Karzai calls for end to injustices against women
* Condemns forced marriages as means of solving family feuds
* Says suspected terrorists poisoned schoolgirls
KABUL President Hamid Karzai on Sunday issued a strong statement calling on religious and community leaders to prevent social injustice against women, often forced into marriages in conservative Afghanistan.
In a speech to government officials and religious leaders in Kabul to commemorate the birth date of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), the president underlined the harsh realities facing many women, who are often married off by their families to solve feuds or pay debts. Karzai said such practices were a “grave injustice and in contradiction with the teachings of the holy religion of Islam.”
“We have seen these practices taking place in our rural areas, and we have seen the tormented lives of the innocent girls who are victimised,” he said according to a statement released by the presidential palace. “I call on you the ulemas (Islamic scholars) of Afghanistan and on our elders in the community, to advocate an end to these practices that are done in clear contradiction to Islam.”
Many girls and women in war-ravaged, impoverished Afghanistan are married for a ‘bride price’ to improve family finances. In February a government minister blamed a spate of self-immolation suicide attempts by young women in part on forced marriages. Meanwhile, Karzai said that suspected terrorists have poisoned three girls in eastern Afghanistan for going to school.
Karzai said three girls in Khost province were in critical condition after being poisoned by “foreign terrorist elements,” though a local official said the victims had recovered. “I will not call anyone an Afghan or a Muslim who poisons an eight-year-old child because she is school-going,” Karzai said in a statement. “I will not even call them human beings, they are beasts.”
Suspected Islamic militants who oppose female education often target schools in arson attacks, but direct attacks on students are rare.
Mamour Saheb, a military spokesman in Khost, said the incident occurred five or six days ago outside Khost city’s only girls’ school. “A woman gave poisoned fruit powder to the girls and told them to mix it with water and drink it,” Saheb said. “After a couple of minutes they were unconscious.”
He said the girls came round in hospital. “They were treated for five hours. They vomited a lot, but they’re OK now.”
Saheb said security forces searched the woman’s house, detained her husband, and seized tablets and medicines. He didn’t identify the woman or the man.
He said Afghan authorities had given the medicines to the US military for analysis, but had yet to receive any results. US military officials had no immediate comment. Karzai’s government has reversed Taliban-era rules that barred girls and women from education and work, and embarked on an ambitious plan to rebuild the country’s schools and universities. More than 4 million students have enrolled in schools this year - more than ever before - including one-third of the country’s girls. However, many conservative Afghan families refuse to send their daughters to school. agencies