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Women's Rights Quickly Improve After Taliban Leaves Kabul

Aired November 17, 2001 - 11:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: When Kabul was captured earlier this week by rebel forces, CNN's Christiane Amanpour quickly followed. She's now following the rapidly improving human rights situation in Afghanistan, especially for women.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Kabul city bus pulls up to reveal a rare sight: a woman, her face uncovered, her voice raised.

"We have no bread, no home, nothing; but we're happy. We're happy the Taliban's gone," she says.

And for the women of Afghanistan, that means everything. It means they can try to reclaim the rights the Taliban took away from them.

(on camera): For five years, the religious police known as the Department of the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue issued a series of edicts against women, banning them from wearing makeup, from wearing high heels, from making a noise on the street when they walked, banning them from work, from education, from sitting next to men on busses or in cars.

(voice-over): The men, too, are adjusting to the new reality. Just look at this huge crowd gathered around our van.

(on camera): When I asked all these people why they were crowding around our vehicle, they said it was because they hadn't seen a woman for six years.

(voice-over): The only place the Taliban had grudgingly allowed women to work was in hospitals. Inside these walls, they take off their burkas, they wear makeup and they work alongside male doctors.

In just a few days they say, the atmosphere has completely changed with the promise of a better life ahead; not just for them, but for their male colleagues too.

They joke about trimming their beards and dressing like professionals again. Dr. Malang (ph) is head of general surgery here, and for the first time in years he's removed the baggy pants that all men were forced to wear. "Two months ago I guessed something would happen in Kabul," he says, "something would change. And so I had this suit made for myself."

The female hospital staff are now hoping for a more normal life, for professional women to get back to work again and to be able to educate their daughters again.

"This was my biggest concern," says Nadira (ph), "what to do with my daughter. We had to go to Pakistan to educate our children. We hope now that with a good government and with proper security in our country, we can get education for all our children again."

Aziz (ph) is a teacher, who told us the Taliban's ban on girls' schools affected the whole society. Boys suffered too, because most of the teachers are women.

They show us a school that had taught girls for 30 years before the Taliban took Kabul, and they say the city's new authorities have announced that girls' education will resume after the long winter break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not against Islam, and it is not against the community. The girls, they are part of our community. They have to share with us in everything, and they have the right to get education.

AMANPOUR: So much of this capital city, like so much of the country, needs rehabilitating after more than 20 years of war. But as they reflect on the past, many of the people we spoke to say they thank America for giving them a chance for a new beginning.

"Everybody is happy about the military action," says Bashir (ph). "It helped people find new freedom."

But there are some whose hope is still tinged with fear; fear that they may not have seen the last of the Taliban.

"I'm still wearing the burka," says this woman, "because the situation isn't 100 percent clear. I wear it because I'm scared, because no one has yet announced that I can take it off."

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kabul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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