rights have been denied."

First for first lady

Mrs Bush will tell America on Saturday that not only did the Taleban repress Afghan women but they tried to export their practices abroad.

Laura Bush
Mrs Bush will broadcast to the nation
Mrs Bush's broadcast is the first time a president's wife has made an address entirely on her own, according to the White House.

It is part of a wider campaign by the US government in which prominent women will highlight the record of the Taleban when running Afghanistan.

"There's no question the Taleban is the most repressive, backward group of people we have seen on the face of the Earth in a long period of time, including and particularly how they treat women," President Bush said on Thursday.

Mr Blair's spokesman said he did not know whether the two leaders' wives had talked about the subject.

See also:

11 Jul 01 | South Asia
UN urges Taleban to help women
23 Mar 01 | South Asia
Afghan feminists go online
20 Jul 00 | South Asia
Ban on Afghan women to stay
12 Jul 00 | South Asia
Taleban expel US aid worker
08 Mar 00 | South Asia
Taleban 'flexibility' on women's rights
08 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Afghanistan: Through veiled eyes
14 Dec 00 | Americas
Laura: 'A fabulous First Lady'
14 Sep 01 | Education
First Lady counsels pupils
14 Nov 01 | Business
Shares rise on fall of Kabul
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