On the 18th of January, 2003, severe bushfires swept across the ACT and Canberra. About 70% of the ACT was burnt, Mount Stromlo Observatory was destroyed and the fire reached into the outskirts of Canberra. More than 500 homes were destroyed and four people killed, and for a time it looked like it could have been much worse, with small spot fires on Black Mountain, right in the heart of Canberra. These photos were taken from my apartment as the waterbombing helicopter filled up from Lake Ginninderra.
The Taleban emerged as a dominant power in Afghanistan in 1994. Their stated role was to impose their strict interpretation of Islamic Law upon Afghanistan, including the protection of the virtue of women. The Taleban now control 80% of Afghanistan, and have inflicted multiple human rights violations upon its citizens.
The new laws governing women’s behaviour are primitive and unjust. Women must be covered from head to foot (there is a strict dress code), women are not permitted to leave their homes without a male relative, they must not talk to unrelated men, and they are not allowed to work, or even be able to read and write. The ban on girls being educated has dropped literacy rate in young females down to 4%. Access to women’s health care has deteriorated, with many clinics and health care schemes closed down and home visits by midwives forbidden. Women who disobey any of these laws are dealt with strictly, without fair trials, and often with immediate beatings, rapes or murders on the street by Taleban soldiers. The following statement was taken from a women who is one of many victims of the Taleban:
“They shot my father right in front of me. They came to our house and told him they had orders to kill him because he allowed me to go to school. Then they killed him. I cannot describe what they did to me after killing my father.....”
It isn’t only women who are unjustly treated by this government. Children are also suffering, and the literacy rate is dropping in boys as well as girls, since the 40% of teachers who are female are not allowed to work in schools. Not only quality of life, but life itself is being reduced for these children. Disruption to food supplies, health services, water systems and sanitation have caused four million deaths in young children since the Taleban came into power. 268 000 children under five die each year from easily treatable diseases such as diarrhoea alone.
Added to these tremendous violations is the return of barbaric punishment without fair trial. Adultery gives stoning, theft gives amputation, drinking alcohol gives flogging, and men who commit sodomy are crushed under a wall. When this is added to the suppression of the media, it is little wonder that people fleeing Afghanistan make up the largest single refugee group in the world.