Masuda Sultan, who lost 19 members of her family in the U.S. bombing, discusses the state of Afghanistan on the second anniversary of the start of the U.S. attack. She recently returned from Kabul where she helped draft the Afghan Women’s Bill of Rights. [Includes transcript]
Click here to read to full transcript It was two years ago today when the U.S. launched its attack on Afghanistan. 50 cruise missiles were launched from submarines in the Arabian Sea. B52 and B2 Stealth bombers began air strikes.
It came less than a month after 19 hijackers, including 15 Saudi Arabians, flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11 killing some 3,000 people.
By March 2002 Researcher Marc Herold of University of New Hampshire estimated that between 3,000 and 3,400 Afghan civilians died in the U.S. bombing.
The Pentagon called the attack Operation Enduring Freedom.
On the day of October 7, President Bush when announced the strikes he defended the military action as part of the so-called war on terror.
Among the administration’s goals were the capture of Osama Bin Laden and the dismantling of the Taliban. On both fronts the U.S. has failed although over 11,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan.
Osama Bin Laden is still believed to be alive and the Taliban has reformed and has increased its attack on opposition groups in recent months. The Guardian reports the past three months have been the most violent since 2001. The Taliban however did suffer a major setback recently when a close aide to the group’s supreme leader Mullah Omar was killed in a clash in the south of the country.
Humanitarian groups have also faulted the Bush’s administration handling of the enormous humanitarian crisis that faced Afghanistan. The Guardian of London reports aid workers can not travel to half of the country’s 32 provinces due to security concerns. For the first time, NATO yesterday agreed to expand its peacekeeping mission beyond the Kabul area to Afghanistan’s troubled provinces.
And a new report by Amnesty International faults Afghanistan for failing to secure rights for women.
- Masuda Sultan, program coordinator for Women for Afghan Women. She recently returned from a month-long trip to Afghanistan. It was her fourth visit since the U.S. began bombing two years ago. She was living in New York at the time of Sept. 11 and traveled back to Afghanistan a few months later only to learn a U.S. attack had killed 19 members of her family.
AMY GOODMAN: Two years ago today, the U.S. launched its attack on Afghanistan. 50 cruise missiles were launched from submarines in the Arabian Sea. B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers began air strikes . It came less than a month after 19 hijackers, including 15 Saudi Arabians, flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, killing some 3,000 people. By March 2002, researcher Mark Harold of the University of New Hampshire estimated between 3,000 and 3,400 Afghan civilians died in the U.S. bombing. The Pentagon called the attack Operation Enduring Freedom. On the day of October 7, President Bush announced the strikes, he defended the military action as part of the so-called "war on Terror." Among the administration’s goals were the capture of Osama bin Laden and the dismantling of the Taliban. On both fronts, the U.S. has failed. Although over 11,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Osama bin Laden still believed to be alive, and the Taliban has regrouped and has increased its attacks on opposition groups in recent months. The Guardian reports the past three months have been the most violent since 2001. The Taliban, however, did suffer a major setback recently when a close aide to the group’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar, was killed in a clash in the south of the country. Humanitarian groups have also faulted the Bush administration’s handling of the enormous humanitarian crisis that faces Afghanistan. The Guardian of London reports that workers, aide workers cannot travel to half of the country’s 32 provinces due to security concerns. For the first time, NATO yesterday agreed to expand its peacekeeping mission beyond the Kabul area to Afghanistan’s troubled provinces. A new report by Amnesty International faults Afghanistan for failing to secure rights for women. Well, today we’re joined by the Masuda Sultan program coordinator for women for Afghan women. She recently returned from a month-long trip to Afghanistan. It’s her first fourth visit since the U.S. began bombing two years ago. She was living in New York at the time of September 11 and traveled back to Afghanistan a few months later, only to learn a U.S. attack had killed 19 members of her family.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, welcome to Democracy Now!
MASUDA SULTAN: Thanks for having me on again.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you back. I am thinking about the chilling report you brought to us when you went to Afghanistan. The day after you had met with your family members and learned that 19 had been killed outside of Kandahar, who were taking refuge. It was in a farmhouse.
MASUDA SULTAN: Yeah, it was — it was in a village farm outside of the City
AMY GOODMAN: You went back recently with a group of women. Can you talk about what Afghanistan looks like two years later?
MASUDA SULTAN: Well, if you look at Kabul, the N.G.O‚s community has completely taken over the city. U.N. blocks, four by fours all belonging to N.G.O.'s, huge U.N. signs on most of these four by fours. Afghans know the U.N. aid agencies, and they often — you know, the bigger cars, the more expensive offices, the houses are rented out by U.N. and other large aide agencies. And the rents have gone up very much so. I mean, almost comparable to New York, like $1,200, $1,500 easily for a house or office. But outside of Kabul, if you look at Kandahar, for example, where we just were for the conference of women for Afghan women, our third annual conference on women and the constitution, we went there with women from all over the country. We were in a difficult situation, because security was worsening, and the women really want to go to Kandahar, because they wanted to make a statement about the importance of aid getting to other parts of the country. Kandahar has little changed. It is so dreary and drab, it's just very desolate, desert-like. Children running around without shoes. You know, it’s just — the schools, very little has changed there. They don’t have equipment or chairs. Teachers haven’t been paid. We met the only female police officer in Kandahar city. She attended our conference. She had not been paid for four months. We went to the prison, the women’s prison, and found that women were in there for crimes such as traveling without a male relative. One of them had been abducted and sold and was in prison supposedly for her own protection. And so it’s just — very little has changed when you look at it.
JUAN GONZALEZ: The Bush administration, in talking about liberation of Afghanistan, after the Taliban, has basically said that the life, the quality of life for Afghan women has changed dramatically. How do you see that?
MASUDA SULTAN: Well, Afghan women will tell you themselves, I mean, many of them have said, we’ve been made many promises. The journalists came and interviewed us and told us all this aid would be coming. You know, a lot of times when they talk to journalist, this is the only access they have to the west, and so they’ll grill journalists on the spot and say what about your government they said that they were going to give us this and that. I mean, the main project that the bush administration got behind was the road between cab and you will Kandahar. And that is far from completed. The biggest problem has been violence along that road. While we were in Kandahar for the conference, there were four security workers that were killed on that road. And they’ve actually changed the road to they’re going to be working on a temporary surface, something that’s faster and easier to do, and that’s still very far behind. Although yesterday the bush administration announced that partially because of the failure of this project, which was the main reconstruction project, that the reconstruction efforts are going to be centered more through the White House, there’s going to be more direct reporting.
AMY GOODMAN: What about this issue of Osama bin Laden not being found, yet thousands of Afghan civilians dead, suppression of women increasing? Did you find that, the issue of the drug industry flourishing and the Taliban back?
MASUDA SULTAN: While we were there in the south, the number of attacks was on the rise. It’s the worst violence since the war began. There’s a report out, by C.A.R.E in the center on international cooperation that said that the number of attacks on aid workers went from one every month to one every two days.- Number of attacks outside of the city of Kabul ratio to inside, 2-1, now 7-1. It’s just really scary. Aid agencies are pulling out of the south, which is particularly disturbing, because the south is where I think most of our efforts need to be concentrated. This is where the Taliban, Kandahar was the former strong hold of the Taliban, they’re starting to regroup. They’ve been taking refuge in Quetta, Pakistan, and they’re sort of starting to see as aid agencies go away, there’s no peacekeepers, they’re finding that people are getting angry that reconstruction isn’t happening.
MASUDA SULTAN: The U.S. special forces aLlied themselves with the Northern Alliance. Certainly that was policy of the U.S. government on the ground.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the Northern Alliance when it comes to women? The Northern Alliance’s record on women isn’t that much better than the Taliban’s. The Northern Alliance was empowering Kabul. When the civil war was happening, 1991 I believe they took power, and that was some of the worst violence the country had seen. But especially repression of women. A lot of the women have told me, look, our struggle hasn’t it didn’t just begin with the Taliban. We have been fighting with the Mujahedin since they were in power during the civil war. So it’s just — if you look at the history, the human rights abuses, the northern alliance has blood on their hands just like anyone else.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And where is the process toward political reform and establishment of a representative government in Afghanistan right now?
MASUDA SULTAN: Well, the country is now in a constitution drafting process. There’s a commission that was appointed by Karzai, a 35-member commission, that has actually completed a draft. It’s now in Karzai’s office about to be released any day now. That draft will then be ratified by a 500-member body that is going to be elected at the village level across the country. Now, the biggest concern is the reports about the draft, and we met with the constitutional commission, the Women that crafted the Afghan women’s Bill of Rights; the Women for Afghan Women‚s conference, met with the constitutional commission and expressed their demands to the commission. And the commission was very warm in welcoming, and I was actually very impressed with the commission. The reports are that it allows for equal rights for women, that although Islam is the religion of the country, it’s declared, it respects other religions. My concern is, though, that the ratifying process, where these 500 members are elected, that will erode a lot of the gains made in this draft. And the reason I’m worried is that in the last loyjerger a, there were warlords that were allowed to participate in the elections and use fear against the people. That is because of the difficult security situation. If there was security, people wouldn’t be afraid to go and vote for the right person.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us. Thank you. On the second anniversary of the bombing of Afghanistan.