VEILED IN FEAR
OCTOBER 9, 1996
Recent military action in Afghanistan has brought to power a more fundamentalist Islamic group known as the Taliban. The group has moved to strictly limit the role of women in society, ties to the west and all forms of communications. Three native Afghans discuss these developments with Charlayne Hunter Gault.
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CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Afghanistan's new rulers are called the Taliban, and they've begun to enforce a strict Islamic social code which, among other things, severely limits women's activities. The decrees are so harsh that even Iran's rulers have criticized the Afghan rulers. And the U.N. Secretary-General has warned he might stop all U.N. programs there. The Taliban have taken over a country wracked by nearly 20 years of internal conflict and civil war, including military occupation by the Soviet army from 1979 to ‘89. We start with a report from Afghanistan by Mark Austin of Independent Television News.
MARK AUSTIN, ITN: On a hill overlooking Kabul, these are Afghanistan's new soldiers of God, praying they say for peace and stability in a country that's known only conflict for nearly two decades. But below them is a battle-torn city where the fear of war is fast being replaced by a fear of repression. It's symbolized by the white flag of the Taliban militia, heavily armed religious students who patrol the streets, enforcing their vision of Islamic law. The penalties for disobedience flogging or even death. Their first edict, women must not work, must not be seen uncovered on the streets. Men must grow beards and pray five times a day. The only sounds from the radio, Islamic prayer and poetry. All music and entertainment is banned here. Television shops are being closed down, TV's and video recorders destroyed, tapes hung from trees.
SPOKESMAN: We will confiscate it and destroy it stage by stage.
MARK AUSTIN: At the gates of the presidential palace, we took tea with one group of militia men who told us their goal was a pure Islamic society, free of crime and corruption. But when we toured the palace, itself, they proudly showed us works of art they destroyed.
SPOKESMAN: The painting is against Islam.
MARK AUSTIN: After 17 years of war and suffering, what this city is now experiencing is the most extreme brand of Islam anywhere in the world. The Taliban takeover may have brought temporary peace of a kind, but for the people of Kabul, it's peace at a price.
These are the child victims of the Taliban assault on Kabul, appalling injuries caused by shelling and rocket fire. But their tragedy is compounded by the imposition of strict Islamic laws. Eighty percent of the nurses and 40 percent of the doctors here are women, and now most are too frightened even to leave their homes. These are the hands of one of the city's top surgeons. She won't risk being identified but says it's almost as if women no longer exist.
SURGEON: I can't go to my job. I can't help my people because they said that the woman must sit in the houses, and they can't go outside. It's really bad for us. I'm very sorry, and I want to leave this country.
MARK AUSTIN: Many are already leaving Kabul. Aid workers say more than 100,000 have fled in the last few days. Reports of arrests and beatings abound in this city, and for the women here, the veil conceals the fear that children do not hide. The Taliban are urging people to stay, but there's a sense of panic, and the exodus continues, leaving those who remain to come to terms with life under new rulers with new rules and an existence that many women here say is taking them back to the dark ages.