[Techtalk] Agfan Women

Jennifer Davis jsd at brain.jenn.ca
Tue Oct 9 15:28:40 EST 2001

On Tue, 9 Oct 2001, Helaine McFerron wrote:

> I am sorry - I did not mean to send this Afgan Women email to techtalk
> sorry,
> helaine

I remember seeing this petition (many times) before and stumpled across
references to it on hoax sites.  At work I will send information about
hoaxes to people who forward on information without thinking critically
about it.  This is a write-up on a site called breakthechain.org.  

I apologise for the length of this post....most of it is examples of
this email.


Stop the Taliban's War Against Women  

 (10/10/2000) An e-mail petition going around tells of terrible injustices
being committed against women in Afghanistan. This is a perfect example of
a good intention with poor execution. It is true that fundamentally
Islamic societies have a restrictive view of women's rights, but this
letter will not accomplish anything to effect change. E-mail petitions are
useless and may even violate the privacy and compromise the security of
those who send them. Thanks to Break the Chain correspondent, Astor, for
doing some legwork on this one. My description follows.

<Description Moved to the bottom of the email>

Of course, like all e-mail calls to action, the terrible events outlined
in the message are not verifiable. But, just watching the news proves that
what western civilizations generally consider to be "inalienable human
rights" are still not extended to women and other groups in some

Unfortunately, the author of this message chose the wrong method to effect
change. Despite the way she signed the letter, Melissa Buckheit was not
authorized by Brandeis University to send her petition. As you can
imagine, asking 50 friends to send it to 50 friends, and so on, generated
thousands of replies in just a few hours. Brandeis University quickly shut
down the account (which you would know if you tried to send a copy of the
petition to her and got Brandeis' statement). 

But, e-mail petitions are useless for a much more important reason: They
have absolutely no legal power. No court or legislator in the United
States (or most other countries, I'll bet) will base a policy-level
decision on a list of names and e-mail address, no matter how long it
is. Legally-binding petitions have to be verifiable. There is no way to
verify randomly sent e-mails. A person could easily add false

Also, e-mail petitions can do more harm than good. Some disreputable
spammers and cyberstalkers use such things to acquire lists of new
victims. Your e-mail address is attached to every message you
send. Spammers watch the headers of forwarded hoaxes and other junk mail
to build their address books. When you sign your name and town to a
message that already contains your e-mail address, a potential
cyberstalker can use those three pieces of information in chat rooms,
internet white pages, and other sources, to find out more personal info
about you. While there are actually few documented cases of this actually
happening, it's just good practice not to attach any personal information
to a message that could be read by total strangers (which is just about
any e-mail). 

PetitionsOnline, a free internet service, is currently hosting another
version of this petition that is slightly more effective and more secure
than the e-mail version. But the company points out in their FAQ pages
that you, the signer, assume all responsibility for the information you
provide. They also state that verification of signatures goes beyond the
scope of their free services, and that the responsible and effective use
of the petition is ultimately in the hands of its originator. 

If you really want to take action, Break the Chain recommends you write to
your congressperson (I guess MP if you don't have a congressman). That is
still the most effective way to bring
attention to an issue in America. Human rights are, indeed, a very
important issue in some parts of the world. If every human being is to be
treated with respect, change must occur. But history shows us that change
isn't easy, and it certainly can't be as simple as forwarding an
e-mail. Break this Chain! 


The Taliban's War on Women: 

**** Please Sign at the bottom to support and include your town. If you
receive this list with more than 50 names on it, please email a copy of it
to sarabande at brandeis.edu 

Even if you decide not to sign, please be considerate and do not kill the
petition. Thank you. It is best to copy rather than forward the petition. 

Melissa Buckheit 
Brandeis University 

The government of Afghanistan is waging a war upon women. The situation is
getting so bad that one person in an editorial of the times compared the
treatment of women there to the treatment of Jews in pre-holocaust
Poland. Since the Taliban took power in 1996, women have had to wear
burqua and have been beaten and stoned in public for not having the proper
attire, even if this means simply not having the mesh covering in front of
their eyes. 

One woman was beaten to DEATH by an angry mob of fundamentalists for
accidentally exposing her arm while she was driving. 

Another was stoned to death for trying to leave the country with a man
that was not a relative. Women are not allowed to work or even go out in
public without a male relative; professional women such as professors,
translators, doctors, lawyers, artists and writers have been forced from
their jobs and stuffed into their homes, so that depression is becoming so
widespread that it has reached emergency levels. 

There is no way in such an extreme Islamic society to know the suicide
rate with certainty, but relief workers are estimating that the suicide
rate among women, who cannot find proper medication and treatment for
severe depression and would rather take their lives than live in such
conditions, has increased significantly. 

Homes where a woman is present must have their windows painted so that she
can never be seen by outsiders. They must wear silent shoes so that they
are never heard. Women live in fear of their lives for the slightest
misbehavior. Because they cannot work, those without male relatives or
husbands are either starving to death or begging on the street, even if
they hold Ph.D.'s. 

There are almost no medical facilities available for women, and relief
workers, in protest, have mostly left the country, taking medicine and
psychologists and other things necessary to treat the sky-rocketing level
of depression among women. 

At one of the rare hospitals for women, a reporter found still, nearly
lifeless bodies lying motionless on top of beds, wrapped in their burqua,
unwilling to speak, eat or do anything, but are slowly wasting
away. Others have gone mad and were seen crouched in corners, perpetually
rocking or crying, most of them in fear. One doctor is considering, when
what little medication that is left finally runs out, leaving these women
in front of the president's residence as a form of peaceful protest. 

It is at the point where the term 'human rights violations' have become an

Husbands have the power of life and death over their women relatives,
especially their wives, but an angry mob has just as much right to stone
or beat a woman, often to death, for exposing an inch of flesh or
offending them in the slightest way. 

David Cornwell has told me that we in the United States should not judge
the Afghan people for such treatment because it is a 'cultural thing', but
this is not even true. Women enjoyed relative freedom, to work, dress
generally as they wanted, and drive and appear in public alone until only
1996 -- the rapidity of this transition is the main reason for the
depression and suicide; women who were once educators or doctors or simply
used to basic human freedoms are now severely restricted and treated as
sub-human in the name of right-wing fundamentalist Islam. It is not their
tradition or 'culture', but is alien to them, and it is extreme even for
those cultures where fundamentalism is the rule. Besides, if we could
excuse everything on cultural grounds, then we should not be appalled that
the Carthaginians sacrificed their infant children, that little girls are
circumcised in parts of Africa, that blacks in the deep south in the
1930's were lynched, prohibited from voting and forced to submit to unjust
Jim Crow laws. 

Everyone has a right to a tolerable human existence, even if they are
women in a Muslim country in a part of the world that Americans do not

If we can threaten military force in Kosovo in the name of human rights
for the sake of ethnic Albanians, Americans can certainly express peaceful
outrage at the oppression, murder and injustice committed against women by
the Taliban. 


In signing this, we agree that the current treatment of women in
Afghanistan is completely UNACCEPTABLE and deserves support and action by
the people of the United States and the U.S. Government and that the
current situation overseas will not be tolerated. Women's Rights is not a
small issue anywhere and it is UNACCEPTABLE for women in 1998 to be
treated as sub-human and so much as property. Equality and human decency
is a RIGHT not a freedom, whether one lives in Afghanistan or the United

(*** To add your name to the petition, simply highlight all of the text,
and in "EDIT" click on "COPY". Then start a new EMAIL, and after
addressing it to your mailing list, and adding a subject line, go to the
body of the EMAIL letter, and in "EDIT" click on "PASTE." This will give
you everything that you copied. Now go to the bottom of the document, add
your name. The document is now ready to send.) 

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