Radio KPFK, Los Angeles CA, USA , Monday, 26 June 2000, 5 PM (live)
"Beneath the Surface"
Suzi Weissman, Host
Sajeda Hayat & Sehar Saba, Representatives of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
Sangeeta Kumar, Acting in Solidarity with Afghan People (ASAP)
From right to left: Sehar Saba, Sajeda Hayat, Suzi Weissman, and Sangeeta Kumar.
Edited for flow
Suzi And welcome to Beneath the Surface, I'm Suzi Weissman. I'm delighted to have in studio today three guests. We're going to be talking about the situation of women in Afghanistan, and the resistance. Now, as I mentioned in the introduction, many of those of you who are on the internet have probably received multiple copies of a petition that's been making the rounds about the human rights abuses in Afghanistan, targeted at women. I said at the beginning that this amounts to essentially creating a gender apartheid system in Afghanistan. Well, maybe you signed that petition and sent it along, but maybe there's more that you can do besides just signing your name. We're going to find out more about that today. We will be taking your listener phone calls a little later in the hour, because I'm sure you'll also have questions of my guests, and they are, in studio: Sangeeta Kumar, and she's from ASAP. She's going to tell us what that is. Sangeeta It stands for Acting in Solidarity with Afghan People. Suzi And from Afghanistan I have Sajeda Hayat and Sehar Saba. They both come from the foreign affairs committee of RAWA, which is the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. They have been on a speaking tour around the country. They've just come from the East Coast, and are going to be in California for the next month or so and have many events which we will be alerting you to during this hour that we're devoting to this discussion. I want to welcome you to Beneath the Surface.
Now let's just start, because the listeners may or may not know what the situation has been like in Afghanistan. Perhaps you could give a brief history of the last thirty years! That goes back to prior to the Soviet invasion. What kind of regime existed, what kind of regime was installed, and what has this meant for women?
Sehar Thank you for inviting us today. We are very happy to talk to the people here about Afghanistan. The tragedy with Afghan women and people started exactly when the Russian-backed parties took over in 1978. During that time they committed lots of crimes under the name of human rights, women's rights, democracy, and even socialism. Especially when Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979. With their invasion the tragedy began to ... in all the country all people, children, men and women, their rights were violated by Russians and their puppet regime. Most of the children and women and men they were forced to leave the country. In Russian times they killed a large number of intellectuals, women and men, in Afghanistan. They bombarded villages, and even the cities. Culturally, they devastated our country. And after that, when the puppet regime was collapsed in 1992 and the fundamentalist parties who were trained in Pakistan, they came to power. Everything was finished for Afghan people and for women. Suzi What you say may be of surprise to the listeners. Apart from the general disgust with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I remember at the time doing a program and one of the "experts" on Afghanistan said, the Russians will bring a central economy to Afghanistan. It's essentially been a nomadic society and this will be an opportunity to create a central economy, some stability, and to root out the possibility of fanatical Islamic sects. I'd really like you to address that, because it was a short-lived period and it had a lot more to do with world politics and the Cold War than Afghani politics at the time. Poland was in struggle and Solidarity was threatening from the workers from below to challenge the Soviet regime. So it seemed that for them to invade a neighboring country on its Central Asian border would seem safer and perhaps teach a lesson to the Polish workers. But what did it really do in Afghanistan itself? Sajeda The Russians when they invaded Afghanistan, of course, unfortunately, they invaded our country under the name of bringing peace and stability, and under the name of democracy, women's rights and freedom. Unfortunately today even our organization has problems with using some of these words, because these words have lost their meaning for our people. And we have to very be careful even with the using of the words. Sometimes we are labeled as being pro-Russia or even being communist, because they came under the name of these words and under the name of communism, so really they have changed a lot of words in Afghanistan, and maybe some other values.
The Russians when they invaded Afghanistan they thought that it might be very easy for them to occupy the country. They really had forgotten the history of Afghanistan, and the bravery of the people of Afghanistan, that they never had given up to any foreign power, they never let them to occupy their country. They really had forgotten that history of Afghan people. When they invaded, people of Afghanistan, from the cities, from the villages, they started and resisted in different ways. In the cities people were staging demonstrations, strikes against them, especially the students. Even the girls at the universalities, our organization was also involved with in organizing those events and taking part in those events. In the villages, people, especially men, they also took part in the resistance war, in any way that was possible for them. And the Russians, that's why they started killing people, they started bombing the villages and putting the intellectuals into prison, and those who opposed them.
Suzi And did they do this against anyone who opposed them because they were anti-communist, or backward, or religious, or what was the excuse? If they came there, as you both have said, pretending to liberate Afghanistan from - who knows, a feudal past - and bring it into modern times, then what were the demands of the resistance? Was it simply, no foreign invasion? Or was it in particular towards some form of society? Sajeda They knew that the country would be a colony, since they had experienced it during the whole history of our country. Afghanistan has been invaded during all of its history because of its location and the key position that it had. So they knew that the country would be the colony and the only reason that they started resistance was just to avoid the invasion. Suzi One thing we know about in the United States, because it was a Cold War period, and the United States was very interested in preventing the Soviet hold in Afghanistan, that we began to arm Pakistan, or to help Pakistan to be a "tooling center for the resistance," and to arm certain sectors to fight against the Russians in Afghanistan. Did that mean that the resistance that you speak about to the Russian invasion was all tied to Pakistan and to the US interest or was there something sort of independent in its own way in the period? Sehar Definitely, yes. We are sure that at that time during the resistance war we had fundamentalist parties. Unfortunately as you said they were supported by America, and America wanted to turn Afghanistan into a Vietnam for Russia-and they did that. There was a resistance movement of the people of Afghanistan. We had real freedom fighters. They gave sacrifices for national independence. They were separate. They were against those fundamentalists at that time because at that time also those fundamentalist parties, especially those who were trained in Pakistan, they were against "front" wars. Those real freedom fighters were not only opposing the Russian war but also they were opposing those fundamentalists. But of course, since they didn't have anything, they were with their empty hands. They had to get support - I mean get weapons from these fundamentalist parties because all of the monetary and military support was provided by the United States or other countries. I met and I saw and I talked to many people. They have membership cards from those fundamentalists. But when we asked them why, the reason was simply that they wanted to get some weapons or money from those fundamentalists because all the facilities or the support was with them. Suzi Was this the beginning of the fundamentalist organizations, or had they already been in Afghanistan for some time? Was it in the struggle against the Russians that this developed, or was it in the aftermath of the Russian invasion? When did we get the beginning of the fundamentalist organizations, and out of that, the Taliban? Sajeda Some of these fundamentalist parties, they already existed in Afghanistan, even before Russian invasion. And even at that time, people knew about their creatures, about how they are against women and against democracy. Even at that time, one of these fundamentalist parties was led by Gulbaddin Hekmatyar. He threw acid to the faces of university girls - students - because they were not dressed in Islamic way. But obviously during the resistance war, because America wanted through Afghanistan, and through the people of Afghanistan, wanted to defeat Russia, these fundamentalist parties, they were supported both financially and militarily by the US government. And not only their financial and military support gave them a lot of strength, but also the media. The US media, the Pakistan media and even other countries who were involved in Afghanistan played a great role in making them so-called leaders and heroes in Afghanistan. Suzi Financing them, arming them, in that sense? You mean basically supporting them and boosting their image? Sajeda They were supported financially and militarily. Of course the US government and CIA provided them with a lot of money. I believe it's like four or five million dollars, but the media also played its role. Suzi You both mentioned that during the Russian invasion, Soviet invasion, that intellectuals were repressed and killed. What about the situation for women? Was it fundamentally different than it had been prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union, or was it more or less the same? Sajeda During the Soviet - the puppet regime- they had tall claims that the social situation of women had been improved at that time. They had a so-called women's organization. Suzi Official one, you mean. Sajeda Yes. But unfortunately at that time, what for women what they did was just to persuade women for those kind of activities that were not really accepted in our culture and for our people. Although women at that time, they had some of their basic rights. They could go to school, they could have a job, they could go outside, they had the right to be dressed in whatever way they want. They had all these basic rights. But in those parties, or those organizations for women, that the puppet regime they had, they never told women what was the real potential of women in society. And that was not their goal, to tell women or to convince them for their real mission. Suzi But the things that you just raised, what you call basic rights, for women to be able to dress as they please, to go outside unaccompanied. These things are probably pretty shocking for Americans to hear. You know, that these are not basic rights - that they may have had it in that period but they don't today. We're going to have to go to a break in a few minutes, but maybe we should just lay out, after the Soviet Union collapsed and the war collapsed, that essentially it's been pretty chaotic in Afghanistan. Can you describe what it's like for women there today? What are some of the rules and regulations against them? We'll start with you, Sehar. Sehar Of course, since Afghanistan is a backward country and women never really had the rights, especially in the villages. But since the fundamentalist parties, they took over in 1992, women were deprived of their basic rights. Not only to go outside or to get education or work in offices or work in TV or radio, even they banned women and they forced women to be in their houses, though they didn't announce it officially like Taliban. But what they did against women they did under the name of Islam, under the name of religion and under the name of tradition. Their crimes made women to be in their house, because they didn't feel safety outside of their houses, especially young women. They looted everything. They even raped 70 years old grandmother and 6 year old child. Suzi So people were, what you're saying, raped, assaulted sexually as well? Sehar Yes. Suzi On the other hand, it's a country that's just come out of war and many of the men were killed. So I'm assuming that women not only had the role of caring for the children, but also of supporting the family. How were they able, and how are they able to do that if they are not allowed to leave the house, how do they work? Sajeda That is the reason that today Afghanistan has really been changed into a prison for the women in Afghanistan. And I think that's the reason that 90% of women, especially in Kabul, and perhaps in other cities, they're with psychological problems. Because they really lost everything in life. They have lost their jobs, they have lost their breadwinners, and they don't know what will happen tomorrow for them. And they don't know how to feed their children. And there is really an increase the number of beggars and prostitutes in Kabul and also other cities.
Suzi We're talking about women in Afghanistan. My guests in studio are Sangeeta Kumar from Los Angeles, Sajeda Hayat and Sehar Saba from Afghanistan-I think you don't live in Afghanistan now, do you? Sajeda We live in Pakistan. Suzi You both belong to this Revolutionary Association of Women... Sajeda, Sehar,
...of Afghanistan Suzi Of Afghanistan [laughs]. Is this an organization that's from the outside that's trying to agitate within, or is this an organization that's also resisting inside Afghanistan? Sajeda Actually this is the oldest organization of women in Afghanistan. It was established in 1977 by Meena and some other intellectual women in Kabul. At that time the main reason of this organization was to struggle only for women's rights. But when our country was invaded by Russia, and later on when they left Afghanistan and when the fundamentalists took power, all of our people were in chains. RAWA believed that we cannot talk of women's rights or we cannot struggle only for women's rights until we have our national independence and we should struggle first for our country and for the whole people. They we can talk of women's rights or struggle for women's rights. RAWA at that time was based in Afghanistan but it was in early 1980s that we had to transfer part of our activities in Pakistan. Now it's based in Pakistan, but we also have activities inside Afghanistan in different parts. Those activities are educating women. We have nurse-training courses, literacy courses for women, we have home-based classes for girls since they are not allowed to go to school. We have income-generating projects for women, and try to provide those women, especially the widows that have lost everything in their life, with something that they could earn to live. Suzi Let me just stop you for a second, cause you're probably astonishing the listeners. Maybe those who don't know anything about what's been going on. So you've basically said that women are not allowed to leave the home. They're not allowed to work. Girls are not allowed to go to school. What about if you're sick and you need to go to the doctor? Can a doctor treat a woman? Sajeda These days, we have some female doctors in Afghanistan. The first days when Taliban took power, they banned all female doctors. It was really very difficult for women to get treatment, because they were not allowed to get treated by male doctors and at the same time we didn't have female doctors. But later on, when they saw that it was not possible to continue on that way - there would be the revolt of people against them - so today there are a few female doctors that are allowed to work in Kabul, and probably in some other cities as well. But that doesn't mean that women or people have access to health care facilities. It's really very difficult. People of Afghanistan, they die of very treatable diseases. Suzi Sehar, maybe you can talk a little bit about this too. One of the things I read on the information packet, and on the web site was that there was a very large percentage of female doctors and teachers prior to the takeover - I don't know if you'd call it a takeover - to the conquest or the seizing of power by the Taliban. Do any of these female doctors or teachers do sort of underground activity? Are they in their homes practicing medicine, or creating schools? Sehar There are some doctors and teachers that are working underground besides RAWA, because they don't have any other option. Unfortunately most of them even they don't have the place or the energy of working underground. Most of the teachers even they turn to beggary or into prostitution, not only in Afghanistan but in Pakistan even as refugees. But there are some home-based classes that are running by women teachers. Suzi How much support is there for the Taliban? Is it supported by some women as well as men? Are there men who also support RAWA, for example, or support the struggle against these abuses against women? Sajeda Taliban are not being supported neither by men in our society nor women because of the brutalities and all the crimes that they commit especially under the name of our religion, our tradition and our culture. That's really very disgusting for our people. Most of our people, men and women, they believe that this is not our culture, this is not our religion, and not our tradition. Suzi But they live in fear, in other words. The Taliban pretend to speak for Islamic faith, in a sense. What they do is [purported to be Islamic], even though you may call it "political Islam," rather than religious Islam. How different is it from customary attitudes and practices toward women? How much of a departure is there from what one would expect from the religion itself? Sajeda Taliban really misuse the name of religion. There is a big gap between the Islamic fundamentalists and the religious of our people, our people's Islam. Our Afghan people, they were Muslims for centuries. They never practiced what they have to practice today. Even in Koran it has not been mentioned that women are not allowed to get education. Even in Koran it has been mentioned that both men and women should get education. But Taliban, they have closed down all the education institutions for girls and for women. There are some other points that are not mentioned in Koran, but Taliban they just have made some points from their own ... Suzi So they're an extremist sect that's interpreting the Koran to their own advantage? Sehar Yes definitely, because before the Taliban we were a Muslim society and women had the rights to go outside or to get education and even women were in the government. We see the other Muslim countries, like Pakistan, even Iran, Saudi Arabia. Women, the way they are oppressed in Afghanistan, they don't have any rights, but Pakistan and Iran and other Muslim countries they are enjoying the basic rights. So I think those who claim that what Taliban are doing in Afghanistan is Islamic, it is not Islam. Suzi And there's very little support. So it seems kind of unbelievable that a small group, or maybe it's not so small, can take hold and oppress the society and rule against the support of the entire population. Do you think it can last, can the Taliban last in Afghanistan? And who's supporting them? Sajeda Taliban obviously cannot last in Afghanistan, because the only things that they have that they can keep the power is money and guns. They don't have the support of the people, that's why they cannot last. They're being supported directly by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. They're being supported financially and militarily. We also have the biggest terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, in Afghanistan. And he's also one of the main sources that support Taliban financially. Suzi There's a lot of confusion about whether or not the United States supports the Taliban, reluctantly doesn't support them, reluctantly does, and what the role of Osama bin Laden is. Let me bring Sangeeta Kumar into the discussion. You've been organizing resistance from the American side. What is the US role in all this? Sangeeta I think in the beginning when the Taliban came to power, the US expressed some favorable sentiment that here might be a group that might provide some stability in Afghanistan, especially in terms of corporate entities that might be interested in the geopolitical location of Afghanistan, because there are a lot of oil and gas pipelines that can go there. But of course since the human rights oppressions came out and all the horrible stories of what is being done to women came out, I think the government and state officials like Madeleine Albright, etcetera, really had to take back that and have condemned what the Taliban are doing. But they have condemned it in word alone. Madeleine Albright has even gone as far as to say that for the Taliban to release Osama bin Laden to the US would be a first step in expressing their good will toward the rest of the world, rather than relieving human rights violations. Suzi So that's the key issue. That's really why I asked the question. So the key issue is Osama bin Laden. But he is also an enemy now, not just of the United States, but Putin in Russia too is waging war in Chechnya because of the so-called Chechen terrorists and their support from Osama bin Laden. Is there any evidence? Do we know that this is true, or is he becoming the boogey man of the world and all policy is for eradicating this man instead of looking at what is happening to people? Sangeeta The situation that might be developing is that Russia has been put in the unusual position of having a common goal with the US, ironically. They have threatened to commit air strikes against Afghanistan for aiding and abetting the Chechens. In fact, it was recently in the news that the US and Russia might be getting together to discuss how they might fulfill these common aims, which is a very scary situation for the civilians of Afghanistan, if the big countries like the US and Russia were to get together and commit air strikes against an impoverished country like Afghanistan it would be the civilians that would suffer. And we know that sanctions have already been imposed since last October, with the aim of getting Osama bin Laden from the Taliban, but of course they've impoverished the civilians even further. Suzi Basically, I guess what you're all saying is that there's been more or less official silence on the situation, against people in general, but especially against women in Afghanistan. Let me tell the listeners that ... we're going to start taking your phone calls after the next break. Start thinking about some questions or comments for our guests: Sajeda Hayat, Sehar Saba, and Sangeeta Kumar. Sajeda and Sehar are visiting and are on a tour. They are on the foreign affairs committee of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, and Sangeeta Kumar is from an organization here in the United States that is Acting in Solidarity with Afghan People. Just before we go into any of those questions, let me ask Sangeeta to tell people where if you are interested in going to hear my guests speak publicly in Los Angeles in the next month, you can go. Sangeeta There are a number of events happening, I'll point out a couple of the major ones. Wednesday the 28th of June is a benefit concert at the Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse and Art Gallery in San Pedro. That's on 399 W 6th Street and it starts at 8PM, and we'll have Larissa Stowe play a benefit concert. The other big event which is basically to get the academic lecture by Sajeda and Sehar in detail about the situation you can go to the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance event on Thursday, the 13th of July. Mavis Leno of the Feminist Majority Foundation will be coming for that and that's at 9786 W Pico Blvd. Suzi Before we go to the calls, I want to ask both of you to tell the listeners...I know you're organizing against the human rights abuses in Afghanistan. Do you both stand for some sort of democratic secular state? You have "revolutionary" in your initials, does it mean you're looking for something beyond that? Are you looking for a revolutionary socialist state, a revolutionary democratic state? What is it that you propose as a solution for Afghanistan. Sajeda It's a good question. The reason that we call ourselves "revolutionary" is because, since the inception of our organization, we believe that in Afghanistan, in such a backward society, and today in such a fundamentalist-blighted society, the existence of an independent organization of women is in itself a revolution. For the goals that we have: freedom, democracy, women's rights, and a secular government, to achieve all those goals in a country like Afghanistan would be the biggest revolution. This is the reason that we call ourselves revolutionary. The society that we struggle for is a democratic society based on all kinds of freedom - freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of forming different political parties. Women's rights must be one of its pillars. And it should be a secular government. Suzi So your feminism is in a context. You're not necessarily arguing for any sort of separatism or rights of women over men? Sehar What we mean by feminism, or feminist organization in a country like Afghanistan is exactly that we want women to participate in all fields of society equal with men. And that's why we are also a feminist organization. One point that I want to add to Sajeda's points of view: struggling for a society that we desire, a democratic and secular society - it's impossible without struggling against the fundamentalists, of all brands, be they Jehadi, that were before the Taliban, and now Taliban. Even talking about women's rights or human rights in this situation without being against the fundamentalists, it's impossible. That's why we have a main difference with other women's organizations or women's rights activists that are based in Pakistan or even in the United States. We also are not only a social organization, we are a political organization. We believe in the overthrow of the fundamentalist parties from the political scene of Afghanistan.
Suzi We talked a little bit about the politics. You both represent an organization that's fighting against fundamentalism, but it sounds like such a hopeless situation in some respects, because of the hold of the Taliban. You mentioned that women are very traumatized and depressed. How is that reflected in the society? You mentioned prostitution, which I think almost sounds impossible given the situation you described. Is there also a lot of suicide and other psychological trauma that's being expressed? Sehar Women today, they don't have anything. That's why especially young girls, they commit suicide. We as a women's organization - one of our activities inside Afghanistan is documenting human rights violations through taking photographs or video films and other pictures and reports. Not only committing suicide, Taliban execute women in public. Also they beat women in public for very simple reasons that they don't cover themselves completely. Women, really they are like prisoners in a big prison. Suzi We've got several people on the line. Let's start with Eric in Los Angeles. Eric, you're on the air. Eric I think they may have kind of covered this already, your panel. Do they feel the main reason that unfortunately women are going through this is just because of the fact that these fundamentalist religions are allowed to control the government as opposed to, like in America where you're allowed to express your religion? Suzi In other words, the question is, do you think that the reason this is happening in Afghanistan is because the Taliban, as a religious sect control the politics, and would it be different if there was a separation between church and state? Sajeda Yes, exactly. That's why we strongly believe in a society that there should be a separation of the state and religion. Since 1992 all the crimes that have been committed in Afghanistan by these fundamentalists, it was under the name of religion. Suzi We can move on to Ahmed, in Venice. Ahmed I have some points of your story of the way the fundamentalists took power in Afghanistan. I'm not Afghan, but I have some information about that history, that when the Russians came to Afghanistan, they had three important reforms. One was land reform, another was reform for the situation of women, and the third one I don't remember. What happened was the error they had was they didn't arm the peasants to carry out these reforms. So what happened was the landlords started to take advantage of the religious feelings of the people. They tried to promote people not to accept these reforms, because by the law of Islam, the property belongs to the person, and they cannot take of the property of the person who owns the land. Every peasant that didn't support these Islamic laws, they started to kill them and as I said because the peasants were not armed, they couldn't resist. Because of the terror that landlords made in the villages, what happened was that the people didn't have any other choice but to follow these reactionary groups. This is one point. Second point is, as I listen to you, you still support Islamic ideas about the women. Suzi Who is "you," when you say you, all my guests? Let me have them answer that. Sehar I agree with some points of your questions. But of course, what the Russians and their puppet regime did in Afghanistan under the name of reforms, bringing reforms or give freedom to people. I think it's impossible in a society to bring these reforms or give people freedom by force. When the puppet regime, they were dependent on foreign power, they themselves didn't have freedom or rights, so how they were able to give other people freedom or rights too? And secondly, I think that if we choose proper way to bring reforms in Afghanistan or any other Islamic countries, we can do this. What the Russians did and what their puppet regime did in Afghanistan, they exactly forced people to be against them. For example, I remember a story of my grandfather. He was Muslim and he ws very much supportive of education for women, for girls, and he by himself built a high school for girls and boys together. But when he saw the crimes of Russia and puppet regime against women especially, he not only became against those criminals, but he also became against education. Suzi But what about this last thing that the guest has said, that he thinks that you two are not opposed to the Islamic views on women, as a whole, or that you don't struggle against "Islamism" I guess you might say, or Islam? Sajeda Obviously, we are not against Islam. This is the religion of our people, and Afghanistan is a Muslim country. The problem of our people is really not religion or Islam. The problem is that the rulers, the Taliban, the fundamentalists, they use, they misuse Islam and religion as a tool for implementing their own wishes and objectives on our people. There may be some points in Islam that may be against women's rights, but as I said, the problem in our country is not religion and is not Islam. Suzi We have a full switchboard. So let's ask all of you to try to be brief. We're going to move to David in Los Angeles. David I have three short questions. First of all, who are these Taliban? Number two, if they are Afghan, why most of their soldiers speak Urdu, which is Pakistani language? Number three, what's the influence of Pakistani military behind this movement? This is a completely new movement which Afghans didn't know about during the war, and suddenly they appear. There's got to be some kind of reason, either support by ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's CIA], or the Western government. Sajeda Taliban actually means religious student. They were trained in Pakistan by Pakistani government. For the first time they appeared in Afghanistan in 1994, and then they seized Kabul in 1996. We agree with what you say. There are so many Pakistani and Arab fighters among Taliban. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, these are the two countries that support Taliban, financially and militarily. The Taliban, most of their political or military advisors, they are Pakistani or Arabs. The Pakistani government, including ISI, they support Taliban, and after the military coup in Pakistan there has been no change in their policies towards Afghanistan. Suzi Thanks very much for that question; we'll move on to Dave in Garden Grove. Dave There's been a careful omission on your show about the situation with why the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the first place, they didn't do it just out of the blue. There were CIA-backed rebels were attacking that southern border, causing them to invade in the first place, instead of Soviet aggression. And number two, from what the panel has said, it seems that life for women was a thousand times better despite some of the authoritarianism of the Soviet-backed regime. I don't understand why people on the panel jumped in bed with these CIA cutthroats. Suzi So he's jumped from being soft on the Soviets from jumping into bed with the CIA. [laughs] Sangeeta It's a very important point, I don't think it's been a careful omission. We have an hour to do this show and I think that's certainly a very important point that has to be made and I'm glad you brought it up. The Soviet Union didn't just jump into Afghanistan out of nowhere. The CIA was involved, and it's been documented, inside Afghanistan before the Soviet Union came in. Sehar made the point that one of the goals of the US government was to give Russia its Vietnam, and they succeeded, because they armed the Mujaheddin to the hilt. They armed seven different parties, who of course have been fighting each other with these weapons. In fact even after the Soviet Union pulled out the Mujaheddin were being funded by the US through the CIA for a couple more years even though those reasons had ended. So certainly the blame lies squarely on the US and the Soviet Union. Of course the US fought a proxy war. It was the Soviet Union inside Afghanistan committing physically the atrocities. But in no way are RAWA or any of us taking the blame away from the US government. It's very much our responsibility today. Suzi And in fact we have talked about it. We have Adrian in Sunland. Adrian At first there was a great deal of reporting about this situation, and then there was an almost media blackout. I thought, well maybe they've corrected this situation because it couldn't possibly work. This is the first I've heard of it in a long time. Are there any organizations that are simply trying to get women out of that country? As in getting the Jewish people out of Germany, or out of German-occupied countries during World War II. It seems to me that that would be the best thing. Can we bring any political pressure here? Sehar Yes there are some organizations supporting Afghan women, but I think it is not the solution for Afghan women in tragedies to move or to ask them to come to these countries, because how many women will be able to be brought to these countries. If they want, they can help them inside Afghanistan. I want to announce that, fortunately, we have very great supporters here in the United States that are supporting our organization, and also the women in Afghanistan. Sangeeta I'll answer the second part of the question. There is certainly political pressure that we as Americans can put on our government, and that was one of the reasons why I and a couple of people that organized for the speaking events of RAWA representatives put together an organization called Acting in Solidarity with Afghan People, ASAP, to do exactly that. To increase awareness of Americans for the US role in what happened, so that with the responsibility that comes with that so that we can put political pressure on our own government and on the UN. Suzi Let's move to our last call, and we'll let you answer both questions in one. Our last caller is Ronan in Santa Barbara. Ronan I wanted to ask your guests if there are armed women's organizations in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. I think I've heard them say that they didn't believe in that route to power, but how do you create a political space without the armed struggle to open it up? Suzi Are there any revolutionary armed women's organizations? Sajeda In Afghanistan, there are not any armed women's organizations against Taliban, and I believe that even there are no armed men's organizations resisting against Taliban at present.
Transcription by Jim Ingalls
[RAWA in Media] [Interview with New York Times Magazine]
[RAWA web site on CNN] [About RAWA in The Nation]