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10/12/03 - AFGHAN LIBERATION CONTINUES - 2003-10-14

It has been two years since the U.S.-led coalition began the task of liberating Afghanistan. Today, the brutal Taleban regime and its al-Qaida collaborators are gone. And Afghans are enjoying many freedoms that they could scarcely dream of two years ago.

Taleban repression was especially severe in regard to women. In line with its extremist interpretation of Islam, the Taleban regime denied women virtually all human rights. But today, Afghanistan has an interim central government that generally respects women’s rights. One of the most striking signs of improvement is the fact that hundreds of thousands of Afghan girls are now attending school for the first time.

Nonetheless, the process of liberating the Afghan people, especially women, is far from complete. As the U.S. State Department said earlier this year in its annual human rights report, “Violence and societal discrimination against women. . .were problems. Women and girls were subjected to rape and kidnapping, particularly in areas outside Kabul.”

Ahmad Nader Nadery, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, confirms that problems persist:

“There are lots of opportunities provided for women in Afghanistan, but still there are some problems, mainly in rural areas. Still there are some threats against women not to be involved in the reconstruction of the country [or] take an active part in the social-political life of the country.”

The continued problems for Afghan women are also the subject of a new report by Amnesty International. As the report puts it, “The criminal justice system is too weak to offer effective protection. . .and itself subjects [women] to discrimination and abuse.”

Clearly, Afghanistan continues to face great challenges. But the U.S.-led coalition is determined to help the Afghan people overcome them. As Secretary of State Colin Powell put it, “Afghanistan must never again become a land of oppression and an exporter of violence, hatred, and instability.”