‘The Courage to Say No to Misogyny’

Statement on the Attack Against 14-Year-Old Malala Yousafzai
by Malalai Joya

Malala Yousafzai remains in hospital after being shot in the head by members of a faction of the Taliban in Pakistan. Only 14, Yousafzai received international notoriety soon after her “Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl” was published by the BBC in 2009.

Owais Tohid, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, reported that young Malala was motivated by another women’s rights activist with the same namesake:

“The first time I met Malala, a couple of years ago, I asked her what her name signified. She answered: ‘Probably, a hero like the Afghan heroine Malalai [of Maiwand] or Malalai Joya. I want to be a social activist and an honest politician like her,’ she said, smiling. Ms. Joya, a 30-something activist, politician, and writer who was bitterly critical of both the Taliban and the Karzai regime, was at one point dubbed the bravest woman of Afghanistan.”

Malalai Joya, now 34, has survived numerous assassination attempts and in 2007 was suspended from the Afghan Parliament because of her criticisms of warlords, fundamentalists and the NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Joya sent rabble.ca the following statement on the shooting of Yousafzai.

On the attack against 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai

Once again we see a crime against women by dark-minded and brutal fundamentalists. Malala Yousafzai was shot by Pakistani Taliban because she did not remain silent about the ongoing crimes and brutalities against women; because, despite her young age, she had the consciousness to stand for her rights and say ‘no’ to the terrorism and misogyny of the creatures of the Stone Age.

I strongly condemn this disgraceful act of targeting an innocent 14-year-old girl. This is the real nature of Afghan and Pakistani fundamentalist Taliban. These dirty rascals pose as ‘manly’ but this heinous crime shows how unmanly and disgusting they are to kill a defenseless young girl.

Malala was targeted because, in her limited capacity, she wanted to inform the world about the brutalities going on against women by extremists. She wanted to wake up the women of the rural areas of Pakistan to stand up and defend their due rights.

This was a warning for those who only understand the language of the gun. This cowardly attack on her proves that these medieval-minded groups are aware of the potential power of awakened women and are afraid that she may become a role model for many more women. So they tried to stop her in the very beginning. But it was a failed attempt because, across Pakistan and around the whole world, people are on Malala’s side and they are condemning her enemies.

The world should know that the West, and in particular the U.S. government, have nurtured, supported and armed these dirty inhuman bands for the past three decades. They should know that still in our unfortunate Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO rely on brothers-in-creed of the Taliban — the Northern Alliance warlords such as Qanooni, Fahim, Ismael Khan, Atta Mohammad, Abdullah, Sayyaf, Mohaqiq, Khalili and others — who have made life a torture for Afghan women. They should know that Karzai’s puppet regime is calling the murderer Taliban “brothers” and trying to share power with this anti-humanity band of killers.

I send my salutations to Malala Yousafzai and am sure that her great sacrifice will not be in vain. She marks the shining pages of history while her enemies will soon go into the dustbin of history.

© 2012 Malalai Joya

Help us Rebuild This Women’s History Month

Dear friends and supporters,

As may know, in December 2011, IHC, our former fiscal sponsor, lost more than $400,000 worth of donations ear-marked for RAWA’s amazing projects (for the full story, click here). Although we have found a new and wonderful fiscal sponsor, SEE, we are still reeling from this devastating blow. We are trying to rebuild, move forward, and continue our support for RAWA’s work.

Help us rebuild this Women’s History Month!

For every online donation of $100 made in March 2012, we will mail a copy of the remarkable book by Malalai Joya, A Woman Among Warlords, as our “thank you gift” to you.

This book, by one of Afghanistan’s most famous women, chronicles the history of Afghanistan, and its current precarious position, through the eyes of one courageous woman. Every $100 donation will be used toward RAWA’s life saving projects that benefit Afghan women.

Click here to donate.

Although RAWA sponsors many projects in diverse realms, from emergency refugee relief to healthcare, one of its most important projects is Danish School for Girls, located in Afghanistan’s Farah province. Danish school is a remarkable and safe space for young Afghan girls to learn and grow into brave, educated, and caring young women. Despite threats by the Taliban, families opt to send their daughters to Danish school and are part of Afghanistan’s best hope, made possible with the support of donors like you.

Join us this Women’s History Month and help us fund RAWA’s projects like Danish School. Everyone who makes a donation of $100 donation or more through our website, will receive a copy of Malalai Joya’s highly acclaimed book, A Woman Among Warlords.

Click here to donate.

What people are saying about A Woman Among Warlords by Malalai Joya:

“Joya’s life has been singular and heroic.” — New York Times

“[A]n explosive book that takes a scalpel to many of the illusions surrounding the US invasion of Afghanistan.” — Global Research

“Rest assured, you will be hearing more from Joya. She is a woman determined to have her voice heard at all costs – even her own death.” — Globe and Mail

“The courage of Malalai Joya serves not only as a commentary on the current Afghan situation, but is also a reminder that in an atmosphere of deceit, duplicity and relentless violence, there are still some like her who dare to speak the truth and have the courage to face dire consequences.” — The Statesman

“If you want to understand Afghanistan, what is being done there in our names, this is a highly readable, accessible way to find out. And if I could see a way forward for Afghanistan, it would have Joya in a prominent position.” — BlogCritics.org

“Anyone who wants to better understand Afghanistan and to better explain why the U.S. has no business there should read this indispensable and beautifully written book.” — ISR

Nonprofits say funds gone with center’s closing

ABC Channel 7 in Los Angeles interviewed AWM Co-Director Sonali Kolhatkar about the devastating loss of funds.

Click the play button to watch the news story below:

Nonprofits fear money in center’s care vanished

By Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times

February 14, 2012

More than 200 nonprofit groups, from animals rights organizations to political activists, said most of their donated funds appear to have vanished after the organization that watched over the money suddenly ceased operations last month.

The International Humanities Center closed its offices, took down its Web page and informed its clients by email that it has ceased operation. The center served as an umbrella organization for small nonprofit groups, handling their donations and performing administrative duties.

Directors from two of the groups said the executive director of the center told them only $10,000 was left in the accounts his organization held when there should have been $1 million.

A tally of potential losses compiled by directors of 40 of the groups comes to $877,000.

Several of the groups said they can no longer pay their staffs or bills. Some have explained the situation to donors on their websites.

The California attorney general’s office is investigating, and directors of several groups said they had been interviewed by the office or had been asked for information.

“The more time goes on, the more I lose hope we’ll ever see any of that money again,” said Dylan Rose Schneider of Peaceful Uprising, a collective that fights global warming.

The groups were mostly small nonprofits that said they turned to the Humanities Center, as what is known as a fiscal sponsor, because they don’t have the staffing to handle donations and related paperwork. For a small fee, the center’s website had said, it handled such tasks for its clients.

Steve Sugarman, the center’s executive director, said in an email to some of the groups that he was filled with “deep regret” over going out of business and hoped it caused no lasting harm. He assured them in the email that all funds had been properly spent, though it is not clear what he was referring to because a fiscal sponsor is not supposed to spend its clients’ money on its own operations.

A consultant for the center told some of the groups in a letter that their donations were used to pay legal fees and other bills, including $12,000 a month for offices in Pacific Palisades, as well as back taxes and penalties to the IRS.

“Many of us realized that this was a dangerous way to run a business but were repeatedly assured by Steve (in writing) that all misappropriated funds would soon be replaced,” consultant David DelGrosso told directors.

Sugarman did not return emails and his phone was not accepting calls.

Directors for many of the nonprofits, which included such diverse groups as the Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid, Saving Wild Tigers, Champions Against Bullying, the Malibu Realtors Fund, the Southern California Bluebird Club and Shanti House L.A., said they believe their money has vanished.

The Pasadena-based Afghan Women’s Mission, which supports schools, clinics and other programs in the war-battered country, said it had $400,000 banked with the Humanities Center. It has told donors on its Web page that its money is probably gone.

“What we’re seeing is much larger than dumb management and bad mistakes,” said Sharon Simone, who runs Headwater Productions, which she said has had a number of projects with the Humanities Center, including a scholarship fund in her late brother’s name.

Before it was pulled down, the center’s website described its operation as a one-stop organization for groups that had neither the time nor expertise to handle accounting, bills and other administrative tasks. By doing business with the Humanities Center, groups were able to designate donors’ gifts as tax-deductible. In exchange, the center, which started in 2003, took a 5% cut of donations in its first years of operation and more recently raised the fee to 10%.

In most cases, if someone wanted to donate money to one of the groups online with a credit card or through PayPal, the transaction was done through the Humanities Center. The groups also submitted their bills to the center for payment; and when they needed money, they would send in forms explaining what it was for.

Jane Levikow, chairwoman of the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors, said a group like the Humanities Center would never dip into the funds of its clients for its own purposes.

The center’s website had stated that Sugarman has a master’s degree in research psychology, served as executive director of another fiscal sponsor, was involved in well-known environmental causes such as the Bolsa Chica wetlands restoration and was the author of a book called “The Blueprint for Planetary Evolution.”

In a 2009 interview with OpEdNews.com, one of the groups that used the center to handle its money, Sugarman said it had 300 groups under its auspices, with total revenue of more than $6 million.

Marcia Hanscom, who heads three groups that banked money with the Humanities Center, said she has known Sugarman since the early 1990s, when he was fighting to protect the Dana Point Headlands. “He was really committed to doing good work for people and the planet,” she said.

Her groups had $2,000 in donations at the center, which she assumes is gone.

Directors for several of the groups said they grew worried when Sugarman told directors in an email about an IRS audit. The email didn’t mention that the IRS had filed a $69,570 tax lien against the center.

By mid-2011, some of the groups said, the center was not paying their bills and was not responding to their phone calls and emails. Financial statements, they said, arrived sporadically if at all.

In September, the state Franchise Tax Board suspended the center’s corporate status because it had failed to file the nonprofit equivalent of a tax return, according to state records.

Late last year, Sugarman sent an email to some groups’ directors explaining that the center was running “a considerable deficit.”

“The specific causes of this deficit are many, complex, interrelated, and have been escalating over time. Cumulatively they have resulted in a perfect fiscal storm for IHCenter,” he wrote.

He ended the email: “First and foremost, the bleeding has to stop so the patient can heal. I know that this will cause many hardships, and for that I express deep regret for any harm that results; deeper than you can imagine; deeper than words can convey.”

Six days later, Sharon Simone and Deena Metzger, whose groups were under the Humanities Center umbrella, met with Sugarman. They said he blamed the problems on the economic downturn and an anticipated $15.2-million grant that never materialized.

Shortly thereafter, DelGrosso, the center’s consultant, sent his letter blaming Sugarman for the problems. He also said a former Humanities Center official “made a huge mistake by wasting project funds on a deceptive email scam” but had since left the country.

In an interview with The Times, DelGrosso said the Internet scam cost the center more than $200,000. He said he was interviewed by a deputy attorney general last week.

Sugarman sent out a final email Jan. 16 announcing that the center was shutting down.

“Be assured that all funds were used solely to benefit the [clients’] projects and their support, and to maintain IHCenter and its tax exempt status,” he wrote. “All projects were part of this organization and our responsibility has been to the organization as a whole.”

Rob Kall, the editor of OpEdNews, said he wonders whether the Humanities Center got carried away when the donations for the various groups started coming in.

“I think they became grandiose,” he said. “I feel like I was robbed.”

Read the article on the LA Times’ website here.

Our Donations Were Stolen. Please Help Us Recover!

Dear friends and supporters of Afghan Women’s Mission and RAWA,

We are deeply saddened to inform you of a devastating incident that has affected our operations.

We were informed in mid-December 2011 that International Humanities Center (IHC), the non-profit group that we had hired to manage our funds since 2003, has lost all of our donations. All of the nearly 200 organizations that had accounts with IHC are the victims of this theft. Altogether, about $400,000 donated to Afghan Women’s Mission to fund RAWA’s projects were lost.

Nothing prepared us for this. We were, and still are, in shock.

Non-Profit Quarterly has an extensive report on the story here (Part 1) and here (Part 2). According to the report’s author:

“[t]he news of the IHC’s collapse struck most, if not all, of the IHC-affiliated projects as a complete shock. Staff or board members at the IHC projects we contacted were unanimously stunned, “blindsided,” and “bewildered.”

STEPS WE HAVE TAKEN
As soon as we found out that IHC had misappropriated our donations, we took the following steps:

  1. We removed all electronic donation forms from our website (which linked to IHC’s server)
  2. We held all checks received at our mailing address without forwarding them to IHC. These will now be deposited with our new fiscal sponsor SEE (see below).
  3. We began searching for a new fiscal sponsor to carry on our primary mission, funding the lifesaving work of RAWA.
  4. We have begun working with a coalition of many of the other organizations affiliated with IHC to uncover exactly what happened.
  5. We have been participating in an investigation of the California Attorney General’s office, sharing all our documents and information with them, to get to the bottom of this.
  6. We formed an advisory board to help oversee future operations and share expertise in our continued support of RAWA.

In addition we have been in contact with lawyers, and have consulted with other non-profit leaders to guide our actions over the past month.

However, the reality is that we may never recover the stolen funds.

RAWA NEEDS YOUR HELPClick here to donate

RAWA, whose life-saving projects AWM has funded for nearly 12 years, is struggling to cope with this abrupt cut in funding.

Danish school for girls in Farah province, RAWA’s flag ship project, has not been funded for the past 4 months. Teachers have gone without salaries and bills unpaid.

Additionally, a crucial emergency relief operation that RAWA carried out in December 2011, costing them $30,000, has not been reimbursed.

AWM and RAWA are in dire straits. We have become the victim of what appears to be serious deception at best, outright theft at worst. We need your help to cover the costs of RAWA’s projects as soon as possible.

Click here to help AWM and RAWA rebuild.

OUR NEW FISCAL SPONSOR

We are pleased to announce that beginning on February 8, 2012, Afghan Women’s Mission became a Project of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE). Established in 1994, SEE has a long track record of providing reliable and stable non-profit financial services. Currently they serve about 100 projects in total.

SEE is a “fiscal sponsor,” a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity that confers nonprofit status on small organizations like AWM. In exchange for a small percentage of all donations (6.5% in the case of SEE), a fiscal sponsor manages its projects’ funds, processes and deposits donations, files taxes, sends out tax receipts, etc. These are extremely useful services for organizations like Afghan Women’s Mission that are run entirely by volunteers.

SEE’s operations are consistent with the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors’ Guidelines for Comprehensive Fiscal Sponsorship. In particular, they receive an external audit every year to ensure that project donations are spent where donors intend and are never ever spent on SEE’s own operational costs.

View SEE’s 990 tax forms for the years:
2007
2008
2009
2010

NOTE: SEE’s 2010 Audited Financial Statement is also available upon request.

QUESTIONS?

Many of our donors will understandably be very upset about this devastating incident. Please contact us with any questions you may have and we will do our best to answer them all.

6th Annual Fair Trade and Conscious Gifts Holiday Bazaar

Holiday bazaarWHEN: Saturday December 10th, from 11 am to 4 pm
WHERE: Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd, LA CA 90005 (Geneva Room – wheelchair accessible)

Don’t spend your hard earned dollars at the mall, buying overpriced gifts made in countries with no labor or environmental protections!

Shop with a clear conscience at our 6th Annual Fair Trade and Conscious Gifts Holiday Bazaar.

Browse through a wide selection of hand-made goods made either internationally with fair-trade standards, or locally by LA-based artists.

There will be jewelry, purses, pillow covers, and more from Afghanistan, as well as books, T-shirts, candles, soaps, oils, handicrafts, and much much more!

Confirmed vendors include Afghan Women’s Mission, Ten Thousand Villages, Theo Chocolate, Vida Verde, BeadforLife, Zatoun Palestinian Olive Oil, Los Switcheros del Norte, Southern California Library, Garment Workers Center, Skool Boiz, Radka Falk, Brian Biery, Sunshine, and many more!

Check out our new inventory of hand-made gifts from Afghanistan, made in RAWA’s income generation projects BELOW!

Download the flyer here.

Entrance is Free. There will be complementary hot coffee and tea plus delectable cookies and pastries!

Watch a video of an interview by AWM Co-Director Sonali Kolhatkar with Fair Trade LA Coordinator Joan Harper about Fair Trade goods and the Holiday Bazaar:

Some of the new hand-made items from Afghanistan that you will find at this year’s Holiday Bazaar:

View Recorded Webcast “Surviving the Longest War”

Our event last Friday was a great success! The Skype connection with Afghanistan was impeccable, with excellent sound and video quality. Thanks to our friends at Keycode Media, we were able to stream the event live and capture a full recording, which we now present (after minor edits to clean up dead time and fix some graphics).

For those who missed our live webcast with Reena of RAWA, here it is:

AWM Marks Tenth Anniversary of the Afghanistan War


On the 10th Anniversary of the U.S. war, an underground activist tells the real story of the Occupation & Afghan Resistance

Reena, a member of the Revolutionary Association of the women of Afghanistan (RAWA), will address American audiences via live video stream.

RSVP for the event on Facebook.

Download the flyer here.

AWM Co-Director and KPFK’s Uprising host Sonali Kolhatkar will lead the conversation with Reena via video streaming in front of a live audience. The event will be webcast live on AWM’s website. Questions will be drawn from the in-person audience, and the online audience via Facebook.

WHEN: Friday Oct 7 2011 7pm PST / 10 PM EST
WHERE: Creveling Lounge (CC bld, 2nd floor) PCC campus, Pasadena California or @afghanwomensmission.org.

Open to the public. Entrance is free. There will be books and crafts available for sale.

If you are unable to attend this event, you can watch a live webcast of the entire event on this website! Click here to find out the time of the webcast in your city.

Organized in collaboration with PCC’s Students for Social Justice. KPFK is a media sponsor.

Video Message from Malalai Joya on 10th Anniversary of US War

Former Afghan MP, Human Rights Activist and Author of “A Woman Among Warlords,” Malalai Joya, recorded this message on the Tenth Anniversary of the War and Occupation of Afghanistan:

Transcript of Joya’s message:

Hi everyone, I would like to thank all supporters and anti-war movements around the world who are marking the dark day of occupation of U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan.

Respected friends – 10 years ago the U.S. and NATO invaded my country under the fake banners of women’s rights, human rights, and democracy. But after a decade, Afghanistan still remains the most uncivil, most corrupt, and most war torn country in the world. The consequences of the so-called war on terror has only been more bloodshed, crimes, barbarism, human rights, and women’s rights violations, which has doubled the miseries and sorrows of our people.

During these bloody years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed by occupation forces and terrorist groups. When Barack Obama took office in 2008, unfortunately his first news for my people was more conflict and more war. It was during Obama’s administration that civilian death tolls increased by 24%. And the result of the surge of troops of Obama’s administration is more massacres, more crimes, violence, destruction, pain, and tragedy. That’s why he has proved himself as a warmonger — as second even more dangerous Bush.

According to the Afghanistan Right Monitor in 2010, 7 civilians were killed everyday. U.S. and NATO tell us they will leave Afghanistan by the middle of 2014, but on another hand they’re talking about U.S. permanent military bases in Afghanistan. They will not leave our country soon. They are there for their own strategic regional and economic interests. That is why they want to change Afghanistan into a military and intelligence base in Asia.

The western governments not only betray Afghan people, they betray their own people too. They are wasting their taxpayer money in the blood of their soldiers by supporting a war, which only safeguard the interests of the big corporations and the Afghan criminal warlord rulers.

I think democracy never comes by military invasion. Democracy without independence and justice is meaningless. It is only the nation who can liberate themselves.

I believe that the only solution for the catastrophic situation of Afghanistan is withdrawal of ALL of the troops of our country because their presence is making much harder our struggle for justice and peace. By empowering the reactionary dark minded terrorist groups who are great obstacles for true democratic minded elements. If honestly they leave Afghanistan , the backbone of fundamentalist warlords in Taliban will break.

I hope one-day Afghanistan also will see the glorious uprising like in Middle East countries. As right now we are witnessing the small uprising in some provinces in Afghanistan like Herat, Kunar, Nangarhar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Farah, Kabul, and many other provinces which is a big source of hope for the bright future of Afghanistan.

So now I would like to ask all peace-loving, justice-seekers, anti-war movements and democratic-minded intellectuals, individuals around the world to join their hands with democratic-minded people of our country who are able to fight against fundamentalism and occupation. Therefore, my message to you is please empower my people educationally, as I believe education is a key against ignorance and toward emancipation.

Thank you very much.

Long live freedom. Down with Occupation.

Find out more about Joya at www.malalaijoya.com.

Tenth Anniversary of Afghanistan War: RAWA Member Available for Interviews

For Immediate Release

Contact: Sana Shuja: 504-669-4446
Sonali Kolhatkar: 626-676-7884 

E-mail: press[at]afghanwomensmission[dot]org

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.