Joya Successfully Wraps Up 2011 US Tour – A Reportback

Although initially denied a travel visa from the US government, Malalai Joya, with the help of her supporters, successfully petitioned the United States for a visa and wrapped up a successful book tour in the US in early 2011.

Citing she was “unemployed” and “lives underground,” the US embassy refused to allow Joya into the country. Joya’s supporters responded in full force. On March 23, they staged a national call-in day to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, organized a petition garnering over 3,000 signatures, and executed a nationwide campaign involving Senators and Congressmen. On March 24, the US granted Joya a visa.

Although Joya was forced to miss her events in New York and Washington DC, they were rescheduled to the end of her tour where the public had the opportunity to hear her speak.

On March 25, Joya began her tour at Harvard University’s Memorial Church in Cambridge, MA, speaking alongside world renowned Professor Noam Chomsky.

Due to last minute schedule changes caused by her visa denial, Joya arrived only three hours before the event. Nevertheless, she was able to speak at the event and draw a crowd of over 1,200 people. Watch a video recording of the entire event on YouTube here. Click here here to read a report of the event.

Joya continued her tour at the First Church in Jamaica Plain, MA on March 26. More than 250 people attended, and Joya received a standing ovation at the end of her speech. Read a Boston Globe report about her Massachusetts events here.

The next day, Joya spoke at the University of Vermont in Burlington on March 27 to over 200 people, many of them students. She went on to attend a women’s legislative breakfast, meeting with several state lawmakers from Vermont.

On March 28, Joya spoke at the University of Massachusetts and Smith College in Massachusetts. Crowds for both events totaled over 400 including hundreds of students, and they expressed a very favorable response to Joya’s message.

Joya spoke at the University of New Hampshire on March 29 to a crowd of 250. Her books sold out at the event, and many people signed the Peace Action petitions circulated there.

On March 30, Joya continued her tour at Villanova University and Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia, PA. Over 100 people attended her event at Arch Street to hear her speak and participate in a question and answer session.

Joya traveled to Chopin Theater in Chicago, Illinois on March 31 and was met with a packed theater. After the event, she was interviewed by the National Public Radio (NPR).

On April 1, Joya visited Minneapolis, Minnesota to speak at St. Joan of Arc Church. Click here here for additional coverage.

On April 3, Joya continued her book tour at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon where she was well-received. At the end of her speech, the audience gave her a minutes-long standing ovation. Click here here for a report on the event.

On April 4, Joya visited Washington State to speak at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, and Seattle First Baptist Church. The event at Seattle First Baptist Church drew a crowd of 600. Approximately 50 new potential donors and members were identified at the Washington State events. Local Afghans attended the events as well.

Joya spoke at the University of Washington-Tacoma on April 5. She addressed the Afghan people’s struggles amidst the occupation and an increase of civilian casualties under President Obama. Click here here for more details.

On April 6, Joya lectured at the Central Washington University in Ellensburg. Over 400 people attended the event, filling the capacity of the theater it was held in.

Joya continued her book tour in Southern California where Afghan Women’s Mission is based. She began at California State University, Los Angeles at an event attracting more than 400 students, faculty, and members of the public. Afterwards, she spoke at the University of Southern California with more than 300 people in attendance.

The next day on April 8, Joya spoke at UC Santa Barbara and Golden West College. The UC Santa Barbara event was packed with more than 200 people in attendance and some even sitting in the aisles. Joya received a standing ovation at the end of that event followed by a crowded booksigning. At Golden West College, more than 350 people attended, including the President of the college, and she received another standing ovation.

Click here to view AWM’s photo report of all Southern California event.

Joya then took her tour up north to San Francisco, CA from April 9-11. She spoke at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist on April 9 and was accompanied by the music of singer and songwriter Kaylah Marin. On April 10, Joya attended and spoke at an antiwar rally held at Dolores Park. Click here here for video footage. On April 11, Joya spoke at the University of San Francisco.

Another speaking event was held at the St. Mary’s College of Maryland on April 13. Despite rescheduling and short notice, more than 100 people attended the event including many students.

For her last stop, Joya joined playwright and activist Eve Ensler at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York for a dialogue on the experience of Afghan civilians, particularly women, in face of the war and how the US can support their struggles. The audience was very supportive of Joya and gave her several standing ovations throughout the night. While in New York, she also met with members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, participated in a community gathering of various organizations, and had press interviews.

This report was authored by Chan Peter Kim, USC intern for AWM.

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Joya’s Southern California Tour – A Photo Report

On April 7-8, 2011, Malalai Joya, renowned Afghan activist, returned to Southern California on the occasion of the release of her book, A Woman Among Warlords, in paperback. Part of her national tour (read report here), Joya’s time in Southern California, where Afghan Women’s Mission is based, was packed with 4 geographically diverse events attended by hundreds of people.

California State University of Los Angeles – April 7, 2011


Joya addresses a crowd of more than 400.


Mostly students and faculty attended the event.


A slide show accompanied Joya’s presentation.


A view of the audience at CSULA in the University Student Union LA Room.


A book and poster signing followed the event.


A supporter hugs Joya.

Special thanks to Students for Social Justice at CSULA and Earth LA for organizing the event.

University of Southern California – April 7, 2011


A large audience gathered at Taper Hall of Humanities, Room 201.


Joya addresses the crowd.


Joya shares an image of one-time Taliban member turned Yale University student, Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi.


USC student and AWM intern Chan Peter Kim thanks Joya for attending and offers a token of appreciation from his fellow student organizers and himself.


A book and poster signing follows the event.


Joya signs a copy of her book, A Woman Among Warlords.


Joya interacting with audience members after her presentation.


Joya with USC student and AWM intern Chan Peter Kim.


USC student and AWM intern Alia Delpassand helps Joya with translating questions during the event.


AWM volunteer and photographer Alice Chiu looks on as Joya signs books.

Special thanks to the USC Political Student Assembly for organizing the event.

University of California at Santa Barbara – April 8, 2011


People gather outside the Multicultural Center on the UC Santa Barbara campus where Joya spoke.


Copies of Joya’s book, A Woman Among Warlords, were available for sale.


Janet Afary of UCSB’s Department of Feminist Studies introduced Joya, with Nancy Gallagher of the UCSB History Department in the background. Both co-organized the event.


Joya addresses a packed audience hall.


Hundreds of Santa Barbarans attended the event including many high school students.


Uprising interns Natalie Reyes and Chan Peter Kim staffed the book and poster sales table.


Many audience members stayed for a vigorous question-and-answer session.


Joya shares her accompanying slide show.


Dozens of people wait in line to get their books and posters signed.


Joya chats with members of the audience.

Special thanks to the UCSB Multicultural Center and Mellichamp Fund – Department of Religious Studies for organizing the event.

Golden West College, Huntington Beach – April 8, 2011


Joya addresses hundreds of Orange County residents at Golden West College.


The event was attended by Golden West’s President, Wes Bryan.


Members of the media record the event.


Joya answers questions from the audience.


Audience members gather for a book and poster signing.


Joya signs a copy of her book A Woman Among Warlords.


Joya shakes hands with a supporter.


The team at Afghan Women’s Mission that organized all four events in Southern California, posing with Joya. From left to right: Natalie Reyes, Sonali Kolhatkar (AWM Director), Malalai Joya, Chan Peter Kim, Alia Delpassand, Alice Chiu.

All photographs taken by AWM volunteer, Alice Chiu.

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5th Annual Fair Trade and Conscious Gifts Holiday Bazaar – A Photo Report

Our 2010 Fair Trade and Conscious Gifts Holiday Bazaar was held on Saturday December 11th at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. The yearly event has become a local staple during the holiday season, with devoted supporters of Afghan Women’s Mission attending each year to do their holiday shopping. This year we partnered with over a dozen local vendors selling international Fair Trade products or their own locally made goods.

Special thanks to our media sponsor KPFK, and to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for refreshments. Click here to see the announcement and flyer for the event.

Afghan Women’s Mission set up two large tables to display our products made by Afghan women who are trained in RAWA’s income generation projects.

AWM Table

Customers

AWM Table

Customers

AWM Table

AWM Table

AWM Table

AWM Table

AWM Table

Our Partnering Vendors:

KPFK (Media Sponsor)
KPFKTable

KPFKTable

Ten Thousand Villages

ten thousand

Garment Workers Center

garment_workers_center

Oceguera

Oceguera

Xothi Designs

Xothi

Xothi

Woodhaven

Woodhaven

Woodhaven

Zatoun

Zatoun

Los Switcheros Del Norte

Los Switcheros

Los Switcheros

9 to 5

9 to 5

Radka Falk

Radka

Skool Boiz

Skool Boiz

Sunshine

Sunshine

Southern California Library

SoCalLib

Refreshments Provided by Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

refreshments

Customers

Customers

Special thanks to AWM volunteers Sandy, Sean, Math, and Azadeh!

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Danish School for Girls in Farah Province, Afghanistan

Sponsored by the Billes Family

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan administers Danish School for Girls in the remote Western Afghan province of Farah. “Danish” (pronounced Dah-nish) means “knowledge in the Afghan language of Dari. RAWA broke ground on its construction late 2002 with the aim of providing classrooms and teachers for 150 girls at a time.

There is no other girl’s school in the area. Since 2003 the Billes Family has generously been funding Danish school each year, enabling hundreds of girls and young women to receive an education.

Update 2017: The Billes Family support for Danish school has ended. We have been maintaining funds for salaries and materials from sporadic donations, but have fallen severely behind.

DONATIONS TO DANISH SCHOOL

CLICK HERE to make a secure online donation to Danish School. NOTE: Please select “Education” when you make your donation and write “Danish School” in the comments section of the confirmation page.

Recently AWM Co-Directors Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls visited Danish School in Farah Province and filed the following photo-report:



Danish School Main Building


Danish School Main Building


Danish School Main Building


Danish School’s Symbol. “Danish” means “knowledge” in the Afghan language of Dari


The school’s main gate, viewed from the outside


A mural on the school’s main gate.


A mural on the school’s main gate.


A class in session


A class in session


Hallway on the ground floor of the school building


A class in session


Older students being taught by the school principal


Students pick out their textbooks for the year.


Danish School’s computer lab where internet access was recently installed via satellite


A computer science teacher working with students in the computer lab.


Last year, as a result of a generous additional donation from the Billes Family, Danish School became connected to the Internet via a satellite service.


Another view of the internet satellite


A young student


A young student


Older students enjoy the school library


Older students enjoy the school library


Older students enjoy the school library


A young student


A young student

DONATIONS TO DANISH SCHOOL

CLICK HERE to make a secure online donation to Danish School. NOTE: Please select “Education” when you make your donation and write “Danish School” in the comments section of the confirmation page.

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Afghan Parliamentarian Malalai Joya Returns to California

Afghanistan’s youngest parliamentarian, Malalai Joya returned to California this April for a very limited number of events. The BBC has called Ms. Joya “the most famous woman in Afghanistan.” She has been threatened with death and rape for publicly denouncing Afghanistan warlords and has survived four assassination attempts.

Recently a documentary called Enemies of Happiness profiling Malalai Joya won the World Cinema Jury Prize in Documentaries at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. (Click here for more information about the film.)

Coverage of Joya’s Events (audio/visual/print):

  • April 10, 2007 – PhotosUCLA Mighty Mic Concert
    On Tuesday April 10th, 1500 mostly UCLA students gathered on campus for a human rights concert benefiting Afghan Women’s Mission and Doctors Without Borders. Malalai Joya and Eve Ensler spoke alongside a number of well known musicians and poets. See below for photos of the event.
  • April 11, 2007 – UCLA Daily BruinA concerted call to action. By Alexa Vaughn
    “The crowd loudly applauded Joya, a current member of Afghan Parliament and survivor of four assassination attempts, as she came on stage to speak of the corruption that she said still exists in Afghanistan’s government…” Read More
  • April 18, 2007 – Sacramento BeeAll is not well, fiery Afghan politician says – By Stephen Magagnini
    “The 28-year-old firebrand — 5 feet tall and the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament — earned a standing ovation from about 100 students and drew some tears after she tore into warlords, drug lords and corrupt officials she called a virus killing her country…” Read More
  • Transcript and audio of Joya’s speechThe US has Returned Fundamentalism to Afghanistan“The US government removed the ultra-reactionary and brutal regime of Taliban, but instead of relying on Afghan people, pushed us from the frying pan into the fire and selected its friends from among the most dirty and infamous criminals of the ‘Northern Alliance’…” Read the full transcript below.For more information about Malalai Joya, visit www.malalaijoya.com.

    Photos from April 10th UCLA Mighty Mic Event

    Malalai Joya addressing the crowd
    Playwright Eve Ensler addressing the crowd
    About 1500 mostly students gathered in UCLA’s Grand Ackerman Ballroom to hear Joya and Ensler
    Eve Ensler greets Malalai Joya
    Afghan Women’s Mission volunteer Heather Schreck staffing a table of RAWA crafts, Afghanistan books and literature
    Malalai Joya with the team of volunteers that organized the Mighty Mic Event
    Afghan Women’s Mission Co-Directors, James Ingalls and Sonali Kolhatkar with Malalai Joya

    Transcript of Speech by Malalai Joya

    In the name of Democracy and Peace –

    Dear friends, while the pro-democracy and anti-fundamentalists groups and individuals of Afghanistan are being marginalized, suppressed and silenced, you give a helping hand to me as a small voice of my suffering people to speak about the crisis in Afghanistan and terrible conditions of its people. You in fact play your role in raising awareness on what is going on in my devastated country.

    Respected friends, over five years passed since the US-led attack on Afghanistan. Probably many of you are not well aware of the current conditions of my country and expect me to list the positive outcomes of the past years since the US invasion. But I am sorry to tell you that Afghanistan is still chained in the fetters of the fundamentalist warlords and is like an unconscious body taking its last breath.

    The US government removed the ultra-reactionary and brutal regime of Taliban, but instead of relying on Afghan people, pushed us from the frying pan into the fire and selected its friends from among the most dirty and infamous criminals of the “Northern Alliance”, which is made up of the sworn enemies of democracy and human rights, and are as dark-minded, evil, and cruel as the Taliban.

    The Western media talks about democracy and the liberation of Afghanistan, but the US and its allies are engaged in the warlordization, criminalization and drug-lordization of our wounded land.

    Today the Northern alliance leaders are the key power holders and our people are hostage in the hands of these ruthless gangs of killers. Many of them are responsible for butchering tens of thousands of innocent people in the past 2 decades but are in power and hold key positions in the government.

    Let me list few of the key power-holders of Afghanistan:

  • Karim Khalili, the vice-president, is leader of a pro-Iran party called Wahdat, responsible for killing thousands of innocent people, and named by Human Rights Watch as a war criminal.
  • Ismael Khan, another killer warlord and lackey of the Iranian regime is the minister of water and power.
  • Izzatullah Wasifi, Afghanistan’s anti-corruption chief has been a convicted drug trafficker who has spent around 4 years in a Nevada state prison in the US.
  • General Mohammed Daoud, Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister in charge of the anti-drug effort, is a former warlord and famous drug-trafficker.
  • Rashid Dostum, the chief of staff of the Afghan army, is a heartless killer and warlord, named by Human Rights Watch as a war criminal.
  • Qasim Fahim, former defense minister and now a Senator and adviser to Mr. Karzai is the most powerful warlord of the Northern Alliance, and accused of war crimes.

And this list has hundreds of men on it, including Sayyaf, Ulomi, Golabzoi, Rabbani, Qanooni, Mohaqiq, Mullah Rocketi, etc. They should all be removed from power and put on trial for war crimes. In fact all the major institutions in Afghanistan are occupied by warlords and drug-lords. How can we talk about democracy when our legislative, judicial and executive bodies are infected with the viruses of fundamentalism and drug mafia?Many freedom-loving individuals and groups in Afghanistan had long ago warned that bringing the criminal “Northern Alliance” back into power by the US government will pose a danger to Afghanistan. But today, most governments and world institutions accept that Afghanistan is a failed state which is heading toward disaster.Afghans are deeply fed-up with the current situation and every day that passes they turn against the government, the foreign troops and the warlords. And the Taliban make use of it to increase their influence and acts of terror. Countries like Pakistan, Iran, Russia etc. are also meddling in Afghanistan for their own interests.The U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote in a recent report: “…Afghans are frustrated with their economic situation… They suffer from unsteady employment and economic insecurity, and are turning to illicit and illegal activity, such as corruption and opium production…the Taliban has become an alternative source of employment, recruiting the jobless as foot soldiers in the insurgency.”In such a situation when a bunch of killers are in power, life cannot be easy for our unfortunate people. I would like to describe the tip of the iceberg on the reality of life in my bleeding Afghanistan:

Seven hundred children and 50-70 women die on a daily basis because of a lack of health services. Infant and maternal mortality rates are still very high – 1,600 to 1,900 women among each 100,000 die during childbirth. Life expectancy is less than 45 years.

The number of suicide cases by Afghan women was never as high as it is today: A month ago eighteen year old Samiya, hung herself by a rope because she was to be sold to a sixty year old man. Another woman called Bibi Gul locked herself up in the animals’ stable and burned herself to death. Later her family found nothing except her bones.

The study by the governmental agency Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission shows a marked increase in reported cases: Two years ago in Farah province, there were 15 cases of women burning themselves reported, but the number jumped to 36 in the first six months of 2006. Kandahar province had 74 cases two years ago and 77 cases in the first six months of the past year. But the real numbers are much higher.

According to a UNIFEM survey, 65% of the 50,000 widows in Kabul see suicide as the only option to get rid of their misery. UNIFEM estimates that at least one out of three Afghan women has been beaten, forced into sex or otherwise abused.

The gang-rape of young girls and women by warlords belonging to the “Northern Alliance” still continues especially in the northern provinces of Afghanistan. People have staged mass protests a number of times but no one cares about their sorrow and tears. Only a few of the rape cases find their way into the media. One shocking case was that of 11 year old Sanobar, the only daughter of an unfortunate widow who was abducted, raped and then exchanged for a dog by a warlord. In a land where human dignity has no price, the vicious rapist of a poor girl still acts as district chief.

The Taliban continue their fascism in the eastern parts of Afghanistan where the government has no control. They carry out public executions and kidnappings. When some days ago an Italian journalist and his Afghan translator and driver were kidnapped, the Afghan government made a deal with them and released five Taliban leaders from prison so the Italian journalist was freed. But no one cared for the fate of the two innocent Afghans and both of them were beheaded by the Taliban.

A report by Human Rights Watch about war criminals in Afghanistan and the hanging of Saddam Hussein scared many Afghan criminals and now they are trying to block any efforts for their prosecution. Last month the warlord MPs, under the name of “national reconciliation” passed a bill in the parliament based on which no one can file a case or prosecute anyone for committing war crimes in the past 25 years.

I and a few other MPs raised our voices against it but as the fundamentalist warlords hold over 80% of the seats, the bill was easily approved. This bill will now provide amnesty to all criminals.

But Afghan people who have suffered terribly in the past 3 decades consider this bill an abuse against them. According to a survey conducted by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission over 80% of Afghan people want to prosecute those responsible for past crimes and brutalities and see it as the only way to experience a bright future in Afghanistan.

Even Mr. Karzai signed this disgusting bill which is regarded as a joke and abuse to the millions of Afghans who have suffered and lost their loved ones and were waiting for the day of justice. Meanwhile the killers forgave their own crimes and live without fear. Such bills officially sanction further brutalities and human rights violations against our defenseless people.

The story of Afghanistan’s reconstruction is painful: After 5 years you cannot see any serious reconstruction projects. Billions of dollars of aid has been looted by the warlords, corrupt NGOs, the UN and government officials. Afghanistan still stands 175th out of 177 countries in the UN Human Development Index and the rate of unemployment is over 40%.

The so-called “freedom of speech” in Afghanistan is another joke with our people. Let me describe my own recent experience: In early February this year, during the passage of the infamous bill of amnesty for war criminals in the parliament, I had an interview with a local TV channel; they had interviewed some other people including Sayyaf, who is a wanted criminal and member of the parliament.

The TV station broadcast an advertisement for the program a number of times in which they showed some parts of my interview. After this Sayyaf himself called the TV station and threatened them that if Joya’s interview was broadcast the consequences would be dangerous for the director. So they resorted to censorship and excluded me from the program. And this is not the first time that I have been censored in the media. Many journalists are too afraid to report my comments.

Last year the UN announced that Afghanistan under US troops could become a narco-state but today no one has any doubt that it has been changed into a mafia-state when Afghanistan produces 92 per cent of the world’s supply of opium. High-ranking officials like ministers and deputy ministers etc. have links to the drugs mafia. And all of it happens under the very noses of the thousands of foreign troops.

A mafia system is in place in Afghanistan. The US backed president Karzai and his westernized intellectuals have joined hands with fundamentalists of all brands to impose this mafia system on our people. This is the main reason for today’s problems in the deadlocked Afghanistan. Those who speak for justice are threatened with death.

My voice is always being silenced even inside the parliament and once I was physically attacked by pro-warlord and drug-lord MPs in the parliament just for speaking the truth. One of them even shouted “prostitute, take her and rape her!” Despite hating guns, I need to live under the protection of armed bodyguards to survive.

President Hamid Karzai, instead of relying on people to bring the criminal warlords to trial, appoints these criminals to higher posts. Due to his criminal-fostering policies, the people of Afghanistan hate him as someone equally responsible for the current catastrophe. Even the CIA admitted in its report recently that he has lost the people’s support and has no control outside of Kabul.

The Afghan government is the most corrupt and unpopular in the world. In a March 2007 survey conducted by Integrity Watch Afghanistan, it was revealed that about 60 percent of Afghans think the current administration is more corrupt than any other in the past two decades.

It is due to this tragic situation that returning to Afghanistan is still an unattractive option for the 4 million Afghan refugees living in Iran and Pakistan and many more still trying to flee the country.

Dear friends, in 2001 the US government announced that it has learned from its past mistakes of supporting the fundamentalists in Afghanistan and will not repeat them. But the agonizing truth is that the US is committing the same mistakes. It is generously supporting the fundamentalists more than ever.

Besides supporting the bands of the Northern Alliance, underground efforts are going on to include some elements of the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the government. The US included Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on its list of most wanted terrorists, yet his party was allowed to have 34 members in the Afghan parliament, which was elected in an un-democratic and fraudulent election. I have announced a number of times that the US administration has no problem working with pro-American terrorists, but oppose only anti-American terrorists. This is the reason that our people make a mockery of the “war on terror”.

I fully agree with Kathy Gannon, an expert in Afghanistan, that “the US is not interested in peace in Afghanistan. The people who killed thousands, who patronized the drug business are in charge of the country.”

Dear friends, the US is not concerned with the suffering and disastrous conditions of our people; it is in the US’s strategic and economic interests to put our people in danger as long as its own regional interests are met. That is why our people do not consider the US a “liberator” of our country. The US invaded Afghanistan under the name of human rights and democracy but today we are as far from these values as were 5 years ago. However, since 2001 the death toll of innocent civilians as a result of the so-called “war on terror” is five times the number killed in the 9/11 tragedy.

I hope you have realized from the small taste of the problems that I just shared, that my country is still in the chains of bloody and terrorist fundamentalists. The situation in Afghanistan and the conditions of its ill-fated women will never change positively, as long as the warlords are not disarmed and both the pro-US and anti-US terrorists are not removed from the political scene of Afghanistan.

It is a clear and proven fact that no nation can donate liberation to another nation. Liberation is not money to be donated; it should be achieved in a country by the people themselves. The ongoing developments in Afghanistan and Iraq prove this claim. People of other countries only can give us a helping hand and support.

I think that the people of the US can play a great role to put pressure on their policy-makers to stop its wrong policies in Afghanistan and value the wishes of our people. I should say that unlike its government, the people of the US are great, caring and peace-loving, so the democratic-minded elements of Afghanistan can count on your support and solidarity.

The people of the US must help poor Afghan people and its democratic-minded individuals and groups, who are currently defeated and under much pressure. This is the only correct policy that can help Afghan people and guarantee a bright future for us. Unlike the US administration, the true friends of Afghan people must care about the voices of our men and women for justice; they should realize that the existence of fundamentalist groups of any brand as political and military forces, is the main cause of all the problems in Afghanistan. They should know that bringing the Northern Alliance to power was the key to all the disasters that we are experiencing today.

I am well aware of the hardships, challenges, and prospects of death from anti-democratic forces. But I trust my people and enjoy their full support and encouragement. The enemies of my people have weapons, political power and the support of the US government to suppress me. But they can never silence my voice and hide the truth. I am proud to be a beacon of hope for my people and enjoy strong support from them in my mission for democracy and freedom.

Your show of solidarity and support gives me more power and determination to fight the enemies of democracy and humanity in my devastated Afghanistan. You can give me a helping hand by providing moral support and your generous donations so that I can continue and expand my work for the benefit of the desperate and sorrowful women of Afghanistan.

The fundamentalists are counting their days to kill me, but I believe in and follow the noble saying of the freedom-loving Iranian writer Samad Behrangi:

“Death could very easily come now, but I should not be the one to seek it. Of course if I should meet it and that is inevitable, it would not matter. What matters is whether my living or dying has had any effect on the lives of others…”

Thank you.

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Report of RAWA Benefit with Zoya, Eve Ensler, Michelle Shocked, Mimi Kennedy, and Sonali Kolhatkar

October 7th 2006 marked the 5th anniversary of the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. AWM organized a major benefit event for RAWA at Cinespace in Hollywood on Saturday October 7th with special guests Eve Ensler (“Vagina Monologues”, V-day), recording artist Michelle Shocked, actor and activist, Mimi Kennedy & Zoya (RAWA). Plus exclusive a sneak film preview of “A View from a Grain of Sand” by Meena Nanji. The event was hosted by Sonali Kolhatkar (KPFK, AWM).

Click here for an announcement of the event.

Download audio files of the event:

Photographs from Breaking the Propaganda of Silence

by Brian Biery (www.brianbiery.com)

Eve Ensler speaking about Afghanistan, RAWA, and her new book, Insecure at Last.
Eve Ensler speaking about Afghanistan, RAWA, and her new book, “Insecure at Last”.
Eve Ensler reading from her new book, “Insecure at Last”.
Eve Ensler reading from her new book, Insecure at Last.
RAWA member Zoya meeting guests attending the event (for security purposes, RAWA members do not reveal their identities).
RAWA member Zoya being interviewed (for security purposes, RAWA members do not reveal their identities).
Actor and activist Mimi Kennedy speaking about Afghanistan and introducing Eve Ensler.
Acclaimed singer Michelle Shocked performing several songs.
Acclaimed singer Michelle Shocked performing several songs.
Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls, co-Directors of Afghan Women’s Mission with Michelle Shocked.
Mimi Kennedy with film maker Patricia Foulkrod and a guest.
AWM Co-Director Sonali Kolhatkar hosted the event.
AWM Co-Director, Sonali Kolhatkar reading from her new book with James Ingalls, “Bleeding Afghanistan.”
AWM Co-Director, Sonali Kolhatkar with Eve Ensler.
AWM volunteers distributing raffle prizes.
AWM volunteer Cheryll Roberts staffing the AWM table laden with RAWA crafts, T-shirts, books and other items.
AWM volunteer Cheryll Roberts staffing the AWM table laden with RAWA crafts, T-shirts, books and other items.
Guests browsing AWM’s table.
Donated gifts for the silent auction.
Donated gifts for the silent auction.
Eve Ensler signing books near the end of the event.
Eve Ensler signing books near the end of the event, pictured with AWM volunteer Phyllis Losorelli (right).
Eve Ensler signing books near the end of the event.
Eve Ensler signing books near the end of the event.
AWM Co-Director James Ingalls being interviewed.
AWM Co-Director Sonali Kolhatkar signing a copy of her book.
Sponsoring organizations with their tables in the outer lounge.
Codepink, a sponsoring organization, hosted a table in the outer lounge.
Media sponsor, KPFK, hosted a table in the outer lounge.
Film makers Sally Marr and Peter Dudar, who sponsored the event, posing with AWM volunteer Heather Wayland.
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“Five Years Later, Afghanistan Still in Flames” – RAWA

Transcript of a speech by RAWA member Zoya at a benefit for RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), called “Breaking the Propaganda of Silence,” organized by the Afghan Women’s Mission on October 7, 2006.

Download an mp3 of the speech: [64 Kbps] [128 Kbps for radio].

October 7th 2001 is a day that many believed to be the beginning of a “new” Afghanistan as the US and its allies started their “War on Terror.” Terror was unknown to the US until the 9/11 tragedy, but for RAWA and the vast majority of our people it was the beginning of another tragedy for Afghan people. Looking back to the US involvement in Afghanistan, one could not expect that the US government would think in the interests of our country. The US policy in the Cold War period has sponsored one terrorist regime after another. All kinds of tyrants have been America’s friends including the Afghan Mujahiddin.

In 1985, President Ronald Reagan received a group of bearded men with turbans — the Afghan Mujahiddin leaders. After meeting them in the White House he said “these are the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers.” In August 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered missile strikes on Osama Bin Laden and his men in Afghanistan, who only a few years earlier was the moral equivalent of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson! These actions speak for themselves: for the US government the terrorist of yesterday is the hero of today, and the hero of yesterday becomes the terrorist of today. For the US, “terrorist” has a different definition than what people of the world understand.

Now five years have passed since the start of the US “war on terror” in Afghanistan, which was trumpeted by the US media to be for “democracy” and the “liberation” of Afghan people. But today Afghanistan is still chained and burning in the fires of both the Taliban and the criminal “Northern Alliance” fundamentalists and the future of Afghanistan is in serious jeopardy.

Considering the US involvements in other countries and in the past 2 decades in our own land, most of our people know very well the hidden nature of this war. It was the US government who supported Pakistan in creating thousands of religious schools from which the germ of the Taliban emerged and supported Jahadi fundamentalist groups with billions of dollars against the Soviet Union. Our founder, Meena, had long ago warned that empowering such dirty and ignorant terrorists will not only pose serious dangers for Afghanistan but for the people of the whole world, and the 9/11 tragedy confirmed Meena’s claims.

Immediately after 9/11 tragedy, the international community awoke and started to talk about terrorism. The US invaded Afghanistan but it is crystal clear that US did not enter Afghanistan to liberate our people, but to punish its former hirelings and servants and a bleeding, devastated and hungry Afghanistan was bombed by the most advanced weaponry ever created in human history. The oppression of Afghan women was used as a justification to overthrow the Taliban regime. Innocent lives, many more than those who lost their lives on 9/11, were taken.

No doubt the war on terror toppled the misogynist and barbaric regime of Taliban. But it did not remove Islamic fundamentalism, which is the root cause of misery for all Afghan people; it just replaced one fundamentalist regime with another.

Five years have passed since the so-called “democratic” government of Hamid Karzai has been installed but the depth of tragedy and miseries of Afghan people still remain intact. Unlike what is being shown in the media, RAWA and other human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch paint a very different picture of Afghanistan.

The large scale of corruption and fraud in the 2005 parliamentary elections by the fundamentalists are clear indications that democracy cannot be practiced in a country infected by the germ of fundamentalist terrorists. The votes have been grabbed by the force of guns, money and authoritative power.

Karzai turned his back on the hopes and expectations of our people and failed to fulfill his commitments. He betrayed the people’s trust by relying on warlords. By compromising with infamous fundamentalist warlords, and appointing them to high governmental posts Karzai has failed to bring any radical positive change. Now we have a parliament full of warlords. The most disgusting faces include Jehadi criminal leaders, former Taliban commanders and some former puppets of the USSR. Those who ought to be prosecuted before anyone else for their crimes against our nation are going to legislate to the Afghan people! The rule of private armies of the warlords in different parts of the country and infighting between different groups of them has resulted in the loss of innocent lives.

Opium poppy cultivation has expanded and the government has stopped poor and hungry farmers from growing opium but let the powerful warlords keep dealing in the dirty drug trade. It is a shameful fact for Karzai and the US government that Afghanistan now produces 92 percent of the world’s supply of opium. Even some ministers have acknowledged the fact that some cabinet ministers are deeply implicated in the drug trade. Afghanistan has become a Narco-State. It is a disgusting fact that Gen. Mohammed Daoud, a former warlord and well-known drug-trafficker, is now Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister in charge of the anti-drug effort – under his command drug-traffickers act with impunity.

Afghanistan has received 12 billion dollars in aid while another 10 billion more were pledged at the London conference. But there aren’t any signs of serious reconstruction. Our people have not benefited from the billions of reconstruction dollars due to theft by the warlords or misuse by NGOs. Even a fraction of this aid has not been used for the benefit and welfare of our people. Government corruption and fraud directs billions of dollars into the pockets of high-ranking officials. It is such a big shame that the government still cannot provide electricity, food and water for its people.

The security situation in Afghanistan is critical. It is like a ticking bomb, and it is very possible that at any time a civil war will break out. Women and girls have been particularly affected by the insecurity. There are hundreds of attacks on teachers, students and schools across Afghanistan, with girls’ schools being particularly hard hit. In most remote villages there are not even any signs of schools for girls. Hundreds of Afghan women have committed suicide due to these intense pressures and hopelessness. When the entire nation is living under the shadow of guns and warlordism, how can its women enjoy their basic freedoms?

A large number of refugees in Pakistan and Iran are still afraid to return home because of the lack of security, jobs, shelter and because of the continuation of ethnic and religious conflicts among warlords. A large number of people have even returned to Pakistan due to the insecurity.

Armed men from the “Northern Alliance” raped 14 year old Fatima and her mother, 11 year old Rahima and a 60 year old grandmother. The 30 year old Amina was stoned to death; the 9 year old Saima was casually tortured and sacrificed for her father’s violence; Gulbar was burnt by her husband for her refusal to go with her brutal husband; the famous poet Nadia Anjuman became the victim of her husband’s violence because he and others are assured of the support of warlords of the “Northern Alliance” misogynists. Anjuman’s husband knows that the law will not be enforced to bring him to justice.

Despite the presence of more than six thousand UN peace keeping troops in Kabul and other cities, NGOs and UN foreign workers are kidnapped in broad daylight, and innocent people are killed in suicide bomb missions. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan is a land that is facing health disasters even worse than the lands struck by the 2004 Tsunami. 700 children and 50-70 women die each day due to the lack of health services. Afghanistan is a land where hundreds of people die because of a lack of food and bitter winters, just few kilometers away from the presidential palace. These statistics do not even begin to address the human disaster in the rural areas.

Fed up with the hardships they have been facing over the years, 65 per cent of the 50,000 widows in Kabul see suicide the only option to get rid of their miseries and desolation as revealed in a survey conducted by UNIFEM. The report revealed that a majority of Afghan women are victims of mental and sexual violence. Calling it a bitter fact, the UNIFEM report also revealed that the average life span of Afghan women was 20 years less than women living in other parts of the world and child and maternal mortality rates were still as high as 1,600 to 1,900 women out of every 100,000 who die during childbirth. Afghanistan is ranked 175th out of 177 countries in the UN Human Development Index.

Despite all this suffering, recently Karzai’s cabinet approved a proposal to reestablish the most misogynist Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice which was a notorious symbol of arbitrary abuses, particularly against Afghan women and girls under the Taliban. President Karzai claims that one of his government’s achievements is establishing freedom of speech and expression in Afghanistan. But the facts prove contrary to this claim: Last year alone, there were more than 40 attacks on journalistic freedom in Afghanistan, including two murders and several cases of abduction, assault and imprisonment, according to the Afghan Independent Journalists Association. Recently the Afghan Journalists Union also complained of the degree of censorship imposed on them by the government.

Instead of relying on those people who may have brought the criminal warlords to trial, Karzai appoints these criminals to higher posts. For instance, this year he appointed 13 former commanders with links to drugs smuggling, organized crime and illegal militias to senior positions in the police force.

Apart from the meddling of neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran, the anarchic situation in Afghanistan and the people’s disappointment with the current set-up has led directly to the rise of the Taliban and the failure of the NATO mission. There are many reports which say that the “Northern Alliance” commanders are selling weapons and ammunitions to Taliban fighters.

The “Northern Alliance” and central government try to point to secondary issues such as the meddling of neighboring countries as a prime reason for instability in the country. But today even Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups reaffirm RAWA’s point of view. HRW announced on September 27th 2006, “The Taliban and other anti-government groups in Afghanistan have gained public support due to the Afghan government’s failure to provide essential security and development, and have used the presence of warlords in the government to discredit President Karzai’s administration and its international backers.”

Afghans, all justice-loving people, and international human rights organizations are demanding the trial of warlords and former pro-Moscow puppets. But rather than being brought to justice, they were shamelessly were offered higher positions and were given opportunities to find a way to parliament with the support of the US and its allies.

The US government has put Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on its list of most wanted terrorists, but his party has 34 members in the Afghan parliament who were elected in an election which was mockery of democracy. The US works with pro-American fundamentalists, but opposes anti-American fundamentalists.

Barbara Ehrenreich in her address to Barnard College in May 18, 2004 said, “I opposed the first Gulf War in 1991, but at the same time I was proud of our servicewomen and delighted that their presence irked their Saudi hosts. Secretly, I hoped that the presence of women would eventually change the military, making it more respectful of other people and their cultures, more capable of genuine peace keeping. That’s what I thought, but I don’t think that any more. A lot of things died with photos of Abu Ghraib. The last moral justification for the war with Iraq died with those photos.”

By witnessing the crimes and brutalities of the Northern Alliance terrorists, the foot soldiers of the US in Afghanistan in the so-called war against Taliban, even humanity should die for Barbara and all Americans, when they see their government support such misogynist and dark-minded killers and impose them on the Afghan people.

Today the friends of the US government in Afghanistan are dark-minded oppressors such as Rasoul Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Mohaqiq, Younis Qanoni, Karim Khalili, Qasim Fahim, Dr. Abdullah, Ismail Khan, Hazrat Ali, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Sibghatullah Mojaddidi and others – those who should be prosecuted for their crimes against Afghan people. The US is relying on the above-mentioned “Northern Alliance” leaders and commanders who turned Afghanistan into a hell from 1992-1996 and still are a threat to the stability and peace. They are a threat not only to our country but their cancer will spread out to other countries and all over the world. The US still ignores the important words of Martin Luther King: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Kathy Gannon, an expert in Afghanistan issues, justly states that “the US is not interested in peace in Afghanistan. The people who killed thousands, who patronized the drug business are in charge of the country.” Dear friends, in this short time it is not possible to cover all the details of the plight of my crying nation but I hope you have realized that my devastated country is not free at all. We strongly believe that conditions will not change positively and Afghanistan will not be liberated from the dirt of terrorism and fundamentalism as long as the warlords are not disarmed and removed from the political scene and brought to trial for their war crimes.

US bombs, B52s and the presence of thousands US troops is not to meant to bring about liberation or establish democracy in our country. The people of the US should know that their troops only serve the strategic interests of the US government and make things worse in Afghanistan. Liberation should be achieved by the people of a country and they must fight for their own liberation. The ongoing developments in Afghanistan and Iraq prove this claim.

RAWA has been advocating for a democratic and secular government as the only cure to the wounds of Afghan people and particularly women. As women living in this very un-liberated country, it is clear that outspoken RAWA members who advocate against warlords and fundamentalism remain at high risk in a country still controlled by armed warlords and fundamentalists. After 27 years of underground resistance, RAWA continues its struggle to provide for the needs of the Afghan people, to empower women, and to work for democracy, peace, freedom and human rights for all.

Clearly the main obstacle to the establishment of women’s rights in Afghanistan is the presence of fundamentalism as a political and military force. When there are fundamentalists, there will be hostility against women and their struggle for equal rights. Only in a society based democracy and secularism can the rights of women be guaranteed. The fundamentalists who misuse religion and ancient tradition to oppress women are still prevalent. As a result RAWA’s mission for women’s rights is far from over and our work continues.

RAWA has concentrated on raising awareness and organizing masses of women in legal and social sectors, and increasing education and literacy among them. We strongly believe that education is power and Afghan women cannot fight for their rights as long as they are not equipped with this sharpest weapon against ignorance and fundamentalism. With the weapons of education, Afghan women’s rights could not be ignored by any government in the country.

RAWA has asked time and again that those who are the real friends of our people should support democratic forces and not our bloody enemies. They should put pressure to remove fundamentalists from power and disarm criminal commanders and bring the criminals to justice through an international court.

RAWA assures all its friends and supporters around the world that we will not for a moment give up our struggle for freedom, democracy and women’s rights in our fundamentalism-blighted Afghanistan. We will continue our committed pledge to tell the truth, even if the pledge requires us to pay a high price. Telling the truth is always revolutionary so we will remain revolutionary forever. But it is impossible for us to continue this hard struggle without your practical support.

If the enemies of democracy and peace unite why shouldn’t the ant-fundamentalist and freedom-loving people all over the world get united? Please raise your loud and firm voice with us together against injustice and to defend democracy and freedom. To quote a well known saying, “the silence of good people is worse than the action of bad people.”

Zoya is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of RAWA. More information at www.rawa.org, www.afghanwomensmission.org.

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Malalai Joya Concludes Successful US Tour

Afghan parliamentarian, Malalai Joya toured the United States in March 2006, addressing thousands of Americans in community forums, panels, college campuses, and local churches.

Malalai Joya first gained media attention when she spoke out against warlords in the 2003 Constitutional Loya Jirga. Since then she ran for election and won a seat with the second highest number of votes in her native Farah Province.

Press Coverage of Joya’s US Tour

Click here for information about Malalai Joya’s US Tour.

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Malalai Hospital (Rawalpindi) Becomes Malalai Clinic (Khewa)

A Report by RAWA* , November 2005.

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Malalai Hospital Reopens as Malalai Clinic in Khewa Camp

In July 2005 RAWA was forced to relocate its flagship health care project, Malalai Hospital, from the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi to Khewa refugee camp. Khewa camp is located about 30 miles from Peshawar.

RAWA originally established Malalai Hospital in Rawalpindi to help over 20,000 Afghan refugees living in a refugee camp called Kacha Abadi, located between Islamabad and Rawalpindi. But in May 2005 the government of Pakistan forced the refugees to leave, threatening to destroy all the mud huts if necessary. The government also pressured Malalai Hospital and other aid groups to stop their services in order to pressure the refugees to leave. Finally the Pakistani police bulldozed all the houses and the refugees were told to relocate to camps closer to Afghan border.

With the removal of Kacha Abadi, the existence of Malalai Hospital in Rawalpindi was no longer beneficial so instead we decided to provide medical services to people in Khewa camp. There, the refugees were in grave need of healthcare after a small clinic run by an NGO was closed down a year ago.

Currently Malalai Clinic is being run by a team of a female medical doctor, a child specialist, a gynecologist, 3 nurses, a lab technician, a pharmacist, a registrar, a service worker, a driver and a security guard, 4 days a week, 9 am to 2 pm.

The clinic is equipped with a medical laboratory including superior equipment to treat eye health, and an ambulance to transport patients to Peshawar in case of emergency. But unfortunately due to a lack of funds we cannot as yet open the In-patient department to admit patients and carry out surgeries. However, the OPD is running to its full capacity.

In Rawalpindi, Malalai Hospital was serving only Afghan women and children but in Khewa camp, due to the lack of any other medical facility, we have decided to provide medical services to Afghan men also.

There are about 5000 refugees living in Khewa camp and 25,000 in the surrounding camps and brick factories for whom Malalai Clinic also provides medical care. Each day, 120-180 patients from Khewa or the neighboring camps and factory workers come to the clinic. Among them at least 100-120 are women who have gynecological problems and children who have diseases such as diarrhea, dehydration, skin infections, pneumonia, flu, malnutrition, etc.

The nearest medical facility is a Pakistani private hospital about 25 km away and it is nearly impossible for the refugees to pay the high costs of transportation. By moving Malalai Clinic to this area, the local Afghan refugee population has been relieved of one of it’s biggest problems.

Most of the refugees in the camp live and work under terrible conditions. The most common health problems result from a lack of food, vitamins, unsuitable environment and very heavy and non stop work. There have been several cases where a mother or her new born baby have lost their life due to unsafe methods used by untrained midwives or lack of access to a medical center.

Patients of Malalai Clinic pay a small fee of 10 rupees (= 16 US cents) to get registered. After that, all medical check ups, tests and prescribed medicines are provided free of charge. Common medical tests such as typhoid, malaria, hepatitis B & C, and other routine tests are carried out in the clinic.

If any patient suffers from a serious medical condition that cannot be treated at the clinic, we immediately send the patient to a well-equipped hospital in Peshawar city. The ambulance formerly used by Malalai Hospital is available 24 hours a day for transporting patients.

Malalai Hospital has been downsized to create Malalai Clinic by reducing the number of staff, being far away from the city, operating in a smaller building in a remote area and with limited facilities (such as electricity and water). While this obviously causes difficulties, the number of patients and diseases that Malalai Clinic personnel face daily remains nearly the same as the hospital faced in the city.

Despite the problems, the most needy families are being reached and treated by the responsive staff of Malalai Clinic. The clinic has even employed some local widows who now have a source of income for their desperate families.

Additionally, because the atmosphere at Khewa camp is safe, most women can come to Malalai Clinic without facing any trouble. Most of the clinic staff personally know the families and ethnic groups settled in the area and are able to speak with their language with the same accents. As the people of Khewa camp and the surrounding area are from different provinces of Afghanistan the clinic is an opportunity for us to be in touch with Afghanistan’s different ethnic groups and better understand their needs, wishes and problems.

The clinic also has a Mobile Health Team composed of two doctors, a nurse and a pharmacist. The team visits neighboring camps and especially families who live and work in brick factories, and provides them with free health care services. There are several poor families who are suffering from various illnesses but cannot spare the time to visit a doctor as they are struggling to spend each hour working to support their families. Or some women and children are simply not allowed by their families to leave home.

Visiting such families not provides support to the women and children, it also enables Malalai Clinic staff to be aware of living and working conditions, the problems of local people, their needs, and ways they can be helped.

Malalai Clinic’s reputation is growing by the day – visitors have never witnessed discriminating or immoral behavior by the clinic staff.

The clinic personnel have learned not only to act as health workers but as a sincere human beings who listen to the sorrowful stories of the people and share their pain. That is why most of the female patients talk about their problems and miseries with confidence and ask for guidance and help.

Aside from providing medical treatment, Malalai Clinic has regular programs of health education for women to educate them about the importance of hygiene, how to acquire healthier food, and how to look after babies and children. The programs also educate them about different vaccinations, serious illnesses, etc.

With the help of FemAid, RAWA has also started a course for midwives to train women who can provide First-Aid in situations where there is no doctor. Currently 15 women are being trained who will graduate in three months after which they will be provided with a First-Aid kit and other equipment and medicines.

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* Edited for grammar

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Afghan Child Laborers Endure Pakistan’s Summer Heat, Risk of Abuse, Long Hours and Low Pay

AWM Report

brick2 (52K)Peshawar, Pakistan: Afghan refugees in Peshawar still live in terrible conditions. Many of them are afraid to go back to their villages inside Afghanistan because of brutal warlords and a ruined economy which has yet to be rebuilt. Jobs are not available and prices of goods are sky high. Thus many choose the hell of life as a refugee in Pakistan rather than the burning hell of Afghanistan.

brick (61K)Many families are forced to send their children to work at jobs that are very oppressive for children. The income of the household, not being enough to feed the entire family, means that many children, who should be in school playing with other children their age, instead must go to the local brick factories and work long hours.

brick3 (60K)The photos on this page were taken near one of the brick factories in an area called Azakhel which is about 30 kilometers from Peshawar, Pakistan.

brick1 (67K)Nasrullah is only eight years old but he works nine hours a day to make bricks. On a good day, he can make up to three hundred bricks for which he is paid Rs.30 (51 cents U.S.). If an older person makes the same number of bricks, he is paid Rs.40 (68 cents U.S.). The children’s payment for the same amount of work is less than that of others. There is no one to advocate for these children in regard to their unfair treatment.

brick4 (89K)Nasrullah’s sister, Kamila who is eleven years old, also works with him in the brick factory along with some other girls of her age. They are all Afghan refugees. They all earn up to Rs.30 per day. Many families take a huge risk in sending their daughters to work in such places, as there have been many cases where these innocent girls are abused by men. Such abuse can have catostrophic effects upon the life of young girls in Afghan society.

brick5 (72K)Kamila says, “I wished to go to school and become a teacher, but the situation of our family is very bad and I have to work and earn money to pay for the medicines of my mother who is suffering from a mental disorder.” Kamila was born in the refugee camp and has never seen Afghanistan. She says, “our family has no land or house in Afghanistan. We also do not have much money to pay for transportation for our family to our village.”

brick6 (79K)This is the brick factory where the children work. There are dozens of such factories in the suburbs of Peshawar with hundreds of Afghan boys and girls working in them. Only a few of them attend school and do part time work at the factories. Most work full time in the hot weather of Pakistan which can reach over 40 degrees Centegrade (104F).

brick7 (52K)The brick factories are built near refugee camps. Their polluting black smoke which blankets the entire area nearby is not only a threat to the health of children working there, but also causes many diseases among all refugees living in the area. This is especially true throughout the night when they burn coal.

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