The Daily Iowan, October 8, 2009

Afghan activist speaks out against violence

Zoya argued against the increase of troops in her country, saying “liberation and democracy cannot be brought by America and its helicopters and B-52s.”

By Lauren Mills

Although she answers to “Zoya,” it is not her real name.

As a speaker for Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan, a group pushing women’s rights, she must keep her identity a secret.

The 28-year-old spoke to a group of roughly 60 UI students and community members at the Pappajohn Business Building on Monday night.

After violence in her home of Kabul, Afghanistan, killed her parents, she crossed the border into Pakistan and studied at a school funded by the association she now works for.

Today, she travels across the world under a pseudonym.

“In the past few years, only some cosmetic changes have been made regarding women’s rights,” Zoya said, critiquing eight years of occupation by U.S. and NATO troops. “The burka is not any more in the papers, in the law, but because there is so much insecurity, so much rape and violence, many women still wear the burka.”

The UI Antiwar Committee and UI Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance worked with Zoya’s organization to bring her to Iowa. With approximately $2,000 approved by the UI Student Government, the university groups were able to sponsor her trip here and an excursion to Des Moines.

“I was really gung-ho about it, putting up posters, coercing people,” said Conner Spinks, a UI freshman and member of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance.

UI senior Megan Felt was responsible for arranging Zoya’s visit.

“The Obama administration is trying to figure out its strategy, and we really need to understand the impact of every action we take,” she said. “Hearing her voice, you really come to understand that impact.”

Zoya argued against the increase of troops in her country, saying “liberation and democracy cannot be brought by America and its helicopters and B-52s.”

“If they leave, maybe civil war starts,” Zoya said, but suggested such a situation would be preferable to the current violence and occupation.

Today, Zoya will travel to Des Moines and take to the coasts next.

“When I come and see all the beautiful buildings, I am happy because at least there are some nations with people living in peace,” Zoya told the DI Sunday. “At the same time, I feel sadness because in Afghanistan, you cannot find a wall without bullet holes.”

Students who came to the event were impressed after hearing about events from a native of the country.

“Until recently, we weren’t hearing much about the corruption in the government and about the widespread abuse of women,” said UI sophomore Blake Iverson.

Broadening world views beyond the Heartland was also an inspiration for attendees.

“We tend not to expand our views,” said UI freshman Sami Beckman. “We kind of get bogged down in what is going on in Iowa City. This widens our world a little.”

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