br>Women's Gathering Calls for Solidarity, Struggle and Restoration of "Rights"
br>Dushanbe Parley Attracts Hundreds from Inside and Outside Afghanistan
By Omar Samad
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2000 - AAR - It was meant to bring together a few dozen Afghan human and women's rights activists from around the world - including from non-Taliban areas inside Afghanistan - to the dusty-hot capital of land-locked Tajikistan - not far from the turbulent Tajik-Afghan border - to show solidarity with the millions of victims of the Taliban's "gender apartheid" regime. But, according to reports from the capital city of Dushanbe on Wednesday, the three-day gathering attracted a much larger crowd than anticipated. More than 700 estimated Afghan participants issued a human rights charter and an international appeal for world leaders to take decisive steps to solve the Afghan conflict and end foreign - specially Pakistani - interference in Afghan affairs and restore the Afghans' right to self-determination.
"This was an historic occasion," said Patricia Lalonde, a participant from France and the wife of a former French cabinet minister. Lalonde and more than 40 other women from several countries responded positively to a call by the French-based organization Negar to participate in the "Women on the Road for Afghanistan" project. "A charter outlining the basic human rights of Afghan women was signed by all the delegates," Lalonde told AAR by phone from Dushanbe. "The charter will be used as a benchmark to hold any group or regime in Afghanistan accountable for human and women's rights compliance as stipulated by international declarations and regulations," said Dr. Maliha Zulfacar, a University lecturer from California. The charter also called for the prosecution of human and women's rights violators in accordance with international law. "For the first time, Afghan women, representing various ethnic and social groups, assembled and made decisions in regard to their rights," said Zulfacar. "This is the beginning of another phase of the struggle for Afghan women," she added.
Another delegate, Hassina Sherjan-Samad - also contributing to AAR's report - said that several dozen educated and professional women, consisting of medical doctors, engineers, teachers, writers and others, addressed the gathering with high spirit amid a "sea of emotions." "From the moment we arrived in Dushanbe, hundreds of families gathered to greet us with flowers, embraces and tears," said Sherjan-Samad. Lalonde added that the pain and suffering endured by the Afghans, as well as the newly-found spirit of solidarity that was felt among the women, and the remembrance of the millions still struggling inside the country under the Taliban's radical rule, drove hundreds of women to tears throughout the conference. Nasrine A. Gross, a U.S.-based activist, told the participants, "be proud of your cultural heritage and do not allow anyone to oppress you."
The parley was inaugurated by Shoukria Haider, president of Negar, presided over by Chekeba Hachemi, with welcoming remarks by Tajikistan's Women Association president. Khalida Messaoudi, an Algerian member of parliament, Constance Borde, a French-American political activist, Mary Quinn, Annie Sugier, Maria F. Lacabe, president of Spain's democratic women's movement, writer Juliette Mince and many other foreign and Afghan speakers talked about the internal and international implications of the Afghan conflict, the various issues and solutions that need to be addressed. When asked what did the Afghan women want, Sherjan-Samad said, "they want freedom for their country, but above all, they asked us to take their message to the world and raise their voice."
Azadi Afghan Radio – 06/28/00 - v. 1. - email: mail@ - Ph: 703.790.6977 - USA
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