Before September 11th, the plight of hundreds of thousands of Afghan women and girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan was deplorable. Suffering from the draconian measures of the Taliban regime, millions of Afghans fled, and hundreds of thousands were at the borders trying to flee. More than 3 million refugees are in Pakistan without sufficient food, clothing, health care, or shelter. More than 600,000 in 2001 alone have fled because the worst drought in more than 30 years has created desperate conditions. This holocaust-like tragedy is now only getting worse. All foreign humanitarian aid workers have evacuated Afghanistan since September 11th and hundreds of thousands of Afghans are fleeing Kabul, Kandahar, and other population centers, fearing an American counterattack.
For years, the Feminist Majority Foundation has been urging an increase in humanitarian aid. In May 2001, partially because of our pressure, the U.S. announced an emergency humanitarian aid package for Afghanistan totaling $43 million. This aid did not go to the Taliban but to international agencies, such as the International Red Cross and the U.N. World Food Program (mostly in the form of food), to distribute to those in desperate need. In July, the State Department agreed to provide an additional $6.5 million to alleviate the suffering in neighboring countries. This would bring the total to $132 million in 2001, making the U.S. the largest provider of emergency assistance to Afghanistan but far short of what is needed to end further suffering and starvation.
The first casualties of the terrorist Taliban regime have been Afghan women and children. In our need to stop terrorism we cannot forget them.
“The end of terrorism in South Asia and the Middle East will only come about with the installation of constitutional democracies, the restoration of destroyed economies, and the restoration of women’s rightful place in society,” says Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “The feminist work to advert the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children is critical. We must stop terrorism and save lives here and in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the impact of the Taliban has been ghastly for years.”