RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan



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, therefore our social programmes are presently greatly reduced for lack of funds.

Our Standpoints

On women's rights

As Afghanistan finds itself strangled within the grip of religious fundamentalism of all shades, human rights across the nation are being grossly violated. In fact, the present conditions are even worse than those of the Soviet occupation period. The nature and range of crimes perpetrated against Afghan women by fundamentalists has no precedence in modern history. Afghan fundamentalists and particularly Taliban treat women as degraded souls whose only function is to satiate men's lusts and reproduce! Had we women been facing civilized opponents, we might have convinced them of our rights through logic and words of reason. But as fundamentalists continue to rampage in Afghanistan, RAWA holds that our women can never achieve their rights through the 'kindness' of the fundamentalists. To attain meaningful freedom, our women must continue their hard, long struggle against fanaticism and carry it through to the end. We are of the opinion that any collaboration with the fundamentalists will only lead to further ravaging of Afghanistan by these bandits.

On the UN role

RAWA believes that the United Nations has not been able to address the problem properly. If the UN can send a large number of peace-keeping forces to places like Cambodia and Bosnia, why should it not be adopting a similar policy in Afghanistan? It is all the more important to have large peace-keeping forces in Afghanistan where most fundamentalist groups owe their power to the support of foreign countries. It is very unfortunate that UN activities are limited only to negotiating with fundamentalists, and it is very apparent that the UN is not willing to take any steps that would annoy them. We advocate that the UN view Afghanistan as the homeland of the Afghan people, and not as the property of a few armed militia. The UN should take into account the will of the people of Afghanistan and must not proceed according to the whims of the fundamentalists. On Zahir Shah As a matter of principle, RAWA is not a monarchist organization. However, the majority of Afghan people whole-heartedly support the former king. That is why RAWA prefers Zahir Shah to the other self-styled jehadi and Taliban leaders.

On resolving the Afghan crisis
RAWA sees the presence and activities of armed fundamentalist bands as the root cause of the current disaster in Afghanistan. Therefore, we believe that the only way to restore stability and find a solution to the Afghan crisis is by fully disarming all the armed groups and their accomplices. This is possible only by a peace-keeping force not including troops from countries that have involved themselves in the Afghan infighting and that might support any bandit groups. The same peace-keeping force should supervise the convening of the Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) and the formation of a government based on democratic values and comprised of neutral personalities. This government should be assigned the task of holding free and fair elections within a period not exceeding one year. It is only upon the completion of this task and the establishment of a national security force free from the clutches of fundamentalists that the job of peace keeping would be over.

The government we want
Our concept of government in Afghanistan is very simple: It should be based on democratic values and it should ensure freedom of thought, religion and political expression while safeguarding women's rights. It is an obvious fact that fundamentalists of all types use thename of Islam to justify and legitimize their violent madness.

Therefore, RAWA stands for a separation of religious and political processes in Afghanistan. Though the fanatical groups label secularism as a 'communistic' idea and term it a 'faith of the infidels,' RAWA firmly believes that only a government with secular orientation can thwart the nefarious designs of these reactionaries from the Dark Ages. It is only a secular government that can prevent the religion of Islam from being used as a retrogressive tool in the hands of fanatics. The people of Afghanistan have been Muslims for the past several centuries and will not allow gangs of rapists, murderers and traitors to teach them their faith with a stick once again. The Islamic hejab (veil)

We believe that aside from their inhuman misogynistic ideas, Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan have no plans for socioeconomic reconstruction. Nor do they have a decent concept for the country. Therefore, since their seizure of power, the fundamentalists have had to employ a fig leaf of irrelevant and artificial issues such as the "Islamic veil," put forward as vital priorities.

Like every other oppressive means by which they wish to achieve their aims, the fundamentalists want to use the Koran as a bogey, even though wearing the veil has not been explicitly commanded in the Koran. We will never allow the fundamentalists to define and decree what women should or should not wear.

They have no right to impose the veil upon us. As far as we are concerned, we will NOT wear the veil as far as security and social discretion allow us, for we regard rejection of the veil as a symbolic form of resistance and defiance of the fundamentalists. To wear, or not to wear, the Islamic veil is a completely personal issue and no one has the right to interfere with this decision or impose the veil upon us. We believe wearing the veil is a cultural issue, not a religious one.

The fundamentalists want to paint this issue in religious hues and by forcing women to wear the veil, unleash their misogynism through terror and oppression. Their ultimate objective is to keep women under their absolute power, in the status of chattel.