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Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

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Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan
Logo of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan
FounderMeena Keshwar Kamal
TypeWomen's organization
PurposePromoting women's rights and secular democracy
Pakistan and Afghanistan[1]

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) is a women's organization in Kabul, Afghanistan. In Persian, it is called جمعیت انقلابی زنان افغانستان (Jamiʿat-e Enqelābi-ye Zanān-e Afghānestān), in Pashto its name is د افغانستان د ښڅو انقلابی جمعیت . It works for women's rights. It wants Afghanistan to have a government that is chosen by the Afghan people, a democracy. RAWA also wants that government to not be based on a religious belief or to allow religious leaders to have too much power. In English, this kind of government is called a secular state. The group is against violence.[2]

Meena Keshwar Kamal, an Afghan student activist founded RAWA in 1977. In February 1987, Kamal was killed for her political work.[3] The group was started in Kabul, but it moved to Pakistan in the early 1980s.[2]

The group wants women to be part of both political and social activities. That way, they should get human rights. They should also continue to work against the government of Afghanistan, because it is not democratic or secular enough. In the last years, many Afghan governments were fundamentalist. According to RAWA, women should be part of a democratic and secular Afghan government.[4] Afghanistan has seen many civil wars. RAWA wants to disarm the different groups. The group has opposed all Afghan governments, since 1977: the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic State of Afghanistan, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (1996-2001), the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2001-2021), and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (from 2021).

Background[change | change source]

Meena, the founder of RAWA. This picture is from 1982.

The RAWA was started in Kabul in 1977 as an independent social and political organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and social justice. The organization then moved parts of its work out of Afghanistan into Pakistan. For many years, it has been working for Afghan women from Pakistan. A group of Afghan women led by Meena Keshwar Kamal founded RAWA in 1977.[3] At age 21, she worked on educating women. This was the founding idea for RAWA. In 1979, Kamal began a campaign against the Soviet occupation and the Soviet-supported government of Afghanistan. In 1981, she launched a bilingual magazine Payam-e-Zan (Women's Message).That year, she visited France for the French Socialist Party Congress. She also established schools for Afghan refugee children, hospitals and handicraft centers for refugee women in Pakistan. Because of her activities and views, as well as her work against the government and religious fundamentalists, she was assassinated on February 4, 1987.[5]

Activities[change | change source]

A protest of RAWA in Peshawar, Pakistan on April 28, 1998

In the 1990s, RAWA held many seminars and press conferences, and did some fundraising in Pakistan. RAWA also created secret schools and orphanages for women and girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They secretly filmed how the religious police beat women, and executed some of them. Both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance outlawed RAWA activities, but RAWA continued. RAWA was even able to show what they did in publications like Payam-e-Zan.[6]

In 2001 NATO removed the Taliban government from power, and started occupation. RAWA is very critical about this, because there were many civilian casualties. The group even threatened to sue the US government, because it had used four photos of the RAWA website without permission. These photos were used in propaganda material that was later dropped on cities in Afghanistan, during the 2001 invasion.[7]

RAWA warned that the Afghan forces that fought alongside NATO troops were just as fundamentalist and dangerous as the Taliban. The government led by President Hamid Karzai didn't have any support in most parts of Afghanistan. According to RAWA, fundamentalists were enforcing laws against women in much the same way the Taliban had done. Media reports about the Herat government of Ismail Khan also support these claims. Khan was the person who created a Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Reports by Human Rights Watch also support these claims.[8][9] One report[10] released by Human Rights Watch in 2012 describes a situation where women are punished by the law for attempting to escape from domestic abuse and also occasionally for being victims of rape. According to the report, Karzai was unwilling or unable to have a unchanging opion against conservative forces. According to the report, it was shocking to see that after ten years, the situation of women in Afghanistan hadn't changed much.

RAWA still does much of the same things it did in the 1980s: Collect money to support hospitals, schools and orphanages. They still run many projects in Afghanistan an Pakistan. Since 2006, RAWA has held an event on International Women's Day.

In 2006, a member of RAWA was invited to a televised discussion on a local Afghan TV channel, TOLO TV. In that discussion, she talked with a representative of a hard line Islamic fundamentalist group. She named the leaders of the different Islamist groups. During the discussion, she called these leaders war criminals and said they were responsible for "the ongoing tragedy in Afghanistan". TOLO TV edited the discussion, and removed the audio of the parts that contained the names of the people she gave.

On October 7, 2006, the Afghan Women's Mission (AWM) organized a fund raising event for RAWA in Los Angeles, California.[11] Eve Ensler was the chief guest and radio host. Sonali Kolhatkar and Zoya, a member of RAWA, were among the speakers. "Zoya" is a pseudonym for an active member of RAWA's Foreign Committee who has traveled to many countries, including the United States, Spain and Germany. In 2003, she published her biography Zoya’s Story - An Afghan Woman's Battle for Freedom. In June 2008, Zoya testified to the Human Rights Commission of the German Parliament (Bundestag) to persuade the German government to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

In 2009, RAWA and other women's rights groups strongly condemned a "Shia Family Code". They say it legalized rape in a marriage within Northern Afghan Shia Muslim communities. It also supports child marriage, and purdah (seclusion) for married women. President Hamid Karzai passed this law to get more support for his coalition government from hardliners in these communities. With this law he also got support from Iran. This code also discriminates against women when they want to inherit, or get a divorce.[12]

In February 2012, the group commemorated the 25th anniversary of the death of RAWA founder Meena Keshwar Kamal with a gathering of women in Kabul. In August 2012, a RAWA representative was a keynote speaker at the annual convention of Veterans For Peace at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Recognition[change | change source]

RAWA has so far won 16 awards and certificates from around the world for its work for human rights and democracy. They include the sixth Asian Human Rights Award - 2001,[13] the French Republic's Liberty, Equality, Fraternity Human Rights Prize, 2000,[14] Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize 2001,[15] Glamour Women of the Year 2001,[16] 2001 SAIS-Novartis International Journalism Award from Johns Hopkins University,[17] Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from the U.S. Congress, 2004,[18] Honorary Doctorate from University of Antwerp (Belgium) for outstanding non-academic achievements,[19] and other awards.[20]

What others say about RAWA[change | change source]

In the book With All Our Strength: The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan by Anne Brodsky, a number of world-known writers and human rights activists share their views of RAWA. They include Arundhati Roy who says "Each of us needs a little RAWA"; Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, who suggests that RAWA must stand as a model for every group working to end violence; Katha Pollitt, author of Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture; Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban and Jihad; and Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations and prominent women's rights activist of Pakistan are two Pakistanis who write about RAWA and express their support.[21]

References[change | change source]

  1. "RAWA's Social Activities". Rawa.org. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "About RAWA..." www.rawa.org.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Toynbee, Polly (September 28, 2001). "Behind the burka". The Guardian.
  4. "RAWA testimony to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus Briefing". U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus. December 18, 2001. Archived from the original on June 28, 2007.
  5. Price, Susannah (7 May 2002). "Afghan activist's killers hanged". BBC News. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  6. "The Taliban show their fangs to RAWA". Excerpts from Wahdat daily, published in Peshawar (April 30, 1998). RAWA. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  7. "RAWA to sue US authorities - Bureau Report". RAWA. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  8. "Human Rights Watch homepage". Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  9. "RAWA news homepage". Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  10. "Hundreds of Afghan women jailed for 'moral ccrimespublisher=BBC". 28 March 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  11. "Report of RAWA Benefit with Zoya, Eve Ensler, Michelle Shocked, Mimi Kennedy, and Sonali Kolhatkar". - AWM News.
  12. Starkey, Jerome (31 March 2009). "Afghan leader accused of bid to 'legalise rape'. UN and women MPs say Karzai bowed to Islamic fundamentalists before poll". The Independent. Kabul. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  13. "The sixth Asian Human Rights Award - 2001 to RAWA". RAWA. 7 December 2001. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  14. "France Grants RAWA a Human Rights Prize". RAWA. April 15, 2000. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  15. "Emma Humphries Memorial Prize 2001". London: RAWA. October 6, 2001. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  16. "Glamour Awards Laud Afghan Woman". RAWA. 31 October 2001. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  17. "RAWA Winner of 2001 SAIS-Novartis International Journalism Award". Washington D.C.: RAWA. April 11, 2001. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  18. "Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from the U.S. Congress to RAWA". Santa Barbara, CA, USA: RAWA. May 2, 2004. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  19. "Honorary Doctorate to RAWA By University of Antwerp (Belgium) For outstanding non-academic achievements". RAWA. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  20. "Some RAWA Awards". RAWA. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  21. "The Afghan Women's Mission". Archived from the original on 2006-06-15. Retrieved 2021-09-25.

Other websites[change | change source]