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DATE=12/1/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=TALEBAN - WOMEN (L-O) NUMBER=2-256733 BYLINE=BARBARA SCHOETZAU DATELINE=NEW YORK CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The Taleban's treatment of women in Afghanistan was the subject of an impassioned debate in New York today (Wednesday). Correspondent Barbara Schoetzau reports. TEXT: The Taleban faction - which controls 90 percent of Afghanistan -- has come under increasing fire from human rights and women's groups since it emerged as the most powerful force in war-torn Afghanistan. T. Kumar of the human rights group Amnesty International says after 20 years of war and chaos, everyone in Afghanistan, including the Taleban, is a victim. But Mr. Kumar says edicts by the Taleban leadership restricting the rights of women to education, employment and freedom of movement make it unique in the world. //// KUMAR ACT /// This is the only country where women because of their gender have been denied education, employment and freedom of movement. So Afghanistan stands by itself as the champion of having tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience. /// END ACT /// Mr. Kumar says the Taleban leadership should rescind regulations that retrict women. But Laili Helms, an Afghan-American activist, says she found a very different situation when she visited Afghanistan last February than the one often presented by human rights groups and the media. //// HELMS ACT //// I spent about two weeks going around four provinces and in Kabul meeting with women doctors, nurses, teachers, administrators, who were working. So it is false that women are not allowed to work. I have hours of videotapes of women walking around Kabul without male companions, with and without the burka (face cover). So it is false that women are not allowed out without male companions. I spent lots of time speaking to women who teach home schools and also spoke with the women who are participating in the medical school. Right now there are 35 women attending the medical school in Kabul. So it is not true that the right of education has been taken away from women. //// END ACT //// Ms. Helms says that women's and human rights groups criticizing the Taleban are actually hurting Afghan women by diminishing their prospects for much-needed Western economic aid. //// HELMS ACT //// I find it extremely obnoxious that all of a sudden when the country has finally found peace the international community found religion on the issue of women in Afghanistan. Where were these voices when the women were being raped? Where were these voices when the women were being tortured in prison under the communists? //// END ACT /// Ms. Helms says Afghanistan has now been invaded by what she calls "gender wars" that do nothing to help Afghan women feed and educate their children. But Amnesty International's T. Kumar says it is not outsiders who have created a gender war. //// KUMAR ACT //// Do not think that we jumped up immediately after the Taleban came up (took over) and began waging this gender war. The gender war is not being waged by human rights or feminist groups. It is purely being waged by the Taleban. The edicts, the rules were passed when the Taleban came to power. They closed all the girls' schools. They banned women from employment. They restricted women's movement. /// END ACT /// The debate was sponsored by the Women's Foreign Policy Group, a private Washington organization that often hosts events on international topics in New York.(Signed) NEB/NYC/bjs/LSF/PT 01-Dec-1999 18:12 PM EDT (01-Dec-1999 2312 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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