- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2003

Despite the overthrow of the Taliban regime by American forces in October 2001, a U.N. agency is warning that women in Afghanistan fear the return of a society in which they have no rights.

“In Afghanistan, the security of women has been arrested for so long,” Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women, said during a meeting with reporters this week.

“Women fear about re-emergence of the Taliban, so we need to break the culture of fear and of terrorism,” she said.

In Washington after recent trips to Afghanistan, Liberia, Congo and Iraq, Miss Heyzer explained that women are a group of people on whom violence is too often used, whether it be domestic violence, traditional practices, sexual violence or trafficking and sexual slavery.

“In Congo, the level of violence used against women was unspeakable,” she said, blaming a culture of impunity.

Since its creation in 1976, the U.N. Development Fund for Women has been a catalyst to promote women’s rights, political participation and economic security.

Working in collaboration with governments, nongovernmental organizations and international agencies in more than 100 countries, the organization provides financial aid and technical assistance to women.

“Women are the last frontier of hope” for world peace, said Miss Heyzer. Because of their capacity to listen to both sides in negotiations, they have a role to play in the rebuilding of a stable peace and the return to democracy in conflict zones, she said.

She also said that providing security in conflict-prone regions is one of the most important priorities in improving the condition of women.

“Security, focusing on economic and social justice, determines the way women can live their everyday lives,” she said.

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