For Immediate Release

May 22, 2002

Eleanor Smeal Urges President to Fulfill Promise to Afghan Women

Women’s Rights Leader Calls for Increased Security, Funding for Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, DC – Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal called on the Bush administration today to expand security forces and increase funding for reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Despite pleas from the United Nations, the Afghan interim government, and the women’s rights community, President Bush has refused to expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul. Meanwhile, factional fighting has increased in the war torn country and instability threatens to undermine the success of the loya jirga process, the establishment of democracy, and the restoration of women’s rights.

“President Bush promised that the U.S. would not abandon the Afghan people, especially Afghan women,” said Smeal. “It is time for the President to make good on his promise. Allowing Afghanistan to descend into chaos is not only abandoning the Afghan people but would also provide a base from which terrorism, al Qaeda, and the Taliban could thrive again.”

Smeal continued, “We cannot wait any longer. The loya jirga is quickly approaching, and this is our chance to help ensure that democracy prevails. We also must act now for women’s security. Afghan women continue to be marginalized by factional fighting and warlordism.”

Feminist Majority researchers who have traveled to Afghanistan continuously report that Afghan women do not feel safe to walk the streets without the burqa. Our researchers have also observed that security forces are not present throughout all of Kabul, let alone Afghanistan.

The Feminist Majority stands with leading members of Congress in demanding that the Bush administration increase the number of peace troops in the ISAF and expand the force throughout Afghanistan. Without security, a civil society cannot exist – women will continue to be in danger and their rights in jeopardy.

Increased funding is also crucial to the restoration of desperately needed educational and healthcare services in the country. “Far more resources are needed to create a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Afghanistan. The U.S. has pledged only $297 million for Afghan reconstruction this year,” said Smeal. “We are spending billions of dollars on the war effort, and it is now time to invest more in creating peace and stability. We cannot forget that the successful reconstruction of Afghanistan – including full equality for women – is an essential part of the war on terrorism.”

Since 1996, the Feminist Majority has brought together more than 220 leading human rights and women’s organizations in the U.S. and around the world to demand the end of human rights abuses in Afghanistan and restore the rights of Afghan women and girls. Our accomplishments include helping stop the U.S. and U.N. from officially recognizing the Taliban, sending more humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, and increasing the number of Afghan refugees allowed to enter the U.S. Our sister organization, the Feminist Majority Foundation, is supporting Afghan women in U.S. colleges while also helping the Afghan Ministry for Women’s Affairs.


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