EL PAÍS, June 23, 2005 (Translated from Spanish)

Afghan Campaign Begins in Spain


An association seeks support for the female candidates for this election.

Mariam was born 30 years ago in Afghanistan and became a refugee when she was two years old, the same year when her father was assassinated. It was 1977 and things were getting worse in Kabul. There was a coup d’etat led from Moscow a year later, and the Soviet troops occupied the country the following year. Everything was ready for the war. Thousands of people fled to Pakistan and have lived in refugee camps until today. Mariam is one more.

But after secretly coming and going from her country, after thousands of kilometers of escape that finished erasing her real name, today she traveled another hundreds of kilometers just to campaign for their rights. Mariam is her war name because this type of activity demands anonymity. She comes to Spain to ask for economic, moral and political support for the 20 female candidates that will run for the next parliamentary elections in Afghanistan on the next September 18. A teacher, a student, a woman from a nomadic community… These are some of the intrepid names of the list.

She comes alone but with very clear ideas, invited by the Spanish association “Paz Ahora” (Peace Now) and in representation of the “Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan” (RAWA). “The theory is all right. The new Constitution recognizes equality between men and women, but it is no more than a good declaration of intentions”, she says in a perfect English. “The real truth is that the women who go to school, to university or go to work are risking their lives. The country, except for Kabul due to the international security forces and the media, is immersed in a poverty that has been taking place for years and there is terrible insecurity.”

Maraim Rawi in Madrid
Mariam covers her face with a poster written in Persian: “Freedom, democracy for Afghan women”. (LUIS MAGAN)

In Afghanistan, “women who go to university or to work are risking their lives”

Mariam recalls the TV hostess that has been killed in her house some months ago, the recent conflict that arose because of the appearance of a woman singing on television, the huge amount of suicides and attempts of sacrifice at hospitals, the attacks…, and she wonders if one can talk about democracy when this is the reality of a country.

“Afghan democracy is a lie. Both Karzai’s government and the opposition are puppets supported by the United States. Karzai won the presidential elections last October only because there was no other alternative to the religious fundamentalism. Now, Karzai is getting closer and doing more concessions with them because the real truth is that they are the ones who still have power”. Notwithstanding all this, she still believes there is hope; that it depends on afghan people’s efforts, sacrifices and devotion (sometimes even one’s own life). “And for that purpose, we need time and international support in all senses. People are too scared and they are not used of taking the initiative”.

That is her main task now in Afghanistan: to mobilize women, to encourage them to raise their voices and fight for their rights and for the rights of their people, to persuade them to vote conscientiously now that they have the opportunity. Her campaign has started in Spain, where she assures they have great support and where she already met with the secretary of State of External Affairs, Leire Pajín, and with a Government’s representative in Moncloa. “But I am not sure if I had succeeded by now”, she says.

After visiting some other cities, she will be returning to her life in a few days. There, she has many people waiting for her, his husband, her sisters in Kabul, a burka, an important silence, and a vital secret that she hides from all of her friends and neighbors, but that she has shouted here in Spain.

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