Security, Education Top Priorities for Afghan Women

Women participating in a videoconference today from Kabul, Afghanistan, listed security and education as the top two priorities for Afghan women, even as several local officials and a translator were killed in explosions in Kabul and Kandahar. The videoconference, sponsored by the World Bank and Women for Women International, brought together non-governmental organizations, Afghan women, and State Department officials to discuss women and the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Sara Amiryar, a longtime advocate for women’s and human rights in Afghanistan, said that during her travels in Afghanistan over the past six months it was difficult to find women in the provinces to speak with as they were afraid to leave their houses. The women at the videoconference urged the expansion of peacekeeping forces and reconstruction beyond Kabul as necessary to ensure peace and women’s human rights.

In the past few days, there have been at least two explosions in Afghanistan, killing four people and wounding six. Reuters reports that a blast in the province of Kandahar, a former Taliban stronghold, killed three local council members and wounded five others on Monday. Other explosions in the past five weeks in Kandahar have killed more than 20 people, according to Reuters. In southern Kabul, a remote control device set off a blast that wounded a Dutch peacekeeper and killed an Afghan translator, according to the Associated Press. The explosion was aimed at an ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) vehicle, AP reports.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that Afghans are on the whole opposed to a US war with Iraq, partly out of concern that Afghanistan will receive less aid and security assistance. Afghan President Hamid Karzai echoed these sentiments at a public Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting earlier late last month, saying, “Whatever the United States does in Iraq it should not reduce its attention to Afghanistan.” However, at the same meeting Karzai downplayed the need for increased security in Afghanistan. Karzai later expressed displeasure over the format of the meeting, according to the Washington Post. At a recent hearing, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Ishaq Shahryar, called for the US to support expansion of ISAF beyond Kabul, to increase the force’s size from 5,000 troops to at least 15,000 troops, to fund the Afghan Freedom Support Act, and to send reconstruction funding directly to the central Afghan government. The Post reports that there have been unconfirmed reports that Shahryar will be replaced.

The Feminist Majority has been leading the call for ISAF expansion, increased reconstruction funding, and for more resources to support the work of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission.

TAKE ACTION Urge Congress to Appropriate Funds for Expanded Peace Troops, Women’s Programs and Reconstruction in Afghanistan

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Washington Post 3/11/03; Associated Press 3/11/03, 3/9/03; Reuters 3/10/03; Feminist Majority Foundation

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