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The Feminist Majority joins our fellow citizens and people of good will all over the world in mourning the deaths of thousands of women, men and children on September 11 at the hands of terrorists. These terrorist acts are crimes against all of humanity.
While law enforcement continues to collect evidence about Osama bin Laden's involvement in the horrific acts of terrorism on September 11, the relationship between the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and the suffering of Afghan women is very clear. We know that the Taliban militia has been harboring bin Laden and that, together, they have been leading campaigns of terror against women, women's rights, ethnic and religious minorities, and the Western world for many years. The Taliban and bin Laden are interdependent and inextricable. Just as the Taliban is protecting bin Laden from extradition, bin Laden is providing financial resources, equipment, and highly trained mercenary fighters to bolster the Taliban regime's war against the Afghan people.
Feminists were among the first to bring the atrocities of the Taliban to the world's attention. Women have been the first victims of the Taliban. Wherever the Taliban came to power, they banned women from working, prohibited women and girls from attending school, and forbid women from leaving their homes without being accompanied by a close male relative and wearing a head-to-toe burqa shroud. Women who violate Taliban decrees are beaten, imprisoned, or even killed. For the past six years, Afghan women and girls have pleaded with the world to free them from the grips of the brutal Taliban militia and have warned that the Taliban's threat to humanity would extend beyond the borders of Afghanistan.
Our Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan has worked tirelessly to bring to the attention of U.S. policymakers that the Taliban must be stopped and that the war that they are waging against women and ethnic minorities in Afghanistan poses a real threat to global security and our national security. With the help of hundreds of thousands of supporters, we played a major role in preventing recognition of the Taliban by the United States and the United Nations.
We have argued that the United States has a unique obligation to end the Taliban's atrocities toward women. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980's, the U.S., through a covert CIA operation based in Pakistan, supplied billions of dollars to fund, train, and arm the mujahideen, which gave rise to the Taliban.
Feminists must now sound the alarm louder than ever because the stakes are so high. For years, we have been urging a substantial increase in humanitarian aid for Afghan women and girls, who are suffering from the ravages of war, the worst drought in 30 years, and the Taliban's atrocities. Some 3 million Afghan refugees are in Pakistan. Now, fearing
military retaliation from the U.S., many more are trying to flee, but the borders to Pakistan and Iran are sealed. Worse yet, all foreign (non-Afghan) humanitarian aid workers have evacuated Afghanistan since September 11. Some 5.5 million displaced Afghans, mostly women and children, have been left with only a 3 week supply of food, according to the United Nations World Food Program. To prevent a holocaust of innocent displaced people, humanitarian assistance must not stop. Even if we cannot get aid to Afghanistan, we can get it to the millions of Afghan women and children in Pakistan who are bordering on starvation.
As steps are taken to eliminate terrorists and those who support them in Afghanistan, we must make sure that the lives of women and girls are saved and that the restoration of the rights of women and girls is not marginalized as a side issue. As our government deliberates on the appropriate measures to respond to the heinous terrorist acts committed on Sept. 11, we must urge that the plight of Afghan women and girls not be forgotten.
We have learned from this horrific experience that what happens under the dictatorial Taliban regime, which is holding the Afghan people hostage, affects us all. A new society must be built in Afghanistan with human rights for all restored. Afghan women must be at the center of this
We need your help and support now more than ever before. When the constitutions of Germany and Japan were written following World War II, feminists in those countries and abroad fought and won the inclusion of women's rights. But, rather than helping Afghanistan rebuild after the withdrawal of the Soviets and assuring the restoration of human rights, the US allowed extremist elements of the mujahideen to gain power. We cannot allow history to repeat itself. The only way that Afghan women ever will finally gain their freedom and that global security ever will be achieved long-term is if constitutional democracy is restored in Afghanistan. At the same time that terrorism is eliminated, the full rights of women must be restored and commitments must be made to provide humanitarian assistance and to help rebuild the economy and democratic infrastructure of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, we must urge support for Afghan women's organizations that are providing humanitarian assistance, education and health care to Afghan women and girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan to make sure that they have the necessary resources to survive and to deal with the increasing need. The future of a peaceful, stable, and democratic Afghanistan depends upon the Afghan women with whom we work and to whom we are trying to provide assistance and educational opportunities.
In addition, we must remember the Taliban was never voted into power by the Afghan people. The Taliban militia took power. They have ruled by brutal force, with the help of bin Laden and with the support of Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, which are the only three countries that have granted official recognition to the Taliban. The Taliban has held the Afghan people hostage. The Afghan people are not our enemy. In removing the Taliban, the U.S. and its allies must rescue and liberate the people, especially women and children, who have suffered so terribly under the Taliban's rule.
Just as we must not condemn the Afghan people for the acts of terrorists, we also should not condemn Arabs and Muslims, the vast majority of whom do not support this so-called religious fanaticism. This extremism, which has now taken the lives of so many American citizens, Afghans, and others, is not about Islam, but is about the use of violence to achieve a political end.
The link between the liberation of Afghan women and girls from the terrorist Taliban militia and preservation of democracy and freedom in America and worldwide has never been clearer.

Eleanor Smeal

YES, I want to help ensure that Afghan women and girls, who have been held hostage by the brutal Taliban militia, are not forgotten.

Forward this message to a friend so she or he can take action on this important issue, too.

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