RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, was established in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1977 as an independent political/social organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and for social justice in Afghanistan. The founders were a number of Afghan woman intellectuals under the sagacious leadership of Meena who in 1987 was assassinated in Quetta, Pakistan, by Afghan agents of the then KGB in connivance with fundamentalist band of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar . RAWA’s objective was to involve an increasing number of Afghan women in social and political activities aimed at acquiring women’s human rights and contributing to the struggle for the establishment of a government based on democratic and secular values in Afghanistan. Despite the suffocating political atmosphere, RAWA very soon became involved in widespread activities in different socio-political arenas including education, health and income generation as well as political agitation.
Before the Moscow-directed coup d’état of April 1978 in Afghanistan, RAWA’s activities were confined to agitation for women’s rights and democracy, but after the coup and particularly after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in December 1979, RAWA became directly involved in the war of resistance. In contradistinction to the absolute majority of the vaunted Islamic fundamentalist "freedom fighters" of the anti-Soviet war of resistance, RAWA from the outset advocated democracy and secularism. Despite the horrors and the political oppression, RAWA’s appeal and influence grew in the years of the Soviet occupation and a growing number of RAWA activists were sent to work among refugee women in Pakistan. For the purpose of addressing the immediate needs of refugee women and children, RAWA established schools with hostels for boys and girls, a hospital for refugee Afghan women and children in Quetta, Pakistan with mobile teams. In addition, it conducted nursing courses, literacy courses and vocational training courses for women.
Demonstrations against the Soviet invaders and their stooges and later on against the fundamentalists, and unrelenting exposure of their treason and heinous crimes has been a hallmark of RAWA’s political activities. It was in consequence of its anti-Soviet occupationist struggle and agitation that RAWA was marked for annihilation by the Soviets and their cronies, while the Islamic fundamentalists vented their wrath on our organisation for our pro-democracy, pro-secularist and anti-fundamentalist stance. Our uncompromising attitude against these two enemies of our people has cost us dear, as witnessed by the martyrdom of our founding leader and a large number of our key activists, but we have unswervingly stood, and continue to stand, by our principles despite the deadly blows that we have been dealt.
For the purpose of propagating our views, aims and objectives, and to give Afghan women social and political awareness in regard to their rights and potentialities, RAWA launched a bilingual (Persian/Pashtu) magazine, Payam-e-Zan (Woman's Message) in 1981. Publication of this magazine is on-going and by-issues in Urdu and English for non-Persian/Pashtu speakers.
Since the overthrow of the Soviet-installed puppet regime in 1992 the focus of RAWA’s political struggle has been against the fundamentalists’ and the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban’s criminal policies and atrocities against the people of Afghanistan in general and their incredibly ultra-male-chauvinistic and anti-woman orientation in particular. Apart from the political challenges facing RAWA, tremendous social and relief work amongst unimaginably traumatised women and children lie ahead of us, but unfortunately we do not at the moment enjoy any support from international NGOs or governments, therefore we can't run our humanitarian projects as effective as we wish due to lack of funds..
The US "War on terrorism" removed the Taliban regime in October 2001, but it has not removed religious fundamentalism which is the main cause of all our miseries. In fact, by reinstalling the warlords in power in Afghanistan, the US administration is replacing one fundamentalist regime with another. The US government and Mr.Karzai mostly rely on Northern Alliance criminal leaders who are as brutal and misogynist as the Taliban.
RAWA believes that freedom and democracy can’t be donated; it is the duty of the people of a country to fight and achieve these values. Under the US-supported government, the sworn enemies of human rights, democracy and secularism have gripped their claws over our country and attempt to restore their religious fascism on our people.
Whenever fundamentalists exist as a military and political force in our injured land, the problem of Afghanistan will not be solved. Today RAWA's mission for women's rights is far from over and we have to work hard for establishment of an independent, free, democratic and secular Afghanistan. We need the solidarity and support of all people around the world.
RAWA'S SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
During the Soviet occupation, we were distributing anti-Soviet and anti-puppets leaflets, staging demonstrations and strikes in schools and universities, instigating the women to contribute in resistance war in any possible way despite the opposition from the fundamentalists, running schools, a hospital etc. for refugees, publishing and distributing "Payam-e-Zan" (Women's Message) and so on. It was in the course of such activities that a number of our activists were arrested in Kabul underwent horribly tortures and some of them languished about 8 years in the notorious prisons, and our founding leader Meena and her two aides were murdered at the hands of the KHAD agents and their fundamentalist accomplices in 1987.
After the fall of the puppet government and the invasion of the fundamentalists bands into Kabul, RAWA focused more and more on women's rights, human rights and exposition of the fundamentalists barbaric actions.
1) In Pakistan:
Due to RAWA's principled anti-fundamentalist stand, our social work amongst refugee Afghan women is an uphill struggle. Despite numerous difficulties we have regular contact with women in different camps of Pakistan. We happily note that the fundamentalists' endeavors in this regard have been vastly counter-productive as a great number of women from refugee camps in Quetta and Peshawar approach us for comfort, aid and support. However, the aid and support we can give them are mostly moral, as facing grave financial problems, little material help can be provided to them.
Notwithstanding, we are very much encouraged by the reactions we receive from refugee women. In order to better assist refugee women and children, we try to the best of our ability to attract the support of aid organizations to our health and educational setups. But unfortunately due to the lack of aid most of our projects have not been implemented.
Nevertheless, our activities in Pakistan can be summarized as follows:
Education: To run 15 primary and secondary schools for refugee girls and boys and many literacy courses for women. To provide teachers and material for some schools for refugee children especially girls' schools run not by the fundamentalists. RAWA is also running 9 orphanages in Peshawar, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Quetta comprising girls and boys.
Health care: We have mobile health teams in Pakistan that are active mainly in refugee camps in Peshawar and Quetta. RAWA also runs Malalai Hospital in a refugee camp in Peshawar and Malalai Clinic in Quetta, which provide free medical care to Afghan women and children
Human rights: We are providing human rights and other interested organizations and media with news and reports about killing, stoning, amputation, imprisoning, torturing, beating, lashing, insulting and other inhuman acts of the fundamentalists. We also try to put all or at least important parts of the news and reports on our web site in addition of printing parts of them in our publications.
Cultural: Producing cassettes of songs usually with anti-fundamentalist contents and those containing educative subjects. Staging dramas and skits; holding "Nights of poetry" and "Nights of story"; publishing posters, brochures, booklets, "Payam-e-Zan" (both online and printed editions) in Pashtu, Persian and Urdu and the non-periodical "The Burst of The 'Islamic Government' Bubble in Afghanistan" in English.
Propaganda and political/social: To organize demonstrations or functions on February 4, March 8, April 28, December 10 and December 27, in addition of some unexpected major events which may require an impressive action from women. To hold press conferences, to issue press releases and distribute statements and leaflets, to keep the web site updated and enriched with photos and reports from Afghanistan, facts and informative write-ups. To participate at the events of Pakistani political parties or women's rights groups in order to expose the fundamentalists' crimes and raise awareness of the people here about the situation in Afghanistan. To give interviews with many print and electronic media, to take some journalists inside the country and refugee camps in Pakistan, contact with other Afghan and foreign organizations etc.
We also have many different social circles in which the participated women and girls are being thought about the concepts of women's rights, the nature of the fundamentalists, objectives of our Association, conditions of the women under the fundamentalists, the need for struggle against the religious bigots and for the human rights, ways and means for the speedy solution of the Afghan problem and involvement in the social and political life of the country.
We are also assisting the widows and the families of the prisoners. We contact those who have member of their families imprisoned by the Taliban or Jehadis inside Afghanistan or caught by the Pakistani police and put in the jails of this country. We help them by contacting the police and in some cases providing them judicial and legal help. We are also helping those women who are being tortured or maltreated by their husbands or in-laws. If the tortured/abused women wanted shelter, we try to help them in any possible way.
Financial: Running handicrafts, carpet, tailoring and bead knitting workplaces; running chicken and fish farms; producing jams and pickles and making chalk etc.
2) Inside Afghanistan:
Our work inside Afghanistan consists mainly of support to female victims of war and atrocities committed by belligerent groups. Our workers contact families and particularly women who either themselves or their family members have been victimized by the fundamentalists. Highlighting their misadventures via reports published in Women's Message, alerting international sentinels of human rights such as Amnesty International and similar organizations to human rights violations against women, providing psycho-social support, transferring victims to Pakistan for medical treatment, transferring children of traumatized families to Pakistan for rehabilitation and a better chance of education, tracing missing females and/or their family members, assisting families in evacuating from battlefield and areas affected by any natural calamities and resettling them in safer places, supplying such families with basic living needs and in extreme cases identifying sponsors for 'family adoption' of uprooted families or individuals and facilitating their integration. We also distribute food among needy families in drought/war/earthquake-stricken villages.
Despite the abovementioned activities, our regular activities inside Afghanistan can be summarized as follows:
Educational/propaganda: Though our activities inside Afghanistan are underground and restricted due to the prejudiced and brutal behavior of the fundamentalists, we are successfully running our "home-based" schools and literacy courses. For the time being we are running schools for girls and boys and literacy courses for illiterate women and young girls. Our work under the fundamentalists is difficult and dangerous. We also have circles of women and young girls in which we discuss with them about concepts such as women rights, the need to fight the fundamentalists, the necessity of education and social participation, concepts of democracy and civic freedoms and the ways to solve the Afghan problem and maintaining women's and human rights in Afghanistan.
Health-care: We have mobile health teams in 8 provinces of Afghanistan. The mobile teams mainly treat those women who cannot go to the doctors because of their financial problems. We also treat the children and in some cases the wounded men. In the areas where they work, our mobile teams are usually delivering about 3-child per day. In addition of treating the women and children, our teams are also running first aide courses for young girls and literate women. Last year the teams successfully carried out the polio vaccination program in their concerned areas.
Financial: We have chicken farms, small carpet-weaving, embroidery and knitting workplaces, bee- fostering project, handicraft and tailoring units. All these projects are under the direct control and supervision of RAWA. Moreover, we also provide assistance to those women who want to run their own projects like chicken-farms, handicraft or tailoring. By providing them short-term loans we help lots of these women, who are mostly widows, to feed their families.
Our plans for the future
1- To expand and focus for activities as much as possible on education of women and children; establishing free and modern schools, institutions and courses; publishing text books and audio and video tapes containing today's knowledge and sciences and distributing them freely among the pupils; establishing libraries not only in the cities but in the rural and remote areas. We have these plans because we are firmly of the opinion that knowledge itself is a great power and it will raise women's awareness about their human rights and their place in society and about the social and political problems of the country which consequently will lead to understand their worthy role in every sphere.
2- To set up many computer courses for women and girls with the Internet facilities. We have learned how wonderful is having access to a computer and Internet. It is by itself a "university". We have a keen desire to educate as many women in computer as our possibilities might permit. We will do our best that computer and Internet must not be seemed as monopoly of men.
3- In addition of including English in curriculum of all our schools and even courses, we have plan to establish English courses for all women and girls. It would make our plan to promoting computer education, rather complete. Without having access to computer and familiarity with English language, enjoying a civilized life in 21st century would be difficult if not impossible.
4- To establish numerous courses for women especially for widows in order to learn them a trade so that they can earn their living as honorable members of society.
5- To publish special books and periodicals for women, teenager girls, adults, youths and children in the main languages of the country.
6- To establish "Meena Library" in every main city of Afghanistan and provide thousands of modern books in Persian and Pushto to public.