Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sohaila Talk a Great Success

Over 200 people last night attended a public meeting in Adelaide to hear Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) spokesperson Sohaila talk about the current work of her organization in the fight for social justice and women’s rights in Afghanistan.

The meeting followed an afternoon interview on ABC radio and a guest column in Saturday’s Advertiser, the sole local daily newspaper in Adelaide.

“Sohaila” is a pseudonym, and photos of Sohaila during the meeting were discouraged given the dangers created by her work for RAWA.

“Founded by the respected martyr Meena to fight the Russian invasion of our country,’ said Sohaila, “RAWA went underground during the dark period of the Taliban. RAWA members helped expose the brutality of the Taliban by hiding cameras in their burquas and photographing Taliban executions and atrocities.”

After detailing the nature of the Taliban regime, Sohaila recounted how “people had so much hope when the US invaded after 9/11 and removed the Taliban. Some saw Karzai as a democratic personage when he first became President. But the US and Karzai have installed the same kind of fundamentalists as the Taliban in the government - they have the same mentality and the same attitude to women.”

Sohaila conceded that there were some improvements in Kabul: girls were going to school and some were aiming for university.

“But the Karzai government is only in Kabul - it can’t go to other provinces and control the warlords. In fact the Taliban has grown in strength.

“Girls are killed and raped on their way to school by fundamentalists allied to Karzai. Many girls and widows suicide. Widows burn themselves to death because they cannot work and therefore cannot support their children. Or they turn to prostitution - there are now many prostitutes who are selling their bodies to feed and clothe their children.”

Sohaila told how foreign aid to the Karzai regime was going to warlords in and allied to his government. “They are building castles for themselves,” she said.

She contrasted their corruption and wealth to the plight of Afghans in refugee camps in Pakistan, where RAWA runs schools and clinics and distributes food and clothing. She said conditions were just as bad, or worse, for the two million Afghan refugees sent home by the regime in Iran.

“They have nothing,” she said. “The UN High Commission for Refugees is helping, but can only provide basics, like tents. Karzai is doing nothing for these people.”

According to Sohaila, all RAWA activities occurred because of the financial and moral support of ordinary people in countries like Australia, Italy, the US and Canada.

Referring to foreign troops in her country, Sohaila said that the NATO forces (for example, the Germans) and the US-led forces were not working in tandem. Their presence was ineffective. “Foreign troops are not going outside their bases for fear of being killed or kidnapped,” she said.

Sohaila finished her talk by calling on the Australian people to put pressure on the Australian Government not to support the government of Afghanistan which she described as “all warlords and fundamentalists”.

She concluded her presentation with a power point display of photos from Afghanistan and the Pakistan refugee camps, and then spent half an hour answering questions from the floor.

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