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Afghan Women Judges

"People who have been in place in the legal system in Afghanistan need to get trained," said an Afghan woman judge. "Otherwise there can be no trust," she said. The judge is one of a number of Afghan women jurists receiving special legal training in the United States under a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

In Afghanistan, the judges say their work is often hampered by inadequate facilities, including shortages of electricity. Violence by Taleban remnants, drug traffickers, and criminal gangs is a serious threat. "Each time I meet with Afghan women leaders visiting the United States, I am humbled by the courage of these women," says Ambassador Steven Steiner, acting senior coordinator for international women's issues at the U.S. State Department.

Under the Taleban, women were barred from serving as judges in Afghanistan. Today there are some forty Afghan women jurists. The U.S. is providing some of them with training and equipment, and is helping repair and maintain courts and judicial administration buildings. The U.S. is also contributing to the development of a national communications system that will connect judicial administration offices in Kabul with those in the provinces.

Anisa Rasouli [Ah-NEE-sah Rah-SOO-lee] is the head of the Juvenile Court in Kabul. She has received computer training while performing her judicial duties in Afghanistan. She says a major problem is that the majority of Afghans, particularly women, "do not have an understanding of their rights." She says that she and other women judges face many problems, "but a change needs to start someplace."

Raazia Baluch [RAH-zee-yah Ba-LOOCH] is another Afghan woman determined to make a difference. Like many Afghans, she fled Taleban repression and returned when the Taleban regime was overthrown in 2001. In September 2005, she was elected to the Helmand provincial assembly. Despite threats by extremists, Ms. Baluch wants more reform in Afghanistan, especially in education. "The prophet says women should be educated. This is freedom," she says.

State Department acting senior coordinator for international women's issues, Ambassador Steven Steiner says, "the United States remains firmly committed to assisting Afghanistan in its remarkable journey toward a strong democracy where all citizens enjoy equal rights and can aspire to economic property."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.