The News Record, May 11, 2003

Kimberly Crear
Staff Reporter

The fight for Afghani women's liberation began long before September 11, according to a presentation sponsored by The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. "Don't Forget Afghanistan" traversed the country's tumultuous past and hazy future at the Event Pavilion Friday night as a Worldfest event.

Tahmeena Faryal, an Afghani woman, and Ann Brodsky, an assistant professor of psychology at UC, hoped to explore the country from the insider and outsider perspectives.

Faryal, a member of RAWA, detailed her country's struggle to survive through occupation, civil war, and terrorism.

Brodsky remarked on her four month stay with RAWA which led to her book, With All Our Strength. This book documents RAWA's history.

"People can see Afghan women making a difference," explained Brodsky. RAWA utilizes literacy training, political demonstrations, sewing classes, hospitals and other forms of aid to empower women and give them a sense of community.

"They start to think, 'If I can learn to read and write, wow, what else can I do?'" noted Brodsky.

Women held secret literacy classes during the Taliban's reign according to Faryal. Only women from Afghanistan and Pakistan can join RAWA, but men and foreigners can support the organization. "RAWA couldn't do its work without the support of men," said Brodsky.

A college student named Meena founded RAWA in 1977. Fundamentalists assassinated Meena in 1987 at 30-years-old. Today, RAWA has 2,000 base members.

The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan began in 1979. After the invasion, 5 million people took refuge in surrounding countries according to Faryal.

The death toll reached 2 million during the occupation. "People thought they could not suffer more than that," said Faryal.

From 92' to 96' civil war enveloped the country when fundamentalists took control. Rape and forced marriage plagued Afghani women.

Fathers killed their daughters and women committed suicide to protect their family's honor and dignity according to Faryal.

When the Taliban came to power, women could not work outside the home or leave the house without a male relative. Also, women had to wear berkahs. Brodsky and Faryal agreed that control is the issue and not the berkahs.

The War on Terror has killed 3,000 Afghani civilians Faryal claimed. She also expressed sadness due to the destruction of the capital city, Kabul.

Faryal thanked America and the world for its help, but deemed the world's apathy to Afghanistan's problems prior to Sept. 11 unforgettable.

"Afghans will never forgive the world for ignoring the atrocities."

"People hear that it is a liberated country. The media tries to portray the country for its own interests," said Faryal.

The same fundamentalists who reigned during the civil war once again control Afghanistan according to Faryal.

RAWA would like to see a secular government develop in Afghanistan similar to that of the United States. However, Faryal said that the changes necessary for the country's reconstruction would have to "come from within the people."


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