Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Womens Rights in Afghanistan

13th December 2001

As joint author of this resolution I am proud that I spoke out in June in this chamber against the brutality and medieval obscurantist policies of the Taleban government when they chose to destroy the beautiful Buddhist statues in Bamyian. This was well before they and their tragic country became the focus of the world on September 11th as the Taleban's link with the perpetrators of the attack on the USA became clear to all.

Afghanistan is now at an historical crossroad and as a British MEP I am also proud of the role played by the courageous troops from my country in helping America rid Afghanistan of its oppressive masters and end their harbouring of international terrorists bent on the destruction of western values in cluding womens rights. I salute particularly those who have been wounded in the campaign and hope that as the UK is about to become a major component of the UN peace keeping force that no further casualties will ensue.

2 weeks ago I was invited to meet a representative from the Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women and as a Conservative I balked at the title Revolutionary. However after my meeting I decided that in Afghanistan my western views on social and political rights for women would no doubt in the eyes of the old mujahideen guard such as President Rabbani classify me too as a Revolutionary.

I welcome the participation of 2 women in the interim government and I am hopeful that the new generation of younger progressive and modern political leaders will see the way to establish a new order based on equality of the sexes and on full political and social rights enshrined in their International Treaty Obligations and cease to regard womens role as purely economic and procreative and banished them to invisibility in their Burquas. Women were once in the 60s and 70s welcomed by the government of King Mohamed Zahir Shah as full participating members of society in the professions, in higher education, and in politics. I hope that Afghanistan can return to this form of moderate secular government again and make use of the huge pool of talent residing in more than 50% of its population.

Thank you