In a landmark victory for women in Afghanistan, both chambers of the US Congress passed legislation late last night that provides $3 billion in funding for humanitarian aid and expansion of international peacekeeping forces. If President Bush signs this bill into law, the women of Afghanistan could begin to emerge from the violence that has remained since the Taliban was ousted from power one year ago.
This bill also includes an amendment that makes Afghan women a funding priority. Introduced in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the amendment earmarks $15 million each year for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and $5 million each year for the Independent Human Rights Commission.
Under the leadership of committee chairman Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Boxer, the committee’s sole woman member, working with the Feminist Majority, the legislation was first passed under bipartisan unanimous support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August.
“This is a tremendous victory for the women of Afghanistan,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “It could not have come a moment too soon.”
Over the past few months, a dozen girls schools have been burned, bombed or closed. Just before and after several of these incidents, fundamentalist leaflets were passed out that warned girls against going to school. Threats to Loya Jirga delegates who have spoken out for human rights, including Independent Human Rights Commission Chair Dr. Sima Samar; the assassination of two government ministers; violence against women in the Northern provinces; violence against humanitarian aid workers; and the use of tactics of intimidation against the return of girls to school show the need for expansion of peacekeeping forces both within and beyond Kabul is urgent.
Expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul to its outlying regions is necessary for the newly elected Afghan democracy to maintain control over the country. Currently, there are approximately 5,000 International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) that patrol within the capital city of Kabul. Without U.S. support, expansion of these international peacekeeping forces will not be possible.