For Immediate Release

October 8, 1999

FMF President Speaks Out on Afghan Women's Plight

Judy Mann, leading Feminist columnist, in her Washington Post column today, featured the plight of women in Afghanistan who are suffering under Taliban rule. Eleanor Smeal, quoted in the column, described the critical role of FMF in the struggle of two Afghan women, Nazira Karimi and Maryam Shams, and the US policy changes that resulted from this work.

Nazira Karimi, a prominent Afghan journalist and open critic of the Taliban, was forced to leave Afghanistan and her extended family in fear of her life, when she began receiving death threats from the Taliban. She fled to Pakistan in 1994, where she lived in hiding, then came to the United States in 1998. During a five-year struggle with the Taliban, her life was constantly threatened, and members of her extended family were kidnapped, beaten and shot. The entire Karimi family finally won refugee status in the United States last month, with the help of FMF and the Tahiri Justice Center.

The family was reunited on September 8 at the Washington, DC National Airport. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it,” Smeal told the Washington Post. “When they saw their sister, they were all crying with relief, joy, all at the same time…it just drove home how small the world is, but also how terrible some people have it.”

FMF also helped resettle Maryam Shams, a 21-year-old Afghani woman who was married off to an abusive Afghan doctor in Germany. Her dying mother arranged for the marriage, in a desperate attempt to get her daughter out of Afghanistan and away from the abusive Taliban.

“These are the lucky ones,” Smeal said yesterday. Since FMF began its Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan, the US has increased the maximum number of immigrants from Afghanistan from 0 in 1996, zero in 1997, 88 in 1988, to roughly 600 in 1999, and scheduled to be some 1500 in 1999. The INS is soon to open a mini-processing center in Pakistan for Afghan refugees. However, these numbers are still tiny in comparison to the millions of women and girls that continue to suffer under Taliban rule and the thousands that were allowed into the United States in the 1980’s when Afghan’s were fleeing Communist rule.


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