Women and Power in Central Asia (Part III)
Monday, January 23, 2006 2:15 PM

 Afghan women have experienced various forms of oppression throughout the country's history, but it was especially intense during the Taliban era. The Taliban regime denied women all rights to education and employment and severely restricted their activities in public, including making them wear the all-covering burqa. Some Afghan women continued their political activities in the neighboring countries of Iran and Pakistan and occasionally returned to Afghanistan under the cover of the burqa to meet with people.

Afghan women say cultural and social constraints could not prevent them from assuming leadership positions. "Afghan women proved in a short time that, not only on a national level but internationally, too, that they can take part in political activities," says Zahida Ansari, who is Afghanistan's new ambassador to Bulgaria. "In diplomacy, too, there is no problem [for women to handle the jobs]. You know that an ambassador's job, as the representative of the president, is to defend government policy and the rights of citizens in a foreign country within international law. It is a very important job and a big responsibility." Mas'uda Jalal, Afghanistan's first female presidential candidate, says she persevered and didn't let cultural restrictions get in her way.

There are many Afghan women who say they would like to work in the social and political spheres but who believe they cannot do so because of family and social concerns. The Afghan women who are already involved in the nation's political activities say their families fully support them. "Fortunately, I have not faced problems from my family," Bamiyan Governor Sorabi says. "They have been supportive. But in some cases, other relatives other than my husband have spread gossip and passed along negative remarks. But in Afghan society, there will be such talk."

Cited in: "Women and Power in Central Asia Part III: Afghan Women Rise to the Top After Taliban Repression", Safia Hassas, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 29 December 2005.

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