Afghanistan

Menstuff® has compiled information about Afghanistan men.

Dedication

To Afghan men for pursuing acts of resistance
in the face of brutal, gender-based oppression.

The Chicago Times Spin
The Plight of Women in War Shouldn't Blind Us to Sufferings of Men
The Selective Brutalizaton of Men in Afghanistan
The UN Neglect of Afghan Men's Human Rights
The Invisibility of Afghan Men at Amnesty International
They Need Letters:

Goodbye to Kabul's Morals Police: Victims Angrily Recall Taliban's Harshness
Newsbytes

 

Effective Aid Considers Women's Special Needs


We had hoped to leave the Afghan issue alone for a while, but frankly, this article is so one-sided and neglectful of men's needs that we felt we had to bring it to your attention. The implication that the men who direct the relief programs are inattentive to women's needs is also disturbing.

The USA Today editors will be happy to hear from you. Remember to keep your letter short, indicate the title of the article you are responding to, and include your address and telephone number:Editor@usatoday.com

Effective Aid Considers Women's Special Needs (12/12/01)
For female Afghan refugees densely packed into the camps mushrooming around Mazar City, a safe, clean bath is but a dream. Washrooms, latrines and wells are poorly lit and unguarded, so women who use them are susceptible to sexual assault. Little changed even after local women were hired as health-care educators.

''Everyone will get the same; there is no time for gender,'' a camp planner for a non-governmental Afghan organization told Sippi Azerbaijani-Moghadam of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children.

That view holds sway in humanitarian organizations around the world. Despite their claims that women's issues are a top priority, their own resource allocation, staffing and development programming haven't lived up.

President Bush's support of the Afghan Women and Children Relief Act, which he is expected to sign soon, presents an opportunity for change. Substantial dollars will now be channeled into programs for Afghan women.

But funding alone is not enough. Before humanitarian organizations can do much to help women in Afghanistan or elsewhere, they'll first have to address power imbalances within their own decision-making structures.

Men direct resources

Women are hired into humanitarian and development jobs in great numbers, but the glass ceiling on their advancement ensures that decision-making is a male domain. As of last year, men filled four out of five of the senior-level, policymaking posts at United Nations agencies primarily responsible for development, according to an October report by the U.N. secretary-general. Similarly, only a quarter of the managers at the World Bank are women. The representation of women in leadership positions at U.S. Agency for International Development is similarly very low.

The Commission on the Advancement of Women at InterAction, a U.S.-based coalition of non-governmental humanitarian organizations, says that women fare only slightly better in the non-governmental world. About a quarter of the CEO positions at InterAction's member groups are filled by women. Midlevel management also remains a male domain.

Greater representation of women among the decision-makers at the reconstruction-and-development organizations at work in Afghanistan would improve the results for both women and men. But simply placing more women at the table does not guarantee that their ideas will be reflected in new programming. New ideas cannot be grafted onto existing programs that structurally resist them. It would be like adding fresh eggs onto a cake that has already started to bake.

Women's role overlooked

Many non-governmental organizations at work in Afghanistan now have ''gender experts'' who analyze problems and write fancy monographs, but they do little to influence the work of their organizations to reach more women.

Instead, the projects most intended to help women in Afghanistan boomerang: Small-business projects channel women into knitting endeavors when there are no markets. Sanitation projects neglect women's privacy concerns. Food-distribution procedures overlook women's role in feeding their families; consequently, warring factions siphon off aid, and women and children go hungry. Women who have always been their communities' farmers watch while the men receive the agricultural aid.

To be more effective, international organizations working in Afghanistan must examine their own gender inclusiveness and consider the roadblocks to gender-based programming in their own organizational structures, then make the necessary changes. This would entail asking Afghan women about their priorities for reconstruction and involving them as equal partners. Many highly educated and well-trained Afghan women have been hoping and planning for a new Afghanistan for a long time.

Is the international community ready for them?

Source: By Julie Mertus, USA Today www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20011212/3692601s.htm Julie Mertus, an assistant professor of peace and conflict resolution at American University's School of International Service, is the author of War's Offensive on Women: The Humanitarian Challenge In Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

The Chicago Times Spin


The following article only touches on the extent of the selective targeting of men for extermination by the Taliban. An article published in the Washington Times on October 1, 2001 quotes a survivor as saying, "We Afgans have grown too used to violence. We have lost 1.5 million people. All of us have brothers and fathers up there."

A October 12, 2001 article published in the Chicago Tribune reports that the Taliban have conducted "systematic massacres" in recent years. The story highlights a 55-page UN report that documents the massacres.

The Tribune article concludes, "On Jan. 6 in Nayak, the report said, Taliban fighters in eight pickups entered the village. Over the next five hours, 'the Taliban search party rounded up all of the males they could find.' Taliban fighters eventually 'shot them in firing squads.'"

With the exception of this Cathy Young article, the general neglect of this wide scale killing of men is difficult to understand.

The Plight of Women in War Shouldn't Blind Us to Sufferings of Men (11/14/21)


ONE WIDELY noted result of the terrorist attack on America and the war in Afghanistan has been an intensified focus on the predicament of Afghan women under the terrorist-harboring Taliban regime. President Bush has repeatedly included the mistreatment of women in his catalogue of the Taliban's crimes.

The attention to this problem is welcome - but occasionally, one must wonder if there is any sympathy to spare for the Taliban's other victims.

The other day, The New York Times published a story about a family of Afghan refugees now living in Uzbekistan. Before they fled Afghanistan three years ago, 14 members of the family were rounded up and summarily executed by the Taliban. Those who were killed, young and old, had one thing in common: They were men.

This pattern of the selective murder of men is hardly new. It was common during the past decade's conflict in the Balkans, where thousands of men ended up in mass graves and where refugee communities often consisted solely of women and children whose husbands and fathers were dead or missing.

Afghan men who don't have the bad luck to belong to the wrong ethnic, religious, or political group have fared better than the women - at least they are not virtual prisoners in their homes - but that's not saying much.

While a woman can be beaten if her face accidentally shows from under her head-to-toe covering, a man can be beaten if his beard isn't long enough. While a woman who commits adultery faces execution, the same fate awaits her male lover. While girls are denied schooling, boys get an ''education'' intended to turn them into future martyrs for jihad. And while women are forbidden to go to work, men are often forced to go to war.

This is not to say that, as some men's movement activists have tried to argue in Internet mailings, women under the Taliban haven't been any more oppressed than men.

Surely it matters that under the radical Islamic regime, only men are regarded as full-fledged members of the community and women are effectively barred from public space.

However, concern with the women's tragic plight should not blind us to the suffering of men. And from some of the rhetoric and media coverage, one might conclude that women are the only ones who are victimized.

Some advocates for women do, in fact, seem to be either blind or indifferent to bad things that happen to men. Sadly, there is nothing new about this.

During the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, when reports of widespread rapes of Bosnian women by Serbs generated much outrage, Progressive magazine columnist Susan Douglas charged that the West was reluctant to intervene in the crisis because the violence was directed ''only'' at women. Her charges weren't taken seriously. (Numerous reports of savagery targeting men must have escaped her attention.)

Around the same time, writing in Newsweek about rape as a weapon of war, feminist author Susan Brownmiller, author of ''Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape,'' suggested that male war victims were asking for it: ''Balkan men have proved eager to fight and die for their particular subdivision of Slavic ethnicity.''

Yet many of those men were conscripted against their will, some of them after trying to flee the country and being forcibly repatriated while women and children were allowed to leave.

This gender-based myopia leads to some bizarre claims. A recent article in The Village Voice about feminist attitudes toward the war in Afghanistan asserted that ''more women than men die as a result of most wars.''

There is no question that women in many parts of the world are egregiously oppressed. But in most of those countries, life for most men is hardly a bed of roses, either. War, in particular, is one scourge of humanity whose burden has always been borne primarily by men. If the wartime suffering of women is often more visible, it is, ironically, because more of the women are alive. Thus, 70 percent of Afghanistan's refugees are women.

Paradoxically, the ostensibly feminist focus on women's victimization resembles nothing so much as the traditionalist, paternalistic assumption that women and children deserve special protection from harm.

Let us, by all means, show concern for the women of Afghanistan. But we should also care about what happen to these women's fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons. The women themselves surely do.

Source: Boston Globe, Cathy Young, www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/318/oped/The_plight_of_women_in_war_shouldn_t_blind_us_to_sufferings_of_men+.shtml

The Selective Brutalizaton of Men in Afghanistan


In 1978, civil war broke out in Afghanistan, beginning a long series of human rights abuses that continue to this day. It is clear that men and boys have been the victim of many of these civil rights violations. While Afghan women have had their rights to education and employment curtailed and in a number of cases have been killed, it is civilian men who have been selectively targeted for widespread detention, torture, and execution.

These civil rights abuses have been extensively documented in reports published in the mass media, as well as in advisories compiled by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/COUNTRIES/AFGHANISTAN? OpenView&expandall). This is just a sampling of these human rights violations:

• In 1992, Amnesty International issued a report detailing many examples of men who had been arrested, tortured, and/or executed for apparently political motives ("Afghanistan: Reports of Torture, Ill-Treatment and Extrajudicial Execution of Prisoners," May 1992).

• In 1996 Amnesty International (AI) reported, "Hundreds of men, possibly over one thousand, have been taken prisoner and continue to be held in arbitrary and unacknowledged detention, while dozens of men have been beaten in the streets to make them attend Friday prayers in the mosque ("Grave Abuses in the Name of Religion," November 12, 1996).

• In 1997, AI reported, "the Taleban has rounded-up as many as 2,000 men from the Tajik and Hazara minorities from their homes in Kabul over the past few days...There have been no reports that these men were involved in fighting...These men are living in appalling conditions. They have limited access to food, and there have been reports of beating and ill-treatment in custody" ("Amnesty International Receives New Information about Taleban Detentions," July 25, 1997).

• On August 8, 1998, the Taleban took over Mazar-e Sharif. After taking control of the city, thousands of ethnic Hazara civilians, mostly males, were killed. According to the Amnesty International report, the Taleban "entered Hazara houses one by one, killing older men and children and taking away young men without explanation" (AI, "Thousands of Civilians Killed Following Taleban Takeover of Maxar-e Sharif," September 3, 1998).

• In August 1999, the Taleban forcibly recruited hundreds of young men and children from destitute families in Kabul to cut vine trees and seal irrigation ditches. In Bamiyan, "Estimates vary widely, but hundreds of men, and some young women and children, who were separated from their families and taken away, remain unaccounted for at the end of 1999" (AI International Report 2000).

• On January 7, 2001, 300 unarmed men in Yakaolang were massacred by the Taleban. According to eyewitness accounts, Taleban forces began to arrest and execute Hazara persons after recapturing the Yakaolang district from Hezb-e Wahdat armed forces (AI, "Massacre in Yakaolang," March 28, 2001).

• In October 2001, the British publication The Guardian reported that the Taleban had ordered every family in Afghanistan to give up one male to bolster the Taleban Army for an impending American attack. Tens of thousands of men had been forcibly conscripted in just two weeks. One woman lamented, "The Taliban have taken most of the males in my village." ("Taliban Forcing Thousands into Army," October 4, 2001, www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,562876,00.html

Conclusion

Various reports issued over the past decade have documented repeated and flagrant human rights abuses against men. These abuses began long before the Taleban came to power. Unless strong international pressure is applied, it is likely these violations will continue in post-Taleban Afghanistan.

Sadly, Afghan women have been deprived of their right to education, employment, and freedom of movement. At the same time, many thousands of Afghan men have been selectively targeted in a series of involuntary inscriptions, forced detentions, torture, and executions. As a result, many thousands of innocent men have lost the most precious right of all: the right to life.

Source: groups.yahoo.com/group/menshealth/message/425

The UN Neglect of Afghan Men's Human Rights


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the international document that affirms essential human rights. Among these rights are:

• "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person" (Article 3)

• "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" (Article 5)

• "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile." (Article 9)

Finally, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits any form of discrimination, including sex discrimination:

• "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." (Article 2)

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration, which affirms the right to life, can be considered the must fundamental of all human rights. Refering to the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, put it this way: "The thousands of civilians who died in this atrocity lost the most precious of rights, the right to life."

In recent years, there has been growing concern about women's rights. In Afghanistan, especially in areas controlled by the Taliban, women have been deprived of the fundamental rights of education, employment, and freedom of movement. In recent years, human rights organizations have laudably worked to overcome the deprivation of women's rights in Afghanistan.

But what about the rights of men?

Over the past 10 years, men in Afghanistan have been subjected to public beatings, requirements for forced labor, involuntary conscription, detention, torture, and widespread killings. These actions are in clear violation of Articles 3, 5, and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In addition, those men who have not actually endured these abuses have lived in constant fear of victimization. These human rights violations have been extensively documented (see The Selective Brutalization of Men in Afghanistan)

Given the egregious nature of these abuses, it is useful to examine the response of the three key United Nations agencies to the situation: the Security Council, the World Health Organization, and the UN High Commissioner on Refugees:

1. Security Council: The UN Security Council is the most powerful body in the United Nations system. At its April 7, 2000 meeting, the President of the Security Council issued the following condemnation of the mistreatment of women in Afghanistan:

"The Security Council condemns the continuing grave violations of the human rights of women and girls, including all forms of discrimination against them, in all areas of Afghanistan, particularly in areas under the control of the Taliban. It remains deeply concerned about continued restrictions on their access to health care, to education and to employment outside the home, and about restrictions on their freedom of movement and freedom from intimidation, harassment and violence. The Council notes the recent reports of modest progress regarding the access of women and girls to certain services, but considers that such incremental improvements, while welcome, still fall far short of the minimum expectations of the international community, and calls upon all parties, particularly the Taliban, to take measures to end all violations of human rights of women and girls" www.un.int/usa/spst0012.htm

But when it came time to speak to the violations of men's human rights, the Security Council President only refered to the "separation of men from their families". What the Security Council President neglected to say was that most of these "separated" men were never heard from again.

2. World Health Organization: The World Health Organization assists countries to improve access to primary healthcare services in underserved areas. The WHO website provides frequent updates on the health situation in Afghanistan.

Despite the fact that the great majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan are males, UN publications frequently refer to women as a "vulnerable population." A WHO Information Briefing dated November 23, 2001, states, "WHO would like to draw your attention to the staggering health crisis facing Afghan women...WHO will make sure that in the reconstruction of the health system, women's health will be prioritised...For more information on Afghan woman and health, please find a special report issued today by the World Health Organization" www.who.int/disasters/repo/7452.html

The Briefing says nothing about men's health.

3. High Commissioner on Refugees: United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees is the UN agency that protects the welfare of refugees. The UNHCR's website features the following statement displayed in large type: "The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees...One million women and children...homeless, hungry, helpless...Their only help is you" unhcr.org/

What is missing from the announcement, of course, is any mention of men. Is this because all refugees are women and children? Not according to a recent article by columnist Cathy Young, which reports that 30% of Afghanistan's refugees are adult males Boston Globe, "When Men are Victims," November 13, 2001, reason.com/cy/cy-current.shtml

Don't these refugee men need a home? Aren't they likely to be hungry? Don't they also need our help?

Staffers Frustrated by Lack of UN Action

Based on reports of ongoing atrocities, UN staffers in Afghanistan began to interview hundreds of persons who had witnessed or survived the massacres, and visited mass graves of the victims. In July 2001, the UN staffers issued a confidential 55-page report that lists the names of many who had been executed and make recommendations for remediation of the injustice.

The report compared the killings in Afghanistan to the war crimes that had been committed in Bosnia. For example, the report detailed a January 6 massacre in the town of Nayak. On that date, Taliban fighters in eight pick-up trucks entered the village. Over the next five hours, "the Taliban search party rounded up all the males they could find." The Taliban fighters then "shot them in firing squads."

The report was forwarded to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mary Robinson. Before her appointment to her UN post, Robinson was president of Ireland and a well-known advocate for women's rights.

Despite the urgent nature of the situation, no action was taken on the report. Eventually, the UN staffers in Afghanistan came to believe that top levels of the UN structure had done too little to designate the atrocities against men as war crimes.

In frustration, the staffers finally released the report to the media in early October, hoping an outraged public would pressure the UN to finally take action (Chicago Tribune, "Taliban Massacres Outlined for UN," October 12, 2001).

Men Deserve to Have Health and Life

It is true that Afghan women have been subject to deprivation of their fundamental human rights. But no fair-minded individual would argue that the plight of Afghan men should be glossed over or ignored.

Tens of thousands of Afghan men have endured a horrible fate, a fate that has been reliably documented over the past decade. But high-level UN officials have ignored the situation.

To euphemistically refer to the killings of men as a "separation" from their families can only be seen as an attempt at obfuscation. Failing to mention the existence male refugees on a UN website amounts to a form of social disenfranchisement. To ignore the pleadings of UN staffers who have first-hand knowledge of the massacres of men amounts to a perversion of gender politics.

One can only conclude that certain United Nations agencies are discriminating against men in Afghanistan.

Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights expressly prohibits any form of sex discrimination. Ironically, the same agencies that are charged with enforcing this Declaration are also engaging in gender discrimination.

This discrimination ignores and condones the loss of the most fundamental right of all, the right to life.

To express your concerns:

United Nations Security Council
405 East 42nd Street
New York, New York 10017

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
SWITZERLAND

Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights
OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND

Source: groups.yahoo.com/group/menshealth/message/427

The Invisibility of Afghan Men at Amnesty International


Amnesty International is one of the largest and most respected international organizations that advocate for human rights. Amnesty International (AI) documents violations of human rights around the world, and engages in letter-writing and other efforts to stop the abuses.

For over 10 years, Amnesty representatives in Afghanistan have meticulously interviewed witnesses and survivors of mass killings, visited grave sites, and written authoritative accounts of specific incidents of human rights violations in that country. In addition, AI issues annual country reports and occasional summary papers. This Special Report summarizes trends in AI's reporting of human rights violations in Afghanistan, emphasizing the coverage of sex-specific violations.

Since 1992, Amnesty International has issued about 100 news advisories and reports, which can be viewed at http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/COUNTRIES/AFGHANISTAN?OpenView&expandall

Typically, these reports follow a "formula" in which the victims are initially described in sex-neutral terms such as "prisoner of conscience," "detainee," or "civilian." Later in the report, specific examples of violations were cited, including the name and/or sex of the victim. In most cases, the identified victims are male, although the victimization of females is sometimes reported, as well.

Broadening the Scope of Human Rights

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the definition of human rights violations began to broaden, to include legal, social, and/or economic disadvantage. This redefinition allowed issues specific to women to be introduced.

In 1995, AI issued its first report that was specific to women's rights, the first of seven such reports. The report highlighted the prohibition of women from employment, and cited examples of abductions, rapes, beatings, and killings of women ("Women in Afghanistan: A Human Rights Catastrophe," May 18, 1995).

A comparison of the female-specific reports with the other AI reports reveals four striking differences (examples cited below come from the 1995 report):

1. When the report covers events in which most or all of the victims are male, the sex of the victims is not revealed until the middle or end of the report. In contrast, the seven female-specific reports consistently indicate the sex of the victims in the title and in the first sentence.

2. The language of the general AI reports is objective, whereas the tone of the female-specific reports is more emotional. For example, the 1995 report on women begins with this dramatic sentence: "The lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghan women and children have been shattered in the human rights catastrophe that has devastated Afghanistan in the past three years."

3. When the victims are male, the graphic details of the deaths of the individual men are downplayed or excluded. In contrast, when the victims are female, the account is filled with details that engage the reader's sympathy:

"There were about 12 of them all carrying Kalashnikov rifles with their faces covered. They asked us to give them our daughter. We refused. They did not accept that, and asked us to bring our daughter to talk to them. We asked her and she came and told them she did not want to go with them. One of them then lifted his Kalashnikov and shot my daughter dead in front of our eyes."

4. Some accounts elicit more sympathy for the woman than for the man, even though the woman survives the incident and the man is killed:

"Fierce fighting broke out and we were all running away in the streets of Kabul...Suddenly, I noticed that my husband was not with us. I was crying hard calling out his name. A guard from one of the checkpoints came to me and told me to keep quiet. I told him that I had lost my husband...We reached Wasel Abad area and two rockets were fired towards us as we were running away. We could not tell who fired them; it could have been Dostum's or Shura-e Nezar's or Hekmatyar's forces. We managed to find a vehicle to take us outside Kabul."

Although the human rights abuses of women are lamentable, these female-specific reports had the effect of subtly establishing a double standard: the suffering of women merits greater sympathy and attention than the killing of men.

Pawns in Men's Power Struggle

In 1999, Amnesty International published another female-specific report, "Women in Afghanistan: Pawns in Men's Power Struggle." While the report correctly highlights many of the human rights abuses against women, the report lapses into unfair stereotyping and blaming of men.

The report's sub-title, "Pawns in Men's Power Struggle," is itself disturbing, because it does not:

• Allow the possibility that men might fight in order to protect the lives and honor of their wives and children.

• Recognize that men are also victimized by war.

• Note the fact that Islamic mothers have been reported to have urged their young boys to enter into military combat for the honor of the family.

The report then begins with the statement, "While the `battles of death are played out by men, women have the responsibility for the battles of life.'" Such a broad-sweeping comment equates men with death and women with life.

One passage in the report reads this way: "Many were tortured, including women prisoners who testified to being forced to witness the torture of male prisoners" (page 3). One wonders if the author really intended to imply that watching a person being tortured is a worse fate than actually being tortured.

The underlying thesis of the report is that Islamic law violates fundamental human rights of women. While this thesis may well be correct, the report ignores the fact that Islamic law also violates fundamental human rights of men. According to Islamic law, "Killing the weak, infants, women, and the elderly, and destroying property are considered serious crimes in Islam" (Imam Faizul Khan, quoted in the Washington Times, Oct. 8, 2001, p. A2). But the killing of men is not considered a serious crime, much less as a human rights violation.

The effect of "Pawns in Men's Power Struggle" is not only to deepen the double standard by which sex-specific human rights violations would be judged, it also denigrates and dehumanizes men. As a result, male victims in Afghanistan would continue to receive less attention.

Afghanistan: Making Human Rights the Agenda

On November 1, 2001, Amnesty International issued the 24-page white paper, "Afghanistan: Making Human Rights the Agenda." The report documents the killing of tens of thousands of Afghani civilians since 1978. Unfortunately, the document gives no hint that it was men who were almost entirely the victims of the mass executions.

The report notes, "During 2000, at least 15 people were executed in public, including one woman who was stoned to death" (p. 14). Why is the sex of the 14 other persons not divulged? Even the section on Child Soldiers gives no indication that it is boys, not girls, who are forced into combatant roles.

The report twice highlights the discrimination of women (pages 3 and 13), but says nothing about discrimination against men. The report then makes three recommendations for the protection of women's rights:

1. "The parties to any political settlement should undertake to end the systematic discrimination against women." (p. 20)

2. Monitors "should include experts on women's rights." (p. 20)

3. "Particular attention should be given to groups with special protection needs, such as women, children, and the elderly." (p. 23)

No recommendations specific to men are to be found.

With publication of this report, sex-specific violations of human rights in Afghanistan came to be seen solely as a matter affecting women. In the view of Amnesty International, the human rights of Afghan men are now invisible.

To express your concerns, contact:

Amnesty International
304 Pennsylvania Ave., NE
Washington, DC
Telephone: 202.544.0200

Source: groups.yahoo.com/group/menshealth/message/428

They Need Letters!


Gender Bias in Coverage of the Taliban


William Giles, Managing Editor
Washington Times
3600 New York Ave., NE
Washington, DC 20002

Dear Giles:

I am writing to share my concerns about gender bias in the Washington Times' coverage of the Taliban in Afghanistan.According to a recent report by United Nations staffers, the Taliban have engaged in widescale massacres in northern and western Afghanistan (Chicago Tribune, October 12, 2001). Accounts of these massacres make it clear that it is men who have been targeted:

• News stories on ABC and other networks have depicted bereaved women holding photographs of their murdered husbands.

• An article published in the Washington Times reported, "We have lost 1.5 million people. All of us have brothers and fathers up there" (October 1, 2001).

• As a result of the widespread killing of men, 70% of Afghanistan's refugees are women, according to columnist Cathy Young (November 14, Boston Globe).

But ironically, the Washington Times' coverage has emphasized the Taliban's oppression of women. On October 15, you ran a front-page, above-the-fold story highlighting a letter that detailed the plight of women "under the veil." One week later, you ran yet another front page story, "Afghan Girl Refugees Rediscover the Joy of Learning" (November 22).

To date, the Washington Times has not run a single story that highlighted the Taliban's selective killings of men. The stories you have published on the Taliban massacres have consistently downplayed the fact that the victims were almost entirely men.

It appears that your editors view the widespread elimination of men as less newsworthy than the oppression of women. This is the antithesis of balanced coverage of an important news event.

Sincerely,

Some Victims are More Equal that Others


Concern over the mistreatment of women in Afghanistan has reached a fever pitch in the news media. On Tuesday, November 27 alone, the New York Times www.nytimes.com/2001/11/27/opinion/27AMIR.html?ex=1007860924&ei=1&en=31f51b390a2f9e0c, USA Today www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20011127/3652079s.htm , and the Christian Science Monitor www.csmonitor.com/2001/1127/p11s1-coop.html all wrote articles on the topic. Unfortunately, these stories only tell half the story.

It is now time to set the record straight. It is time to sharpen our pencils and pull out the 34 cent stamps. Here is a sample Letter to the Editor. Use it verbatim, adapt it, or write your own letter. Find a recent article in a local or national newspaper that ignores the plight of Afghan men. That won't be hard. E-mail or send your letter.

RE: [title and date of article]

Dear Editor:

It is commendable that you are alerting your readers to the plight of Afghan women. But the article told only half the story.

Human rights organizations have documented that since 1991, men have been selectively detained, subjected to forced labor, tortured, and killed on a widescale basis. And those men who have been fortunate enough to escape these atrocities have lived in constant fear that they may be next.

Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org) gives this cold-blooded account of the Yakaolang massacre that occurred in January, 2001: "Upon reaching the district center, the Taliban organized 11 search parties. They were each allocated a sector of central Yakaolang and moved from house to house within their respective sectors, rounding up the male occupants...According to other witnesses, the detainees were herded to the office of a relief agency located in Nayak, where most were later executed."

In July of this year, UN staffers in Afghanistan investigated the atrocities and issued a 55-page report detailing the killings. The report recommended that the perpetrators should be identified and charged with war crimes. When top-level UN officials failed to respond to the report, the report was leaked to the media on October 12, 2001.

We should be concerned about the human rights abuses of women in Afghanistan. But isn't the widescale taking of male life the most fundamental human rights violation of all?

Sincerely,

Name, Address, Telephone

Send an E-Mail, Save a Man's Life!


Human Rights Watch is a human rights watchdog agency. LaShawn R. Jefferson, executive director of their women's rights division, recently made this statement, which appears on their website: www.hrw.org/press/2001/10/afghan-women.htm

"Women have borne the lion's share of human rights abuses in Afghanistan throughout the conflict, and they are in particular danger now."

Ms. Jefferson's statement can only be true if one chooses to not consider the widespread abductions, detentions, torture, and massacres of Afghan men as human rights abuses. To characterize Ms. Jefferson's statement as "illogical" is being generous.

E-mail Human Rights Watch at hrwnyc@hrw.org and ask them to remove LaShawn Jefferson's statement from their website. Do it today:

If you're really gung-ho, call them or send them a note:

Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor
New York, NY 10118-3299 USA
Tel: 212.290.4700
Fax: 212.736.1300

Remember to be polite, but be firm.

Awareness Campaign for the First Lady


Is it possible that First Lady Laura Bush has never heard anything about the selective brutalization of civilian men in Afghanistan? Has she simply been mislead by well-intentioned, but misguided staffers? It's time to set her straight! Send this letter or call 1.202.456.1414 and leave a message at Extension 1 or e-mail her at first.lady@whitehouse.gov. Again, time is of the essence.

December 9, 2001

First Lady Laura Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

RE: Needed Protections for Afghan Civilian Men

Dear First Lady Bush:

In your November 17, 2001 radio address, you decried the "brutality against women and children" in Afghanistan. I am glad that you highlighted the mistreatment of women, but surely you have heard the many reports about the brutalization of Afghan men.

According to reliable information from the United Nations and Amnesty International, civilian Afghan men have been singled out on account of their gender, and subjected to a broad range of egregious human rights violations, including involuntary conscription, lengthy detentions, torture, and widescale massacres -- see Boston Globe article by Cathy Young.

I'm sure that you feel as much compassion in your heart for men as you do for women. Therefore, I am writing to request that you assure that the following measures are taken in post-Taliban Afghanistan:

1. Designate the widescale massacres of Afghan civilian men as a war crime, and prosecute those responsible for the killings for crimes against humanity

2. Assure that the persons who have been maimed during the military upheavals in Afghanistan receive the medical, rehabilitative, and psychological services that they need (according to a United Nations report, 4% of the Afghan population -- mostly male -- is disabled because of injuries from mines and unexploded bombs).

3. Assure that no laws, regulations, or any healthcare, social, or educational programs are established that discriminate against men.

Men are deserving of freedom and life. Thank you for your attention to the plight of civilian men in Afghanistan.

Sincerely,

Three Protections that Afghan Men Need


The US Department of State has written a Fact Sheet on "Women and Girls in Afghanistan": www.state.gov/p/sa/rls/fs/index.cfm?docid=5795

The US Department of State has no Fact Sheet on "Men and Boys in Afghanistan." Why not? This letter outlines the 3 protections that men in post-Taliban Afghanistan need and deserve. It should also be mailed to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

December 8, 2001

Secretary Colin Powell
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

The Honorable Joseph Biden, Jr., Chairman
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

DE: Joseph Biden (Chairman)
KS: Sam Brownback
MA: John Kerry
MD: Paul Sarbanes
MN: Paul Wellstone
CA: Barbara Boxer
CT: Christopher Dodd
FL: Bill Nelson
IN: Richard Lugar
NC: Jesse Helms (Ranking Member)
NJ: Robert Torricelli
NE: Chuck Hagel
OR: Gordon Smith
RI: Lincoln Chafee
TN: Bill Frist
VA: George Allen
WI: Russell Feingold
WV: Jay Rockefeller
WY: Craig Thomas

RE: Needed Protections for Afghan Civilian Men

Dear

I am writing to express my deep concern about the selective brutalization of civilian men in Afghanistan. According to reports from Amnesty International, civilian Afghan men have been singled out on account of their gender, and subjected to a broad range of egregious human rights violations, including:

1. Involuntary conscription
2. Lengthy detentions
3. Torture
4. Widescale massacres -- see Boston Globe article by Cathy Young

These abuses began long before the Taliban came into power, and are likely to continue in the future, unless we take special steps. I am writing to request that you assure that the following measures are taken in post-Taliban Afghanistan:

1. Designate the widescale massacres of Afghan civilian men as a war crime, and prosecute those responsible for the killings for crimes against humanity (this is the key recommendation of a July 2001 report by Afghan-based UN staffers)
2. Assure that the persons who have been maimed during the military upheavals in Afghanistan receive the medical, rehabilitative, and psychological services that they need (according to a United Nations report, 4% of the Afghan population -- mostly male -- is disabled because of injuries from mines and unexploded bombs).
3. Assure that no laws, regulations, or any healthcare, social, or educational programs are established that discriminate against men.

Men are deserving of freedom and life. Thank you for your attention to the plight of all civilians in Afghanistan.

Sincerely,

Men Are No Longer Invisible


On November 25, Men's Health America posted a message about the invisibility of the plight of men at Amnesty International: groups.yahoo.com/group/menshealth/message/428 Now, it's time to break the silence! Send this letter, or another letter that you write, to Amnesty. Be polite, but be firm: the selective brutalization of men cannot continue to be ignored.

William Schulz, Director
Amnesty International
322 Eighth Ave.
New York, NY 10001

RE: "Afghanistan: Making Human Rights the Agenda"

Dear Mr. Schulz:

I am writing to convey my concern over the plight of men in Afghanistan. Over the past 10 years, AI has compiled many excellent reports that document the many detentions, instances of forced labor, torture, and massacres of Afghan men.

But in recent years, a curious double standard has evolved that seemingly pays more attention to the victimization of women than of men.

Your most recent report, "Afghanistan: Making Human Rights the Agenda," is a good example of this double standard. When it comes to Afghan women, the report contains several specific references to their mistreatment, and includes three recommendations on ways to protect women's rights.

In contrast, the report contains no examples of mistreatment in which men are identified by their sex, nor are there any recommendations specific to the needs of men.

In her recent article in The Boston Globe, Cathy Young decries a "gender-based myopia" that leads people to "conclude that women are the only ones being victimized" ("When Men are Victims," November 14, 2001, http"//reason.com/cy/ ).

I am urging you to stop this double-standard that implies that a women's well-being is more important than a man's. Because the taking of human life is perhaps the most profound human rights violation of all.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and thank you for your extensive work on behalf of human rights.

Sincerely,

Letter to USA Today


This letter was just sent to USA Today at editor@usatoday.com, with a copy to Human Rights Watch at hrwnyc@hrw.org and to find your regional contact at Amnesty International, go to www.amnesty-usa.org/contact/

To the editors:

Articles detailing mistreatment of women in Afghanistan tell only half the story -- and not even the most horrific half.

This lack of concern is often based on the politically expedient myth that holds men accountable for war in general. To do so is to ignore that war is about consumption and that in the modern world up to 75 percent of all retail space is for women. Limit that consumption and we limit war.

Further, widescale premature loss of male life has occurred since the dawn of humanity, as men have been expected to protect and to provide for women and children at all costs. Playing politics with those millennia of sacrifices and suffering is the lowest form of disrespect, selfishness and arrogance.

To focus on Afghanistan's women is to ignore that human rights organizations have documented that since 1991 Afghan men have been enslaved, tortured and killed. Those men who escaped the atrocities lived in constant fear that they would be next.

Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org ) gives this cold-blooded account of theYakaolang massacre that occurred in January, 2001: "Upon reaching the district center, the Taliban organized 11 search parties. They were each allocated a sector of central Yakaolang and moved from house to house within their respective sectors, rounding up the male occupants. ...

According to other witnesses, the detainees were herded to the office of a relief agency located in Nayak, where most were later executed."

In July of this year, UN staffers in Afghanistan investigated the atrocities and issued a 55-page report detailing the killings. The report recommended that the perpetrators should be identified and charged with war crimes. UN directors ignored that report, as the media appears to do today.

Mike Spaniola, Vail, Colo.

We're Being Heard!


A letter in the November 29th LA Times made the claim that women have been the worst victims of atrocities in Afghanistan. www.latimes.com/news/opinion/letters/la-000095114nov29.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dcomment%2Dletters Since that time, there have been a number of letters to the editor in some of the leading newspapers around the country that highlight the brutalization of men in Afghanistan:

LA Times: www.latimes.com/news/opinion/letters/la-000095320nov30.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dcomment%2Dletters

Baltimore Sun: www.sunspot.net/news/opinion/oped/bal-ed.le.01ddec01.story?coll=bal%2Doped%2Dheadlines

Christian Science Monitor: www.csmonitor.com/2001/1126/p8s3-cole.html

Richmond Times-Dispatch: www.timesdispatch.com/editorial/MGBVB4N6NUC.html

Maybe your letter will be next!

If you want to research the issue a little more before you write a letter to your local newspaper, the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch websites have plenty of examples of the mistreatment of men: web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/COUNTRIES/AFGHANISTAN?OpenView&expandall and www.hrw.org/reports/2001/afghanistan

Also visit the U.S. State Department's statement on women in Afghanistan (but nothing about men): www.state.gov/p/sa/rls/fs/index.cfm?docid=5795

Goodbye to Kabul's Morals Police: Victims Angrily Recall Taliban's Harshness


The building is a frozen, abandoned hulk now, with only a few scraps of clothing and scrawls of graffiti to indicate that until less than a month ago, it was a prison crammed with young men who had been caught defying the Taliban's harsh Islamic code.

But images of that wretched past remain fresh in the mind of Fawad, a 19-year-old taxi driver who served two weeks in Deh Mazang jail in September for possessing a music cassette. Fawad can conjure up a hundred bitter memories of his brief stint in hell, courtesy of the Taliban's Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue.

"This is where they beat me with six lashes for making tea," he said today, pointing to a filthy corner in one barred cement room. "This is where someone escaped out the toilet window. This is where I wrote, 'Death to the Taliban.' "

Leaving the cell he once shared with 40 other men, Fawad gave the wooden door a sudden, vicious kick. "Those men were not Muslims, they were barbarians," he declared.

For five years, the Taliban's Vice and Virtue Ministry was the brutal bane of every Kabul resident. Its religious police roamed the streets in open trucks, grabbing men to check the length of their beards, seizing cassettes from cars, beating women whose faces were not veiled and shouting at shopkeepers to hurry to mosques.

It is virtually impossible to find any man here between the ages of 17 and 30 who did not fall into the clutches of Vice and Virtue at least once. Some were jailed for playing chess or wearing Western-style suits, others for watching TV or chatting with a woman.

In the Taliban's radical vision of a pure Islamic state, all modern forms of entertainment or socializing were deemed un-Islamic and a danger to moral order. The prescribed cure was a jail term in one of two filthy city prisons, where detainees were alternately beaten by guards and lectured on Islamic virtues by visiting clerics.

"They caught me playing chess in a friend's shop in May and locked me up for two weeks," said Najeeb, 20, a medical student. "I like chess because it concentrates your mental faculties, but they said it was a sin for gambling."

Najeeb served his time at the Shar-i Naw jail, sleeping on an open dirt patio and sharing three foul toilets with 500 other men. They were given bread at noon, soup at night and Islamic lectures twice a day. Nobody paid any attention to the lectures.

"We spent our whole time insulting the Taliban," Najeeb said. "They made everyone hate Islam. They beat us, but we were not afraid of that. We were only angry at how ignorant they were." He pointed out a message that a prisoner had scrawled on a wall in the jail: "What is my crime? What is my sin?"

Women also fell under the ministry's eagle eye and unforgiving lash, usually for displaying what the Taliban viewed as unseemly footwear or for publicly raising theirrequired burqas, head-to-toe veils, off their faces in a moment of carelessness or emergency.

Mori, 39, a journalist, said that one day in 1996, when she was recovering from surgery and carrying her small son, she lifted her burqa so she could walk and see more easily. A Vice and Virtue patrol spotted her.

"One man came up and beat me, while the other shouted at him to beat me harder," she recounted. "My husband was upset, and my son became very angry after that. He was only 3, but he would tell me to buy a knife or put stones in my burqa and kill the Taliban."

When the Taliban fled Kabul on Nov. 13, the religious prisons were opened and officials at the Vice and Virtue Ministry vanished. The ministry was suspended and the office building, which also houses the National Bureau of Statistics, is under the care of a temporary administrator. Its future role is uncertain.

Mohammed Wazir, the caretaker, is a highly educated Muslim who worked in the ministry when it was founded in 1992 by the more moderate Islamic government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani. At that time, he said, the agency's goal was to promote Islam by teaching and persuasion, not by force.

"Islam is a peaceful religion that invites people to pray and behave as good Muslims. The Taliban used a misconception of Islam to oppress people," he said.

Beside his desk was a collection of thick leather straps used by Vice and Virtue officers. "If the new government continues this ministry, we will again invite people to Islam, but we will never beat people," he said.

Other former employees said they were so ashamed of the Taliban's misuse of the ministry that they have no desire to work there again. One man named Siddiqui, who was praying at a mosque this week in a worn tweed jacket and a tie, said he had been a ministry official under Rabbani but has now decided to teach school.

"We established the ministry for a good purpose, but when the Taliban came we ran away," he said. "They made the name of Islam into something very bad. Maybe in the future they should abolish the ministry entirely."

For employees at the National Bureau of Statistics, the five-year occupation of their building by Vice and Virtue brought a different kind of pain. The work of surveyors and data managers went neglected and unpaid, while illiterate clerics commandeered their offices to preside over Islamic enforcement.

"Once we knew all the statistics of the nation and we exchanged data with other countries," said Mohammed Aman, who worked as a surveyor for 31 years. "After the Taliban came, we were given no work and we became disconnected from the world. The Taliban attached no importance to knowledge, and the future of Afghanistan became darker by the day. When they left, it was a great day of celebration for all knowledgeable people."

Without the oppressive presence of Vice and Virtue squads, the public atmosphere in Kabul is noticeably more cheerful. Most women still wear burqas on the streets, largely out of caution, but the markets are full of male laughter and good-natured roughhousing that would have been unthinkable even weeks ago.

An especially telling change was evident at a soccer game this afternoon in the national stadium, where the Taliban once conducted executions and beatings. Soccer was played there in the Taliban era too, but cheering and clapping were banned, players had to wear long pants and games were held in silence.

This afternoon, the crowd of several thousand whooped enthusiastically at every goal, the players wore shorts and the public address system accompanied the action with lilting Afghan tunes.

"We are all free now; we can enjoy life again," said Zaheed, 28, a shopkeeper sitting in the bleachers. "The Taliban used to announce a soccer game, but when the people came they would kill people in the field with knives and burn piles of TV sets. Everyone hated it and tried to leave."

At halftime, a romantic Afghan ballad sounded from the loudspeakers, and several of Zaheed's friends hurried off for a break.

"We'd better get out of here," one of them shouted over his shoulder with a hearty laugh. "The Vice and Virtue patrol may be coming soon."

Source: Washington Post By Pamela Constable http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A5653-2001Dec6.html   

Newsbytes

Struggling To Keep Afghan Kids Alive


Weakened by malnutrition, many Afghan children suffer and die from diarrhea and pneumonia and other illnesses. At least 35 percent of all Afghans under age 5 are malnourished, and about one in four children die before they turn 5.
Source: www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/325/8015/348589.html

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