Afghans in Kandahar, the base of the Taliban regime, are fleeing into Pakistan or into remote villages in Afghanistan for fear of U.S. retaliation and possible conscription into the Taliban militia. According to refugee reports, Taliban soldiers began forcibly recruiting men and boys of all ages to take up arms, going so far as to close every religious school in the city so students could begin military training. Members of the Taliban regime have seized men in the streets of Kandahar or in their homes and ordered them to prepare for military action. In response to this threat and to the threat of continuing drought and starvation, great numbers of residents are leaving Kandahar and joining the millions of other Afghans who have fled their homes in search of food, shelter, and some semblance of safety. Currently, there are roughly over 7 million Afghan refugees of which 3.5 million are in Pakistan. Seventy-five percent of all Afghan refugees are women and children. Humanitarian aid is essential to save their lives, prevent destabilization of Pakistan, and to cause defection from the Taliban.
United Nations agencies have requested $538 million to provide necessary emergency assistance for Afghan refugees. The U.S. has already announced $100 million in new aid, but this is only a fraction of what is needed. To meet the U.N. appeal to donor nations, some 40% must come from the U.S. Individuals are also trying to meet this humanitarian need. Popular actress Angelina Jolie donated $1 million to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees after traveling to Pakistan and Iran to visit Afghan refugees living in the camps there.
The Feminist Majority is conducting a massive campaign urging more humanitarian aid, the restoration of women’s rights, and the establishment of democracy as part of any long-range solution to terrorism. Mavis Leno, FM Chair of the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan, will appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Wednesday, October 3. To find out how you can help, visit www.HelpAfghanWomen.com.
Media Resources: Washington Post, 10/2/01; LA Times, 9/28/01