The Star (Malaysia), October 15, 2001

‘US contributed to destruction of Afghanistan’


PETALING JAYA: The founding director of an American non-profit organisation which raises funds for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) says the United States has contributed a lot towards the destruction of Afghanistan and the plight of its women.

Sonali Kolhatkar, vice-president and secretary of the Afghan Women’s Mission (AWM), said Afghan women had been leading normal lives prior to the United States’ nurturing of the mujahideen to help battle the Russians.

“Its unbelievable what the Afghan women have been reduced to by the Taliban in recent years and the mujahideen prior to that,’’ said Sonali who was speaking from Pasadena, California.

This realisation, added Sonali, had prompted her as well as friends Steve Penners and Dr James Ingalls to set up the mission in June last year to do what little they could to elevate the suffering and anguish faced by Afghan women.

“As Americans, we feel very responsible that the lives of these women and their children had been wrecked by our government which had funded arms for fundamentalist terrorist groups like the Taliban and the mujahideen,’’ she said.

Currently, AWM, which is run by volunteers made up of mostly professionals and academics, is RAWA’s main fund-raising conduit for all the latter’s projects.

According to Sonali, they decided to raise funds for RAWA after research indicated that it was the only political party in Afghanistan which had been continuously battling fundamentalism since its inception more then two decades ago.

“We found that RAWA took the non-violence path in its quest for democracy and was the most credible organisation representing the voice of the Afghan masses at the moment.

“That is why we decided to take on the responsibility of sourcing for funds to pay for all its humanitarian projects,’’ said Sonali.

AWM’s principal undertaking at the moment, she added, was to rebuild and re-establish Malalai Hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, to look into the medical needs of the Afghan refugees in the country.

Besides establishing free hospitals, AWM aimed to set up schools to educate and empower the refugees so that they would be able to build sustainable livelihoods once peace and sovereignty returned to Afghanistan, said Sonali.

Apart from fund raising, AWM had also embarked on a public awareness blitz to educate Americans as well as people from other parts of the world on the gross human rights violation netted on the Afghan women and children by the Taliban regime.

“We try to bring RAWA members into the States to talk about their organisation, the plight of the Afghans as well as the support they required to carry out humanitarian activities,’’ said Sonali.

However, this was not an easy task as RAWA members faced a lot of security problems and were exposed to death threats all the time. Due to this, they were forced to constantly relocate as well as keep their identities undercover.

RAWA’s founder Meena was assassinated in Pakistan, in 1987.


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