Around 200 Afghan women threw off their burqa veils in the Afghan capital yesterday in a symbolic protest to demand respect for women's rights after the collapse of the Taliban regime. \nThey included former politicians, academics, activists and teachers who had been confined indoors or forced to wear the hated burqa, which covered them from head to foot, in public for the past five years. \n"You are the heroic women of Kabul," organizer Soraya Parlika told the group, members of the newly formed Union of Women in Afghanistan. \n"You have been imprisoned in your own homes, you have been beaten, you have been deprived of work and forced to beg, but you stood firm and you should be called heroes. \n"Now it's time to fight for your rights." \nBut the group was forced to cancel its planned protest march from a residential suburb to the main UN compound due to security concerns. \n"They told me they could not provide an assurance of security on the route because they don't have enough police," Parlika said, referring to the anti-Taliban opposition forces who now control the city. \nEven so the women, who wore light head-scarves covering their hair, were among the first to show their faces in public here since the Taliban captured the city in 1996. \nTo uphold a misguided notion of women's "honor," females were denied education and banned from all work except in the health sector. \nThey could not leave their homes without a burqa and could not travel without a close male relative. \nIn the last months of the Taliban's radical Islamic regime here, leader Mullah Mohammad Omar even issued a decree banning women from attending picnics, deemed a sinful pleasure with no place in Islam. \nBut hopes are high that with the collapse of the Taliban a new constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women will be drawn up ahead of the creation of a broad-based, multi-ethnic government. \nParlika, a former communist and secretary general of the Afghan Red Crescent, said the first priority for the women of Kabul was the right to work. \nMany have lost husbands in the past 20 years of war, but under the Taliban widows were reduced to begging to support their families. Thousands of others relied on foreign food aid. \nThe opposition Northern Alliance, which is not as hardline as the Taliban but has a far from spotless record on women's rights, has urged women to go back to work. \nIn a symbolic gesture a few hours after they marched into the city last yesterday, a woman's voice was heard reading the news on Radio Afghanistan. \n"I did not expect that I would ever be back on the radio," said newsreader Jamila Mujahed. "Now I sit here at the microphone and think that I am dreaming." \nUN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson on Monday said a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan must include women. \n"With regard to the future of Afghanistan it is crucial that strong government institutions be established with the full participation of women," Robinson said in New Delhi. \n"They should have the capacity to promote and protect all human rights in a non-discriminatory and effective manner."
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
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Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations