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Human Rights Day: Afghan Women Protest in Pakistan - 2001-12-10

Afghan women have demonstrated to denounce past abuses by the Taleban and factions making up Afghanistan's new government. The women rallied in the Pakistani capital on International Human Rights Day.

About 200 Afghan women staged the protest outside the U.N. office in Islamabad. They are members of the Revolutionary Afghan Women Association (RAWA).

The demonstrators hold both the Northern Alliance and the now defeated Islamic Taleban responsible for human rights violations and the destruction of Afghanistan.

One participant, Alia Nazir, says they all should be taken to the courts for their past abuses and not made rulers of Afghanistan.

"When [Northern Alliance and Taleban] captured Afghanistan, first of all they imposed restriction against the women of Afghanistan," she said. "They say that women are nothing and they are not a part of the society. They do not consider women to be human beings and that they must stay in the houses.

Sohaila Bibi is a senior activist of the Afghan group. She says the leaders of the Northern Alliance are criminals to Afghan mothers and young daughters.

"We are not happy with [the Northern Alliance]. The people do not like them," she said. "They do not accept them because they have experienced their cruel actions from 1992 to 1996."

The demonstrators, mostly ethnic Tajiks, waved banners and pictures of Northern Alliance fighters, torturing and killing Taleban adversaries last month after the fall of Kabul.

Rally leader Alia Nazir says her country needs a democratic government under the supervision and protection of U.N. peacekeeping forces. She says the United Nations should also persuade Afghanistan's neighbors to stop interference in the country.

The United Nations "must tell them not to support these fundamentalists and different jihadi groups in Afghanistan any more," she said. "Because now the whole world, they know about their criminal nature that they are just criminals. They are just fundamentalists and they just want their power in Afghanistan."

The demonstrators were also shouting slogans against the U.N.-mediated political deal in Germany, which gives a major share of power to the Northern Alliance. Ms. Nazir says the women who sat in on the Bonn conference represented warring factions that oppressed the women of Afghanistan.

The now defeated hard-line Taleban forced women to cover themselves from head to toe in a burqa and banned them from working, receiving an education, and leaving home without a male relative. But only a few women have taken off their burqas since the Northern Alliance took control of Kabul last month.