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The Women of Afghanistan: Terror's First Victims

September 27, 2001

One thing that the international women’s movement has demonstrated over the past few years is that the first victims of war are always women and children. Already, women have been the harshest victims of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Wherever the Taliban came to power, they banned women from working, prohibited women and girls from attending school, and forbid women from leaving their homes without being accompanied by a close male relative and wearing a head-to-toe burqa shroud. Women who violate Taliban decrees are beaten, imprisoned, or even killed. Women’sgroups on the ground in Afghanistan, like the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, have long worked to transform gender relations in Afghanistan.

Three years ago, the Feminist Majority demanded that the U.S. government not recognize the Taliban government becauseof its treatment of women. Partly thanks to this pressure —-a high profile campaign organized with a coalition offeminists—- the US government never recognized the Taliban government. Certainly, the Feminist Majority’s campaignfor Afghan women put the Taliban on the US radar for the first time. Although the US government has refused toacknowledge the Taliban for years, it is now the US that may wage war on the ravaged country. So the questionbecomes—what will happen to Afghan women now, as the US threatens retaliation on the Taliban government ofAfghanistan?


  • Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation.
  • Sonali Kolhathar, Vice President, Afghan Women’s Mission.