Afghan Women Doubt
Things Will Improve

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Afghan women have staged a protest in Pakistan, denouncing past abuses by factions making up their country's new government and predicting that the lot of women would be no better than under the hardline Taliban.

"The Northern Alliance were criminals to our mothers and young daughters," the women shouted at a small demonstration on Monday in the Pakistani capital. Children accompanying them waved banners and pictures of Northern Alliance fighters killing Taliban.

Under a landmark deal reached in Germany last week, the militarily dominant Northern Alliance will share power with exile groups in a six-month interim administration.

The Taliban, ousted by U.S.-backed tribal rivals, forced women to wear the all-enveloping burqa and banned them from working, studying or leaving home without a male relative -- a harsh restriction in a land with many widowed in two decades of war.

But the leftist Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) said in a statement that factions within the victorious Northern Alliance were guilty of widespread rape of women and girls when in power in the early 1990s

"We don't believe that they will not repeat the crimes they committed from 1992 to 1996," Alia Nazeer, a RAWA spokeswoman, told Reuters.

Most of the demonstrators wore veils, but none wore the burqa.

The RAWA statement said the end of the burqa was "in no way an indication of women's rights and liberties" in Afghanistan.

"The world community must consider the fanatic nature of the Northern Alliance and Taliban. Northern Alliance and Taliban are the same," Alia Nazeer said

"The people of the world need to know that in terms of widespread raping of girls and women from seven to 70, the track record of the Taliban can no way stand up against that of these very same Northern Alliance associates," the RAWA statement said.

As the Northern Alliance has chased the Taliban from power, helped by weeks of U.S. bombing, a few women in Afghanistan have stopped wearing their burqas and returned to work. Many are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
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