The Washington Post, September 24, 2001, Page A19
The Taliban's Victims
By Anne E. Brodsky
On Sept. 11 many Americans received phone calls, pages and e-mail messages from family and friends asking if they were okay. This was probably more the case for those who live in the Washington or New York metropolitan areas, or who fly frequently.
I received those e-mails as well. The first came from my brother and sister-in-law in Europe, the second from my parents in western Pennsylvania and the third from RAWA, an Afghan humanitarian and political women's organization that works in Pakistan and Afghanistan against the effects of the Taliban and the fundamentalist oppression of Afghan women, children and men.
RAWA's e-mail to me was the same kind of frantic message I have written to the women of RAWA numerous times over the years, when I would hear news of yet another Taliban atrocity committed against the Afghan people or of terrorist attacks by fundamentalists in Pakistan, and I'd wonder if they and their loved ones were safe.
Just a month ago I was in Pakistan, talking with scores of Afghan refugees in refugee camps and urban communities. Of the hundreds of Afghans I spoke with none supports the Taliban, the fundamentalist faction that controls Afghanistan by violence, threats and terror. None supports Osama bin Laden or his non-Afghan followers who exploit Afghan soil and bring world condemnation and sanctions to a country in dire need of humanitarian assistance. And neither, by their report, do the vast majority of Afghans -- people held captive in Afghanistan, with no resources to leave and nowhere to flee as all neighboring countries close their borders to the largest refugee population in the world.
In the United States we now have our own experience of terror and fear, but I can't forget the voices of the Afghan women, children and men as they told me of 23 years under war and violence and now fundamentalist oppression -- of the massacres; the destruction of their homes; the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of their husbands and fathers and brothers; the rapes and forced marriages of their young daughters; the acts of daily terror and violence to enforce edicts that keep women under house arrest -- unable to go to school, work, be seen or heard in public, talk to any men who aren't their relatives.
At this time we have more in common with the Afghan people and many others around the world who are victims of terrorism, fear and human rights abuses on a daily basis. I am hoping that this will give us empathy and bring us together against a common enemy, rather than tearing us farther apart. Hatred, fear and blame are the calling cards of terrorists. If we give in to this, they have won. I am deeply afraid that our fear and the clamor for retribution will mean that in the future I will again be the one sending the frantic e-mail, wondering about the safety of my Afghan friends and their families, only this time the actions of my own government will be the reason.
The writer is an assistant professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.