September 27, 2011
For Immediate Release
Contact: Sana Shuja: 504-669-4446
Sonali Kolhatkar: 626-676-7884
Surviving the Longest War: An International Video Webcast
On the Tenth Anniversary of the US war, an underground activist
tells the real story of the Occupation and Afghan Resistance
October 7th 2011, marks the ten year anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan. To mark this event, Afghan Women’s Mission (AWM), a U.S.-based non-profit that works in solidarity with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) will hold a special international online talk-back with Reena, a member of RAWA.
“Ten years of war has not made Afghanistan safer for anybody except the fundamentalist warlords in the Afghan government, and the Taliban,” said Reena. This anniversary event, in collaboration with PCC’s Students for Social Justice, will raise serious questions about the official story of the longest war the U.S. has ever officially waged, and will offer the unique perspective of an underground Afghan activist who has witnessed first-hand the impact of the war.
AWM Co-Director and KPFK’s Uprising host Sonali Kolhatkar will lead the conversation with Reena via live video streaming from the Pakistan/Afghanistan region, in front of a live audience. The event will be webcast live on AWM’s website at www.afghanwomensmission.org .
“Using the latest technology available, we are thrilled to be able to broadcast the voice of this young RAWA member – an Afghan speaking for her generation – well beyond the confines of our physical event,” said Kolhatkar. “We invite people from all over the world to mark the tenth anniversary of this war by tuning into our live web video stream of our conversation with Reena.”
Questions for RAWA member Reena will be drawn from the live in-person audience and the online audience via Facebook. The event will take place on Friday October 7th at 7pm PST (10 pm EST) at Creveling Lounge (CC Building, 2nd floor) on the campus of Pasadena City College (PCC).
Nineteen year old Reena was born an Afghan refugee in Pakistan around the time when US-backed fundamentalist fighters started a brutal civil war in Afghanistan. She lived with her family in the border town of Peshawar in severe and impoverished conditions. After moving to a refugee camp run by RAWA, Reena attended one of their literacy courses. She eventually joined the organization, working in various RAWA-run schools and orphanages and is currently a first-year University student. Since Reena was born, she has known only war in her country.
Read Sonali Kolhatkar’s September 11th, 2011 interview with Reena here.
RAWA is on the forefront of the movement for peace in Afghanistan. Their activities focus on women’s rights, human rights, and exposing the fundamentalist crimes of warlords in power, as well as the Taliban. They have criticized all foreign intervention since the time of the Soviet invasion and occupation through to today’s US/NATO war. As the oldest women’s political organization in Afghanistan, RAWA has been promoting human rights and democracy for more than 30 years. Their work is extremely dangerous – all RAWA members, including Reena, use pseudonyms, do not reveal their faces, and live and work underground.
RAWA Predicted the Failure of the War Ten Years Ago
On September 14th 2001 RAWA issued a statement warning the US against waging war on Afghanistan, saying “vast and indiscriminate military attacks on a country that has been facing …disasters for more than two decades will not be a matter of pride.”
On October 11th 2001, four days after the bombs began dropping on Afghanistan, RAWA once more urged the US to do the right thing, predicting accurately the outcome of the war in a statement: “[t]he continuation of US attacks and the increase in the number of innocent civilian victims not only gives an excuse to the Taliban, but also will cause the empowering of the fundamentalist forces in the region and even in the world.”
A month after the war began, when the Taliban were rapidly pushed out of Kabul, RAWA realized that the US was ready to replace the Taliban with their ideological brethren, the Northern Alliance (NA) warlords. They issued yet another international appeal, warning: “[t]he NA will horribly intensify the ethnic and religious conflicts and will never refrain to fan the fire of another brutal and endless civil war in order to retain in power.”
Sadly RAWA’s warnings were ignored and the last ten years have borne out their predictions.
The Human Impact of a Decade of War
Civilian casualties as a result of the ten year long Afghanistan war have been estimated at 17, 611 – 37, 208, with more than half killed directly as a result of U.S.-led military actions (Sources: UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan, Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch, and Associated Press). A recent report by Open Society Foundation found that night raids conducted regularly by US and NATO forces in Afghan villages result in indiscriminate detentions and widespread abuse.
Politically things aren’t much better. Afghanistan’s government, dominated by the US-backed NA warlords whom RAWA warned against, is ranked the second most corrupt in the world after Somalia (Transparency International). Through the Afghan parliament, warlords have passed laws exempting themselves from prosecution for war crimes, curtailing press freedoms, and promoting women’s abuse.
Women in particular continue to suffer. A survey by UNIFEM in January 2011 revealed that a shocking 87% of Afghan women are victims of domestic violence. A UK based charity, Womankind, found that “between 60 and 80 percent of Afghan marriages are forced, with more than half of all girls married before age 16.” While women can run for office in the Afghan parliament, they are only allowed to serve if they accept the status quo. The well-known and popular activist, Malalai Joya, a representative of Farah province, was kicked out of Parliament for criticizing the US-backed warlords and has survived numerous assassination attempts.
According to RAWA member Reena, the first thing that needs to happen is for Americans to “call for the withdrawal of the troops, as the military presence has not helped Afghan people in any way.” Her opinion is supported by a majority of Americans: a Washington Post-ABC News poll in March showed that 64% of poll participants somewhat or strongly felt that the war has not been worth fighting.
RAWA member Reena is available for a limited number of interviews.