Women's Rights Supporters Call on Bush Administration to Ensure Democracy and Equality in Afghanistan
May 22, 2002
The lives and future of Afghan women are in question now. A combination of soaring hope and grinding poverty -- jubilation mixing with dread -- as women who want to celebrate freedom are afraid, because there is too little security to protect the promise of liberty.
They have too little food and too little freedom for so many dreams. And this country of dreams, the country that lights with a torch the liberation of "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" owes no less to these women who are counting on us to keep our promises.
Will there be equality or thuggery? Democracy or repression? Next year, will girls be going to school, or will another generation be lost? Will women move freely and wear clothing they choose, or will an entire country of women go back under House arrest?
Feminists have advocated for Afghan women's rights since 1996, but only after September 11 did the world turned its eyes to the plight of an entire nation of women living in subhuman conditions under an oppressive regime. The Bush Administration promised to Afghanistan that it would help rebuild a democracy and restore human rights to the country. What does it say about the United States if we break this promise?
The loya jirga is fast approaching, offering a chance for Afghan women to participate in restoring their country and for democracy to prevail. But George W. Bush refuses to address crucial security needs in Afghanistan and has not helped secure the integrity of the loya jirga — in essence threatening the future of democracy there.
Standing with my sister leaders for women's rights here in front of the Capitol today, on behalf of NOW's more than 500,000 contributing members, we demand that the Bush Administration expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul and increase much-needed funding to the Afghan Interim Authority and the Ministry for Women's Affairs to help ensure democracy and women's rights.
Factional fighting has increased in Afghanistan. Afghan women are afraid for their lives, and many won't remove their burqas for fear of the warlords who rule most of the country outside Kabul.
Afghanistan's interim government cannot be successful if women rights are not fully restored. The rights of Afghan women and girls cannot be guaranteed without real democracy—in which women participate equally. The Bush Administration must uphold its promise to Afghanistan and to the world. The first step in making good on its words should be to increase the number of peace troops in the ISAF and ensure their presence throughout the country.
Without security and democracy, Afghanistan remains vulnerable to terrorism. To the Administration: put your money where your mouth is. The successful reconstruction of an Afghan democracy that includes full equality for women is crucial to the war on terrorism.
###For Immediate Release
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