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Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
Comments on role of women at CLJ (IWPR, NPR, AFP, Women's eNews, Boston Globe)
Women Still Silenced By Hasina Sulaiman and Hasina Rasuli (ARR No. 88, 18-Dec-03) Institute for War & Peace Reporting Although women have gained a higher proportion of delegate seats in the current Loya Jirga compared to the previous one, they still feel that their voice is not being heard. Several female delegates said they feel silenced by the atmosphere in the assembly, where conservatives have power. They were particularly unhappy about the treatment of Malalai Joya, a young female delegate who was called a communist when she spoke out against the jihadi leaders and was nearly thrown out of the jirga on Wednesday. In spite of this, the female delegates are determined to keep conferring with each other and continue to try to influence the process. In the Emergency Loya Jirga of June 2002, women had 200 delegates out of the 1,650 total. For this assembly, there are 95 women out of 502 delegates - two elected from each of the 32 provinces, 25 appointed by President Hamed Karzai, and six from among special groups – Kuchi nomads, internally displaced people, and Afghans living in Iran and Pakistan. So the proportion has increased from about 12 per cent of the jirga to around 20 per cent. One woman, Safia Sediqi, was chosen as a fourth deputy chair of the Loya Jirga, and half of the four secretaries are women. But Sima Samar, head of the independent human rights commission and former minister of women's affairs, argued that since women make up more than half of the population of Afghanistan, "there should have been at least 200 women taking part". One of the secretaries of the Loya Jirga, Jamila Mujahed, told IWPR, "Compared to the [Emergency] Loya Jirga, generally the atmosphere has improved." But it still isn't conducive for women to feel comfortable, she said. "The number of women is few and the fundamentalists are in the majority. If the environment remains in the hands of such people, the chances for women [to have influence] are slight," she added. A delegate from Kandahar, Rangina Hamidi, said there are plenty of men in the assembly who also disagreed with the way the conservative elements are acting, but "they don't have the courage to say so". She expressed sympathy for Joya. "If we're not saddened [by this], we wouldn't be human," she said. "We should have left the hall." Hamidi said a group of women delegates met with United States ambassador Zalmai Khalilzad on Wednesday evening and told him, "Talk of our people's freedom and democracy is futile until the warlords disappear." One woman delegate, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the mujahedin faction leaders and commanders who form the majority of the Loya Jirga are a hurdle to women and pro democratic men – because they are afraid they'll be killed if they speak up. She said, "When a delegate offers his or her opinion and someone stops them and the microphone is cut, and they hears insulting words from every side - what type of democracy and freedom is that?" She and several other female delegates complained that the Loya Jirga's work wasn't well -organised, and that all the long-winded speeches made them very tired. However, Palwasha Hasan, chief editor for Mursal Weekly and a delegate from Kabul, said that woman can defend their rights in the Loya Jirga. She said women are consulting amongst themselves about ways to win rights for women, where they have unanimity. However, some approve of the presidential system as in the draft constitution, while others prefer a parliamentary system. Hasina Sulaiman and Hasina Rasuli are participating in IWPR's Loya Jirga reporting project. Danish Karokhel, an editor and staff reporter for IWPR, also contributed to this report.
National Public Radio SHOW: Morning Edition December 18, 2003 (11:00 AM AM ET) Carlotta Gall of The New York Times discusses the status of women delegates to the Afghan constitutional council BOB EDWARDS, host: For Afghanistan's grand council, the Loya Jirga, drafting a new constitution for the country has been chaotic. Many delegates have threatened to walk out. The process has been especially frustrating for female delegates. Yesterday, one of them sharply criticized some members, saying they should be tried as criminals by the World Court. Carlotta Gall is in Afghanistan reporting on the council for The New York Times. She says women interested in leadership positions are not making much progress. Ms. CARLOTTA GALL (The New York Times): They do have 100 places in this Loya Jirga of 500 people, so they are present, but as we saw, they get quickly shouted down, and even threatened into silence, so it's a very difficult position for them. We also heard the chairman of the Loya Jirga [Sighbatullah Mojadidi] two days ago making a very typical reaction to women's plea for more representation when he repeated that in Islam a woman's word is only worth half that of a man. He later took it back, and appointed a woman. EDWARDS: So the Taliban may be gone, but their views on women still prevail. Ms. GALL: Most certainly. I mean, clearly there are many educated people who don't feel like that, but I think what you have to remember is the people who fought the jihad against the Russians, who became very powerful at that time, their whole raison d'etre came from Islam. They were fighting a holy war, and their whole mission is to promote Islam, and they're quite determined to have the country work out as they wish. EDWARDS: So how will this affect the charter-drafting process? Ms. GALL: I think there's a hope that having people reduced to committees of 50 people rather than an open plenary session of 500, that will give more calm discussion and more opportunity for individuals to speak. So we'll see. There is now some concern in the committees, the way they've been structured, that each committee is going to be dominated by conservative religious leaders. Of course, many of them are professors and are lawyers, so they have a strong case for having a say in the constitution. It's still very difficult, and women have to tread very carefully still. It's going to be a long, long haul before they get equality here. EDWARDS: So will they be elected to legitimate leadership roles, or will they be given perfunctory roles in the new constitutional council? Ms. GALL: I think there's enough pressure from moderates, from Karzai himself, who's very pro-appointing women, and probably from the international community to put in at least one or two women members into that committee, but whether they'll actually have much influence remains to be seen. I think it's doubtful. I think they're going to get ignored, and probably not much more, in this constitution. EDWARDS: In a couple of interviews I've done, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Laura Bush both told me that they thought the liberation of Afghan women was one of the great accomplishments of the US intervention there. Does the US have any influence here, and won't this be an embarrassment if women are not recognized in participating in the new Afghanistan? Ms. GALL: Yes, and I think there are enough Afghans to know there's only so far they can go. You hear even the hard-line conservatives say things like, 'We know we don't want to be rejected by the world. We know if we chose a Taliban system, the international community would shun us again like they did the Taliban regime, and we don't want that.' The Afghans remember how difficult that was in the last decade, so I think there's going to be a lot of hoo-ha, but I think in the end, the women are going to get something, but I think they're going to have to fight for their rights for many decades to come. EDWARDS: New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall in Afghanistan.
Agence France Presse December 19, 2003 Friday Women call for equal rights at Afghan convention BY WAHEEDULLAH MASSOUD Women delegates are calling for equal rights to be enshrined in the constitution as Afghanistan's grand assembly was set to pursue debates Friday on divisive issues such as the power of the president. While article 22 of the draft document says the "citizens of Afghanistan have equal rights and duties before the law," it does not explicitly state that women have equal rights. Under the harsh rule of the ousted Taliban, women and girls were denied education and effectively barred from public life. Article 22 should be changed to: "Afghan men and women have equal rights and duties before the law," Nadira, a women's delegate from northern Balkh province, told reporters Thursday. "We want the explicit mention of 'women and men' in every article where the words 'Afghan citizens' are used," said fellow delegate Noorya Wisal from southeast Ghazni province. Some 100 women are among the 502 delegates taking part in the historic loya jirga ("grand assembly") who are meeting in Kabul to debate and, if all goes to plan, ratify the draft constitution which will pave the way for the country's transition to democracy at elections scheduled for June 2004. The delegates have been divided into 10 groups to discuss the controversial document and debate the country's future form of government. Some have however called for a boycott of the convention unless the key issue of whether to have a presidential or parliamentary system is debated by the whole gathering. Deep rifts within Afghan society were exposed Wednesday when Malalai Joya, a female delegate from western Farah province, provoked uproar at the gathering by criticising the powerful mujahedin (former anti- Soviet fighters) attending the convention and calling for them to be put on trial for plunging the country into four years of civil war between 1992 and 1996. Afghan soldiers had to mount the stage to keep order as dozens of angry mujahedin delegates rushed it, demanding she be expelled. Her fellow female delegates protested and prevented her from being expelled. "She should have observed the sensitivity of the session and not used strong offensive language but still we supported her and didn't permit her expulsion," said Wisal. Rights watchdog Amnesty International and the United Nations condemned threats against Joya by fellow delegates. "Some present were heard to say that they would kill the woman while others intervened to protect her," Amnesty said. "If delegates are threatened or otherwise prevented from expressing their views, this process of building a new future for Afghanistan will be severely threatened," it said. Joya's outburst exacerbated the sharp differences that have emerged over key issues such as the power of the president since Sunday's opening by former king Mohammad Zahir Shah. Delegates are divided between those who support the strong presidential system laid down in the draft and those, including some mujahedin factions, who would prefer some form of prime minister or at least a parliament with real teeth to counter-balance sweeping presidential powers. "They will have to work very hard to reach consensus," said UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva. "You are coming from so many years of violence, so many years of destruction where your institutions were eroded, it is quite a challenge to try to overcome all this so quickly by defining your constitution," de Almeida e Silva said. He was nevertheless optimistic. "I'm very hopeful and confident that in Kabul the constitutional loya jirga will reach agreement on a constitution that responds to the aspirations of the majority of the people and that will help move Afghanistan forward," he said. Streets around the loya jirga site have been sealed off while foreign peacekeepers, newly-trained Afghan soldiers, police and secret service agents provided tight security amid threats from Taliban militants who claimed responsibility for three rockets which hit Kabul early Tuesday but hurt no-one.
WomenNews.com December 23, 2003 Afghan Women Fight for Citizenship By Jodi Enda As conservative mujahideen dominate the drafting of the new Afghanistan constitution, many fear that women--still under the burqa- -will not be treated as citizens and won't be protected from Taliban- era mistreatment and discrimination. WASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)--Afghan women are fighting for something so simple it has long been taken for granted by women in much of the world: to be considered citizens by their country's constitution. As some 400 men and 100 women take part in a loya jirga, or grand council, to adopt a new constitution this month, activists inside and outside the country have charged that a draft of the document fails to protect women from the kind of cruel and repressive treatment they suffered for five years under the Taliban. That is unlikely to change, women's rights activists said, in part because conservative mujahideen--whom some consider holy warriors for defeating the Soviet Union in the 1980s and others consider warlords for fomenting civil war in the 1990s--wield enormous power within the loya jirga, which has been convened in Kabul. One young woman, convention delegate Malalai Joya, was placed under United Nations protection after she chastised the assembly for bending to the influence of the mujahideen and their most religiously conservative faction, jihadis. "Why have you again selected as committee chairmen those criminals who have brought these disasters for the Afghan people?" Joya, 25, said on Dec. 17. Jihadis will chair at least six of the 10 committees debating the constitution. "In my opinion they should be taken to the World Court." Few Guarantees for Women While the draft constitution supports human rights, it does not guarantee equality for women, whose rights continue to be curtailed two years after the United States removed the Taliban from power and First Lady Laura Bush launched an international campaign to improve the lot of Afghan women. "Under this constitution, it's foreseeable that Taliban-like laws could be passed and not even contradict the constitution," said Masuda Sultan, program director for Women for Afghan Women, a New York-based nonprofit organization that sponsored a conference on women's rights in Kandahar, Afghanistan, this fall. "For example, a woman could be sent to flogging under this constitution." Afghan women who attended the September conference "felt that because of the recent history of abuses, it was very important to very specifically list rights of women. That really hasn't happened in this document," Sultan said. "It doesn't outlaw discrimination based on gender. It doesn't talk about the rights of inheritance and property. It doesn't address the exchange of women in terms of disputes between families." Although members of a constitutional commission reviewed a women's bill of rights composed at the Kandahar conference, they did not write it into the draft constitution. Female commissioners "told us this was the best that could have been done under the circumstances, that it was the best we could get out of the loya jirga," Sultan said. The 50-page draft constitution, unveiled in November, envisions an Islamic republic that guarantees the supremacy of Islamic code, or Sharia law. It says that girls and women can attend school, a right they were denied by the Taliban, but also refers to female heads of households, generally widows, as "women without caretakers." Still Wearing the Burqa Women's rights advocates have said that Afghan women, particularly those in small towns and rural areas, continue to suffer some of the same abuses imposed by the Taliban. They can't move freely in public, attend school or work; they are forced into marriage, often at a young age, and sold to older, married men. If suspected of adultery, they are subject to so-called honor killings. Many women still wear burqas in public, not out of obligation, but fear. Professional women often wear the head-to-ankle covering with its small mesh peephole on their way to and from work. At the office, the burqas--required garb for all women under the Taliban--are removed to display modern clothing and makeup. Certainly, women's advocates acknowledge life is better for women now than it was before December 2001, when the Taliban tried to recreate a seventh-century style of living. But it took just one image to illustrate both the gains and shortcomings of the last two years: Female delegates elected to the loya jirga had to be escorted to the meeting by male relatives. Human rights advocates said they don't expect the loya jirga, which convened under heavy security in Kabul Dec. 14, to add women's rights- -or citizenship--to the constitution. "It's not going to be an easy task," said Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women. "It's working against the grain." Equal Rights for All, But Women One early clue was the initial exclusion of women from the leadership team at the constitutional convention. When women protested, the chairperson, Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, told them that even God considered women to be unequal to men. Under conservative interpretations of Islamic law, the testimony of two women is, in some cases, equal to that of one man. Ultimately, Mojadeddi relented, adding a woman as the fourth convention deputy. But he could not take back his words. "It really reflects the underlying thinking, that women are not equal citizens. And that came through very, very strongly when the chair said you need two women to be equal to a man," Heyzer said in an interview with Women's eNews. "That image was the fact that women do not have full citizenship," she said. "It is so important to have the constitution be extremely clear about women bearing the full rights of citizenship. It has to be stated." The draft constitution does guarantee equal rights to all Afghan citizens. But nowhere does it say who is a citizen. And while it does state that Afghanistan will abide by the international treaties it has ratified--presumably including one that prohibits discrimination against women, which Afghanistan ratified in March--human and women's rights advocates worry that isn't enough. Amnesty International has urged the loya jirga to ban forced marriages and child marriage and to grant women the right to divorce their husbands. In a letter this month to President Bush, representatives of 32 organizations working on behalf of women's and human rights said the draft constitution leaves such rights "open to restriction by laws and by extremist interpretations of Islam." The letter urged Bush to support women's rights in the constitution and a greater expansion of the international peacekeeping force beyond Kabul, which they said was necessary to protect women and the loya jirga itself. Taliban forces, which reportedly have regrouped, have threatened to cut off the noses of delegates. "Since last fall, we have seen more than 30 girls' schools set on fire, bombed or violently attacked by extremists," the letter said. "Horrendous human rights and women's rights violations, such as rapes, seizing of property and homes, warlord restrictions on women, sex trafficking, forced marriages, illegal detentions and threats against women who dare to exercise their rights and against human rights defenders continue with impunity . . . The Taliban is re- emerging and gaining strength." Jennifer Jackman, director of policy and research for the Feminist Majority Foundation, a women's rights organization based in suburban Washington, said legal rights are meaningless if women must fear for their lives. "Without security, women's rights will never be possible in Afghanistan," Jackman said. "Human rights advocates can't advocate for women's rights in the current situation. They're risking their lives." "It is really killing the hope that especially Afghan women had felt after the Taliban was removed." Jodi Enda writes about government and politics from Washington.
The Boston Globe December 24, 2003 AFGHAN WOMEN'S POWER IT ISN'T necessary to be a Western-style feminist to understand that women have a crucial role to play in the future of Afghanistan, where delegates are still working on a new constitution for the country. Women throughout the developing world are yardsticks for progress: Where they are healthy, educated, and empowered, their societies and economies tend to be improving. Where they are oppressed and battered, their countries usually are mired in poverty, disease, and despair. In Afghanistan especially, the role of women has been at the center of the country's emergence from war and repression. Who can forget the iconic photograph, taken just after US-led forces routed the Taliban in October 2001, showing a young woman removing her burka to reveal a hopeful face to the late-afternoon sun? And yet women who wanted more of a voice in the constitutional assembly, or loya jirga, have been disappointed. Although the 502 delegates include 114 women, they say they have been marginalized in the procedings. According to news accounts, the senior delegate, Sebaghatullah Mojadeddi, made an unfortunate reference to a provision in Islamic law that ranks the legal testimony of two women as equal to that of one man. Some female delegates threatened a walkout. Still, on Monday, women delegates succeeded in defining "citizens" in the constitution as "women and men," a key victory in a land where provincial and religious law can undermine basic rights. The stakes for women at the loya jirga are high. During the 20 years of Taliban rule, girls were not permitted to attend school after the primary grades. Women were banned from working in most areas, were forced into marriage at puberty, and were forbidden from appearing in public without a related male chaperone. Health conditions are poor. More than 16,000 Afghan women die in childbirth every year, the world's worst maternal mortality rate outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Even since the Taliban fell, violence and political instability outside the capital, Kabul, have made life treacherous for women. Just last week a bomb was found at a Jalalabad women's resource center that had been providing literacy training for women and girls. But not all is grim. Nongovernmental organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights are sending monitors and helping to improve conditions. Congress has allocated $1.2 billion for Afghan reconstruction, some of it earmarked for women's programs. As in most poor and war-torn countries, small contributions - a Jeep, a trained birth attendant - can make an enormous difference. Decades of isolation, poverty, and repression cannot be lifted overnight. But Afghanistan is taking an important first step: understanding that in the welfare of its women, an entire country's future can be seen.
Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation
and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of
the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.
www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.