The E-mail Petition For Women in Afghanistan

Have you received the e-mail enclosed in the box below? If you have, join the club because so have I. Like most of you, I initially forwarded the e-mail to all my contacts after dutifully adding my name to the list because the situation as I hear from the media seems to be deplorable in Afganistan.. But then I got thinking....

The people of United States....aaah...the people who spent 200 years killing and oppressing everyone in their way - from their own women to Native Americans to blacks to gypsies. I spent a semester studying this under the guidance of a visiting lecturer who graduated from Berkeley, Dr. R. Wollons. I would highly recommend the book "IRON CAGES" by Ronald Takaki if you want a reliable read on America's oppression and cruel treatment of her minorities throughout her history.

The country that has seen 42 or 43 Presidents come and go but not one has been a woman. Whole classes of its own citizens are eating off the streets and have done so for generations while America spends much of her resources fighting wars in other lands and fighting for the rights of women in other nations. Elizabeth F. (can't remember her surname) was elected to the U.S. Congress but she stated in an interview with Gwynne Dyer when he was making the documentary on patriarchy called "The Gods of our Fathers", that she earns LESS than the minimum wage.

"I think this is a very male institution here, you know. When the 103rd Congress came in and we are of colour and we are women - it's a marvellous group of people but once we got into the whole of the congress, I suddenly realised how few of us there really were.

"Less than 10% is female. You look at those portraits on the rotunda and somebody from outer space would say this is a country made up of white men. They have no women or people of colour in those statues."

American war planes were bombing Iraq the day President Clinton was inaugurated. Member of Congress, Elizabeth F., "What I think about it now, about this cat and mouse game that we play, is that there are thousands of children dying in Baghdad from the last time we were bombing. What are we doing? When do we beging to say that an Iraqi child's life is the same as a white American? Until we do that, we will go on having wars."

Oppression is everywhere and it's the problem that has no name, in the words of a famous feminist, Betty Friedan. It exists where one thinks it does not exist - in America, among the "People of the United States" as they declare themselves to be.

"A psychological study in 1995 found that three minutes spent looking at models in a fashion magazine caused  70% of women to feel depressed, guilty, and shameful. Models twenty years ago weighed 8% less than the average woman, today they weigh 23% less." Click here to read the full article.

"If Barbie was a real woman, she'd have to walk on all fours due to her proportions. The average American woman weighs 144 lbs. and wears between a size 12 and 14. One out of every four college aged women has an eating disorder. The models in the magazines are airbrushed - they're not perfect."

The STATS below were taken from Domestic Violence Research and Training Institute

A female is battered every nine seconds. [California Alliance Against Domestic Violence, 1994]

 It is estimated that one third of all high school and college students will have been in an abusive relationship by the time they graduate. [Levy, 1992]

Relationship violence is the number one cause of injury to women ages 15-44: more that rapes, muggings and car accidents combined. [Center For Community Solutions, 1997]

There are three times as many animal shelters in the United States as battered women shelters. [Senate Judiciary Committee, 1990]

63% of all boys ages 11-20 arrested for murder, murdered the man who was assaulting their mother.[Center For Community Solutions, 1997]

As many as 15 million women have been abused at some time during their lives. [Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, 1989]

As many as one-quarter to two-thirds of battered women report abuse during preganancy.["Battered and Pregnant: A Prevalence Study," Journal of the American Public Health Association]

 In a prospective study of 1,200 white, Hispanic and black pregnant women, one in six reported physical          abuse during pregnancy. ["Abuse During Pregnancy: A Cross-Cultural Studyof Frequent and Severity of Injuries," J. McFarlane, 1991]

The average battered women is attacked three times each year. [Intimate Violence, R. Gelles and M. Straus, 1988]

22 to 35 percent of women who visit emergency departments in the United States are there for symptoms related to on-going abuse. ["Domestic Violence Intervention Calls for More than Treating Injuries," Journal of the American Medical Association, 1990]

Families in which domestic violence occurs use doctors eight times more often, visit the emergency room six times more often and use six times more prescription drugs than the general population. ["Domestic Violence: A Community Crisis Waiting for an Effective Response" Seattle Domestic Violence Intervention, 1989]

The STATS above were taken from Domestic Violence Research and Training Institute

I do not deny that women are being treated very unfairly in Afghanistan - I do not mean to say the problem does not exist. But I strongly feel that "The People of the United States" can't really gloat over fighting for women's rights in other lands without feeling really hypocritical.

To read a brilliant article that criticizes the Taliban AND also, gives a more wholistic view of the situation in Afganistan please read. The Women of Afghanistan: Whose Concern is it Anyway? This is a very highly recommended reading!

Subject: Support the Women of Afghanistan

Human Rights Violations of women in Afghanistan: 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 hospital for women, (women may only be treated by another woman. Since Women can not practice, or work as a doctor, there is only the rare male willing to break the law, who will treat a sick woman.) a reporter found 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 told me that we in the United States 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 subhuman 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 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 Americans do not understand.  If we can threaten military force in Kosovo in the name of human rights for the sake of ethnic Albanians, Americans can certainly express peaceful out-rage 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 States and other countries and their governments 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 1999 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 the United States.

  1) Leslie London, Cape Town, South Africa
  2) Joyce Millen, Cambridge, MA
  3) Arlene Silikovitz, West Orange, NJ
  4) Ariel Yan, NYC
  5) Larissa Yocum, Washington, D.C.
  6) Lisette de Boer, Delft, The Netherlands
  7) Dirk Jan Dullemond, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  8) Ulla Hoyer, Copenhagen, Denmark
  9) Ingrid von Essen, London, UK
  10) Maj-Britt Rosenbaum, M.D., New York, USA
  11) Gail Harvey, NYC
  12) Sumeet Caberwal, NYC
  13) Meeta K. Malhi, Berkeley CA
  14) Francina Lozada Nur, Stanford, CA
  15) Michael Glick, Philadelphia, PA
  16) Scott Burris, Philadelphia, PA

and so on.....

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