No aspect of the tragedy in Afghanistan should provoke more outrage than the treatment of women there. While the U.S. government talks endlessly about which group of men should replace the Taliban, it is important to remember that our leaders’ current fave, the Northern Alliance, have their own history of brutality toward women. RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, is doing everything it can to remind the world that Afghan women must play a major part in leading their country to peace and democracy.

Thankfully, some in our government are getting the word. On Oct. 31, Rep. Cynthia McKinney invited RAWA’s young and eloquent Foreign Affairs representative, Tahmeena Faryal, to speak before the U.S. House International Relations Committee. Below are excerpts from Ms. Faryal’s remarks.

“The current humanitarian situation [in Afghanistan] is grave and being made worse each day by the continued fighting, the U.S. bombing and the destruction and fear both continue to cause. Winter is coming and starving people are, of necessity, fluid in their alliances. The political situation is made ever more precarious by what some Afghans perceive to be the U.S. aggression against our country and our civilians, even as we cheer the possibility of the Taliban’s demise. And continued and increasing foreign assistance to the reviled Northern Alliance has plunged our people into a horrific anxiety and fear of re-experiencing the dreadful years of the Jehadi’s ’emirate’ of the 1990s. …

“The Afghan people want what any people on this earth want – the cessation of wanton violence and establishment of basic stability so that we may re-establish civil society. What is going on now, and has been for decades, is NOT our religion, our culture, nor our traditions – it is an abomination of Islam and all other peaceful religions, and a violation of our people who are being held hostage by fanatics. …

“RAWA sees the former king, Zahir Shar, as a viable non-monarchial central figure around which an interim government could form. However, if he comes to the scene while relying on the Northern Alliance and so-called ‘moderate’ Taliban elements, he will not only betray his reputation among the Afghan people but will also undermine the stability and viability of whatever structure he forms. So many of those now involved in what has come to be called the Northern Alliance have the blood of our beloved people on their hands, as of course do the Taliban. Their sustained atrocities have been well documented by independent international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others.

“Those in the Taliban and the Northern Alliance have also proved themselves to be incompetent and corrupt as governing forces. … Currently RAWA and many other Afghans fear that the Northern Alliance groups now lie in ambush, waiting to ride the guns of the U.S. into Kabul and working to gain western backing to establish their second ’emirate.’ They have yet to prove, or even to offer, a single shred of reason or credible evidence suggesting that they would not repeat their prior atrocities. …

“Therefore, any U.S., ‘Rome process’ or multi-lateral initiatives to establish a broad-based government must exclude all Taliban and other criminal Jehadi factions from political power, unless and until a specific faction or person has been absolved of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Else the people will again be plunged into the living hell that engulfed our country from 1992-1996 under elements now involved in the Northern Alliance and continues to the present under the Taliban and other factions.

“RAWA, on behalf of more than half of the population of Afghanistan must insist that any Loya Jirga or interim-government development process is not legitimate unless it includes and heeds women’s voices from beginning to end in substantial and meaningful ways. We ask the unequivocal support of the U.S. and other democracy – and justice – loving countries for this and our other standpoints. Afghanistan of course needs substantial help from the international community, but we cannot tolerate external control, and even starving Afghans will resist foreign domination.”

Tahmeena Faryal will speak in Santa Barbara on Friday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. Donation: $10, which benefits the reopening of Malalai Hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, to provide medical aid to Afghan refugees. Come and learn about RAWA and the revolutionary work the group has been doing since 1977 to benefit the women and children of Afghanistan.

Submitted by Mary Jones, UCSB staff member, on behalf of RAWA Supporters Santa Barbara.