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Women's march banned in Kabul

Women can kiss away any hopes for rights under new Afghani leadership.
Women's march banned in Kabul

KABUL, Nov 27: A planned women's freedom march through the streets of Kabul on Tuesday was banned by Northern Alliance interior minister Younis Qanooni, organizers said, setting back their hopes for restored liberty.

"They said it was for security but that is just a pretext ... they don't want women to improve," said Soraya Parlika, who runs the newly formed Union of Women in Afghanistan.

Parlika said Qanooni personally rang her two days ago, before leaving for the talks on Afghanistan's future outside Bonn, and said the march was not to go ahead. "He said we should wait for an unspecified time."

As women began gathering at her home early on Tuesday, hopeful the decision would be reversed, Parlika received a follow-up call from an interior ministry official again refusing the march.

It was the second time in a week the women had been refused permission to walk from Parlika's suburban home to the main United Nations compound, with security given as the reason both times.

"I don't believe that. There would not be a problem, we have no need for security," Parlika said.

About 50 members of the newly formed Union of Women in Afghanistan were packed into her apartment, many of them wearing light headscarves.

They were among the first to show their faces outdoors in the capital after the Northern Alliance retook the city on Nov 13.

Although the Northern Alliance, not as hardline as the Taliban, has told women they were free, the statement was received with scepticism. "They announced that women are free, but it is not freedom to throw off our veils. That is not the liberty we want," said a disappointed Nafeesa, 17, who has recieved no formal education for the past five years.

"Right now the situation in Kabul is not good. It is not what we wanted."

Nadir, a chemistry teacher until the Taliban forced her to stop, feared the dreams of women to be treated as equals in Afghan society would not come to fruition under the Northern Alliance.

There have been a few advances in the past two weeks with women broadcasters included in the return of television and radio, but that was seen as a token gesture. "We want to fulfil our rights, but they won't let us," said Nadir, 29.

The various Afghan factions at the Bonn talks were expected to highlight support for women in response to calls from the United Nations, Washington and other Western capitals to grant women a role in post-Taliban Afghanistan.-AFP



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