Volume 96, Issue 73
Friday, February 7, 2003

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Magazine editor tells of Afghani women's struggle

By Deanne Miachika
Gazette Staff

Can you imagine a world where women's rights are horribly restricted, and they live under the consistent threat of violence?

After Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban in 1997, Afghani woman faced a bleak and restricted existence, stated Sally Armstrong, editor-at-large for Chatelaine magazine, and one of the first Canadian journalists to visit Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

She said many women suffered rape and torture at the hands of the ruling government.

Armstrong, a member of Londoners For Afghanistan's Women, spoke at a presentation, "Update Afghanistan: The Woman and Children are not OK," at London's Central Library on Wednesday night.

Armstrong said the Taliban hijacked their own religion to support their regime, by stating their treatment of women was in the name of God.

There is nothing in the Koran to support these acts, Armstrong said. "This is not cultural, this is criminal," she stated.

Armstrong was also critical of the United Nations and their lack of support for women and children. "The UN charter was written in 1945 [and] every article speaks to state parties," she said. "[Unfortunately], there is a big difference between the states and the people."

"[These] articles were written with the best intentions, [but they] were not written with any view of implementation. There is not one iron fist of accountability in them," Armstrong noted.

According to Armstrong, the international community needs to increase its level of involvement, yet it is up to the people themselves to obtain freedom.

"In the absence of protest, evil can flourish [and] silence is consent. It takes awesome moral courage to go against the grain," Armstrong said.

Pat Chefurka, co-chair of Londoners for Afghanistan's Women, encouraged people to join the local network to support Afghanistan's women. They can make a donation that can be forwarded to Afghanistan, or even just talk to your friends to raise awareness, Chefurka added.

Things within Afghanistan have begun to change for the better, but things are still no where near an acceptable level, Armstrong said.

Living in Canada leads us to forget there are bigger problems in the world, said Tara Wells, a fourth-year political science student at Western.

"When bigger problems arise, such as Iraq, we forget. [Maybe] it is just more convenient to forget," she said, adding she felt Armstrong's presentation was worthwhile, although discomforting.

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