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Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)


Activist organization formed to advocate women's rights in Afghanistan.

The Revolutionary Afghan Women's Association (Anjoman-i-Enqilabi-i-Zanan-i-Afghanistan), known as RAWA, was founded in 1977 in Kabul by Meena Keshwar Kamal and a small group of close associates in opposition to the pro-Soviet Democratic Organization of Afghan Women (DOAW). RAWA opposed the fundamentalism of the radical Islamic groups as well as the pro-Soviet People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which had been the dominant political forces in Afghanistan since the mid-1960s. Despite deep ideological differences, the radical Islamists and the members of the PDPA both rejected RAWA as a Maoist organization. Due to violent threats from radical Islamists, RAWA was forced to operate underground. Working clandestinely, RAWA members were active in rallying female student protests in Kabul against the December 1979 occupation of the city by Soviet troops.

RAWA eventually moved its headquarters to Quetta, the border city inside Pakistan, where it became openly involved in the anti-Soviet movement and provided health care and education to refugee Afghan women and children. Its membership grew rapidly as many newly arrived educated, professional Afghan women joined its ranks. In 1981, Keshwar Kamal started the monthly Payam-iZan (Women's message) to encourage exiled women to fight for freedom, democracy, and social justice for all. After Kamal's assassination on 4 February 1987 in Quetta, RAWA once again became a clandestine organization. Rather than choose a single leader, the members elected a rotating governing council of twelve and continued to fight for freedom and social justice and to provide relief for women refugees.

After the fall of the pro-Soviet regime in 1992, RAWA protested the seizure of power by radical Islamic forces. It declared the day the fundamentalists entered into Kabul (28 April 1992) "the Black Day" in Afghan history, and condemned Pakistan and the United States for backing the fundamentalists. On 28 April 2002, the eighth anniversary of the rule by Islamic fundamentalist regimes in Afghanistan, RAWA organized protest rallies in Pakistan and in Washington D. C., demanding a free and democratic Afghanistan. The gathering in Washington was sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation and the National Committee of Women for a Democratic Iran.

Since 1997, RAWA has used the Internet to share its message with a global audience and has succeeded in bringing to world attention the plight of Afghan women, but its exceedingly harsh language and personal attacks drove away some of its early sympathizers.

see also afghanistan: soviet intervention in; gender: gender and law; gender: gender and politics; kashwar kamal, meena; samar, sima; taliban.


Brodsky, Anne E. With All Our Strength: The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Emadi, Hafizullah. Repression, Resistance, and Women in Afghanistan. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). Available from <>.

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