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Afghanistan: Threats Against Citizens for Political Views Rise

A recent rise in threats against Afghan citizens for expressing their views on the country's draft constitution is a cause for concern, according to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the United Nations. "We have received reports of increasing threats, physical aggression and even arbitrary detentions," said Nader Naderi, an AIHRC commissioner, according to IRIN. A 35-member commission appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in April, which included seven women, prepared its first draft of the constitution last month. The commission has established eight regional offices to educate citizens about the constitution and to solicit suggestions on the draft, according to IRIN.

The lack of security and funding for reconstruction in Afghanistan is contributing to threats and intimidation of citizens expressing their political views. President Karzai recently called for an additional $15 billion from donor countries for reconstruction funding, on top of the $5 billion committed so far. Of the $1.8 billion already spent on humanitarian and reconstruction projects, little of the funds have gone to the central government. The central government has not been able to pay police and civil servant salaries, and the $50-60 million needed for the 2004 elections has not been raised. The Louis Berger Group, the US firm coordinating the US part of the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat highway, announced that the $180 million pledged by the United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia is only enough money to rebuild part of the highway from Kabul to Kandahar.

Meanwhile, Lakhdar Brahimi, United Nations Special Representative to Afghanistan, has repeatedly asserted that lack of security in the country is of grave concern. "The Taliban have been routed; they have been expelled from the capital, but they have not been defeated, or at least they have not accepted their defeat," he told the New York Times. For Brahimi, the most important reconstruction project in Afghanistan is restoring security, and that has not yet happened, the Times reports. Currently, there are only about 5,000 international peacekeeping troops stationed in Afghanistan, and they are all in the capital city of Kabul.

"Expansion of international peacekeeping troops is necessary to make sure voter registration and the electoral process themselves are fair and democratic, especially for women," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. "Last year, Congress passed the Afghan Freedom Support Act authorizing increased reconstruction financing and peace troop expansion. President Bush signed it into law. But where is the financing and where are the peace troops?" she wrote in a New York Times letter to the editor. "Women and girls are the first victims: warlords in some areas are placing Taliban-like restrictions on women, and more than a dozen girls' schools have suffered violent attacks by fundamentalists."

The Feminist Majority continues to lead the call for peace troop expansion, increased reconstruction funding, and for more resources to support the work of the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission.

TAKE ACTION Urge Congress to Appropriate Funds for Peace Troops and Reconstruction in Afghanistan

Media Resources: IRIN 6/2/03; BBC 6/4/03; New York Times 6/1/03; Feminist Daily News Wire

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