The Embassy of Afghanistan Web Site

Volume 32 :: June 2006     

Afghan girls in Kabul have the time of their lives at a soccer clinic organized by the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange


In This Issue

In the Media

President Karzai received a phone call from President Bush on the recent tragic traffic incident in Kabul. 

Please read below for details.

"Writing the History of the Future"

Can you write the history of the future? Until recently, to pose such a question would have been a luxury to Afghan ears. Afghans were more absorbed with the struggles of surviving their present agonies, and had forgotten and forgiven past history. Many crimes were committed in Afghanistan over the last twenty years, but robbing an entire generation of boys and girls of their childhood and depriving them of the joy of going to school rank among the worst transgressions. Those of you who have visited Afghanistan know how dramatically our country has changed. Boys and girls have returned to schools and their parents are determined to rebuild their country. President Karzai is committed to working with the United States, the international community, and Afghan and international NGOs to further reinforce Afghanistan’s reconstruction, peace and stability. In Afghanistan we have learned the hard way that the best way to invest in peace and security is to invest in education. By investing in education, we are writing the history of the future; a future of hope, prosperity, peace, love, and unity.

Excerpted from Ambassador Jawad’s opening remarks at the Kite Gala reception for Aschiana.

 

 

President Karzai Receives Call from President Bush


President Hamid Karzai received a phone call from US President George W. Bush on May 31. President Bush expressed his deep regret at the tragic traffic incident in Kabul which caused casualties and physical damage. President Bush also expressed his heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims and said, “The Government and people of the United States of America are the friend of the people of Afghanistan, and will always stand by them.” President Karzai thanked President Bush for his sympathy and for the United States’ continued support in helping Afghanistan rebuild.
 


President Karzai Condemns Terrorism During Visit to Kunar and Kandahar


On May 17, President Hamid Karzai visited Kunar Province and met with community representatives, students, women, tribal elders, religious leaders and government officials. The President discussed Afghanistan’s future with the people of Kunar, saying, “Today’s generation must make sacrifices so that our future generations will live in peace and prosperity.” The President inaugurated the newly built provincial reconstruction office, a police station and a school. He also visited students and teachers at Fatemia High School, and soldiers of Kunar’s Rapid Reaction Force. President Karzai strongly condemned recent violence by terrorists who have attacked religious leaders, engineers, doctors and teachers in Kunar and other southeastern provinces in order to derail the process of rebuilding Afghanistan. “The burning of schools and killing of our Ulemas should not be in the interest of countries in the region,” he said.

In addition, President Karzai visited Kandahar on May 25 and met with Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid and tribal elders. They discussed insecurity caused by Taliban insurgents and terrorists, as well as the needs of the local people. In his address to tribal elders, the President said he had come to see the children, women and other civilians injured as a result of the bombing of a village where the Taliban insurgents had hidden. "I have promised with my God not to sit with ease until security is improved in Afghanistan," President Karzai stated.
 


Afghanistan Signs Bilateral Agreements

 

On May 22, President Karzai headed a ministerial delegation to visit the United Arab Emirates. The President met with UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to discuss bilateral relations. The two leaders signed agreements on UAE assistance to Afghan schools, expansion of bilateral trade, a project to asphalt Kabul roads, and improving the situation of Afghans living in UAE. The President also held meetings with UAE heads of private companies and banks to discuss the expansion of trade ties and investment opportunities in Afghanistan. In addition, he met representatives of the UAE Afghan immigrant community and discussed their problems. The President was accompanied on this trip by four Members of the Parliament and twenty leading businessmen and private investors.

In addition, President Karzai visited Iran from May 27-29. The Governments of Afghanistan and Iran signed agreements on the extradition of criminals, the transfer of convicts, the promotion of investments, the construction of a railway line between Khaf in Iran and Herat in Afghanistan, the protection of plants and the exchange of quarantine technologies.


Foreign Minister Dr. Spanta Appreciates US Support to Afghanistan

 

Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta recently thanked US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice for her congratulatory message on his appointment and confirmation as Afghanistan’s new Foreign Minister. He wrote: “I hope to further strengthen the strong relations existing between Afghanistan and the United States based on our mutual achievements and continued collaboration.” The Foreign Minister appreciated the long-term support of the United States, and the commitment of Secretary Rice and President Bush to helping Afghanistan rebuild. He also highlighted Afghanistan’s achievements in reconstruction, the implementation of security benchmarks, and the transition towards democracy. He identified moving forward with the US-Afghan Strategic Partnership as a top priority, and expressed great hope in US-Afghan bi-lateral relations. He concluded the letter by expressing his anticipation in meeting Secretary Rice upon his first visit to the United States.
 

 

Ambassador Jawad Discusses Security with US Policymakers


Ambassador Jawad held a series of meetings with senior US policymakers on May 19 to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan. The US officials included Under-Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman, Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Flory, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long, Senior Counselor for Coalition Affairs Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State John Gastright, the NSC Country Director for Afghanistan Anthony Harriman. The Ambassador pointed out that one of the causes of the recent upsurge in terrorist activities was the lack of resources for the Afghan police and local governments to function effectively. He also cited the need for cooperation between some PRT forces, provincial governors and district authorities to fight the insurgents. Ambassador Jawad requested further assistance to accelerate the process of building the Afghan national security forces, particularly the police. The Ambassador stressed that more attention should be focused on contingency funding for district administration and community police, as well as increasing coordination among US-NATO and local Afghan government forces. Ambassador Jawad extended the appreciation of the government and people of Afghanistan to Under-Secretary Edelman for the United States’ continued support of Afghanistan’s reconstruction.
 

 

Funding for Afghanistan


The US House of Representatives and Senate are preparing to go to Conference on the US FY 2006 Supplemental Appropriations measure which includes important funding for Afghanistan’s rebuilding effort. The Embassy of Afghanistan continues to ensure that Afghanistan’s funding needs are recognized and appropriated. The Embassy has actively engaged members of the US Congress to be advocates for Afghanistan’s needs. Throughout the month of May, Ambassador Jawad wrote to members of relevant Committees of the House and Senate, highlighting Afghanistan’s priorities and funding needs. The Ambassador recently met with Rep. Jim Kolbe, Chairman of the House Foreign Appropriations Sub-Committee and Rep. Mike Pence, Member of the House International Relations Committee, to discuss funding requirements for specific and urgently needed reconstruction projects. The House and Senate will be going to conference to reach a consensus before the final version of the Bill is sent to the President George W. Bush for his approval. The Afghan people appreciate the efforts of Americans who have reached out to Congress to support Afghanistan.
 


Ambassador Jawad Calls for Increased Security Resources


Ambassador Jawad spoke at the National Press Club on May 12 to highlight the sources and causes of increased terrorist activities in Afghanistan’s five restive provinces in the south and east bordering Pakistan: Zabol, Hemand, Uruzgan, Kandahar and Kunar. “I visited Uruzgan last week. The security situation has deteriorated. We may lose a lot of the ground that we have gained thus far,” said the Ambassador. He noted there were three main reasons for increased insurgency and terrorism in the above provinces:

“First, Taliban are acquiring advanced weapons, sophisticated explosive devices and better communications gear, as well as more pick up trucks and motorcycles from abroad. Taliban are crossing the border in much larger groups of 15 to 20 heavily armed militants. Terrorist training camps continue to operate outside Afghanistan’s borders. Second, we, as the government of Afghanistan, are not provided with adequate resources to significantly expand our security presence and deliver services and protection to people in some large districts. In Uruzgan, for instance, a district that covers hundreds of square miles, we have 10 to 15 police officers, all poorly trained and ill equipped, unpaid for months, with old and outdated light weapons. They are very vulnerable and casualties are increasing. The third reason is the expansion of NATO to the south. The terrorists are hoping that by attacking some of the NATO members who are deploying troops to the south, they may be able to deter them.”

The Ambassador further noted that although there was no sympathy for terrorists and those who wish to prolong Afghanistan’s suffering, the peace dividend that Afghans were promised has yet to materialize for many. He informed the audience that no major reconstruction activities have taken place in certain poor provinces. “The terrorists employ fear and intimidation in order to distance the people from the government and the coalition forces. They kill teachers, doctors and the engineers who are building roads and clinics,” he said.

On the problem of narcotics, the Ambassador said drug traffickers and terrorists were working hand-in-hand to destabilize Afghanistan’s southern region. “Let me make one point very clear: There is no quick fix or silver bullet solution for the international problem of narcotics in Afghanistan. Opium production is the result of 30 years of war and destruction,” he said. Ambassador Jawad stressed that Afghanistan’s national security forces and provincial governments urgently needed the resources to improve security and governance in the country’s restive provinces. 


National, Regional, and Global Security Inextricable Linked


On May 23, Ambassador Jawad addressed an audience of local and corporate business leaders at Delaware’s World Trade Center. His talk focused on Afghanistan’s role in international security, highlighting the inextricable link between Afghan security and global security. Ambassador Jawad identified narcotics, a lack of resources for local police and district administrators, and the transition to NATO troops in the south as current security challenges, but stressed that the solidarity of the international community will ensure Afghanistan’s continued peace, stability and prosperity. Audience members dialogued with Ambassador Jawad about counter-narcotics strategy, judicial reform and popular feelings toward U.S. and Coalition troops in Afghanistan. “Afghans welcome the presence of US and ISAF troops as well as the engagement of the entire international community. Afghans value the sacrifice of your solders fighting alongside Afghans to defend freedom and to make Afghanistan, America and the world a safer place,” he responded. The Ambassador commended Afghanistan Delaware Communities Together for their noteworthy success in building schools in Afghanistan.
 


Kite Gala Gives Hope to Afghan Children


On May 19, Ambassador Jawad attended the annual kite gala hosted by French Ambassador to the United States Jean-David Levitte at the French Embassy. The gala is a benefit for the Aschiana Foundation, which supports homeless children in Afghanistan. The Ambassador thanked France for their historical support of education in Afghanistan, and spoke briefly about education in Afghanistan, stressing that investing in Afghanistan’s children is investing in the future. “With more schools, better textbooks, and trained teachers, we are writing the history of our future,” he said. Since its founding, Aschiana has opened its doors to thousands of homeless children, offering them refuge from a life on the streets and a chance to learn the skills that can lift them out of poverty. By providing children with a basic education, vocational training and basic medical care, Aschiana is helping to build a better Afghanistan.



Pakistan Blocks Full NAM Support for Afghan Moves to Curb ex-Taliban

 

Associated Press: PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - An objection from Pakistan has prevented the Nonaligned Movement from throwing its full support behind Afghanistan's efforts to prevent former Taliban from taking refuge in neighboring countries. The foreign ministers of NAM member countries, meeting in Malaysia for an annual conference Tuesday, wanted their final declaration to urge governments to curtail the movements of ex-Taliban members, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said. But Pakistan objected and the relevant paragraph was included in parentheses, meaning it is subject to revision. Afghanistan, supported by India, pushed hard for the paragraph to be included without the brackets but was overruled by Malaysia, the chairman of the meeting, diplomats said. "The language, while it is acceptable to Afghanistan and India, it is not acceptable to Pakistan," Syed Hamid told reporters Tuesday. "This is quite normal. We have included the language and bracketed it. There is no final decision," he said, adding that it would be further discussed at the NAM leaders' summit in Havana, Cuba in September.


The paragraph reads that NAM ministers urge states "to refrain from extending support, protection and shelter to former Taliban cadres, recognizing that failure to do so would seriously undermine efforts by the international community to combat terrorism, and expressing concern that terrorist groups were regrouping in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan." It was not clear why Pakistan objected to the paragraph. Calls to the hotel room of the Pakistani delegation head went unanswered. An Indian diplomat said the paragraph was in line with existing UN Security Council resolutions on curtailing the activities of the Taliban. "It is a question of concern to the international community, not just to India," said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. NAM declarations generally urge member states to follow a course of action, but are not legally binding. The Islamic hardline regime of Taliban was ousted by US forces in 2001, but has since been slowly regrouping and has been blamed for several deadly attacks in recent months. 


Kabul Conference Attracts Investors From Around the World


The first Afghanistan International Investment Conference & Exhibition took place in Kabul from May 9-12, 2006. The conference aimed to introduce the international business community to opportunities in Afghanistan and to educate participants about government policies supporting private sector development. The conference focused on promoting three sectors fundamental to Afghanistan's economic development: agro-business and agro-processing; infrastructure, construction and construction materials; and energy and mining. In his opening remarks, President Karzai encouraged businesses to invest in Afghanistan and promised that the government will continue to make reforms to create a healthy investment climate and stamp out corruption. Acting Minister of Commerce and Senior Minister Hedayat Amin Arsala noted in his address that "the Government’s commitment to establish a free market economy can be seen…in some of the key economic reforms that are being implemented, such as the privatization of most state owned enterprises; the introduction of sensible yet generous tax policies; and steady progress towards implementing proper land titling systems."

Organized by the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA), the conference brought together more than 500 people, including 200 international delegates and investors. The conference coincided with the Kabul International Exhibition 2006 which opened on May 8. The products displayed included agricultural, construction, ICT, natural resources and energy-related materials from 80 companies from Afghanistan and 17 other countries. The Exhibition demonstrated the scope of Afghanistan’s economic development throughout recent years. For reports on sector-specific findings, please visit:  http://www.aisa.org.af/ConferenceDocuments.htm#key.


The Beauty Academy of Kabul


The Beauty Academy of Kabul offers an upbeat perspective on the lives of Afghan women intent on developing their skills as hairdressers and beauticians. The film documents the journey of three Afghan-Americans returning home for the first time in over 20 years and a group of their female students. The film points out that the demand for hairdressers never completely dried up because, even beneath burkas, women wanted to look their best at weddings and ceremonies. The Beauty Academy of Kabul was filmed by an all-women crew directed by Liz Mermin, a New York-based independent director, producer and editor who specializes in social issues. Mermin trained as a cultural anthropologist before deciding on a career in film production. Shooting took place over 10 weeks, during which time the crew traveled and developed an appreciation for current conditions in Afghanistan. The film opened in general distribution in the United States in March to audiences in 19 states, including the District of Columbia. Films such as the Beauty Academy of Kabul are a great public service, as they keep Afghanistan in the public eye while educating the public about the diversity of Afghanistan’s social and cultural life.
 


Good Milk: Revitalizing Afghan Dairy Industry


In October 2004, the US Afghanistan Reconstruction Council (US-ARC) and its partners Land O’Lakes and Global-ARO developed the Dairy Industry Revitalization in Afghanistan (DIRA) project in the rural province of Parwan, Afghanistan. The project’s long term objectives include developing viable national and international markets for raw milk production and consumption by building the technical and professional expertise of local farming families. More specifically, US-ARC is involved in community outreach programs that improve milk collection techniques, form farming cooperatives and provide management training to both male and female farmers. Since 2004 the DIRA project has trained 24 female workers, recruited four veterinarians, built 3 modern milk collection centers, and enrolled over 1000 families in the program. For more information on the DIRA Project and US-ARC’s other programs, please visit www.us-arc.org.
  


The Future of the Afghan Nation


First Secretary of the Embassy of Afghanistan M. Ashraf Haidari joined a panel of experts at the American Foreign Service Association on May 19 to discuss Afghanistan’s present and future peace-building process. Looking back over the past five years, Secretary Haidari praised the achievement of the Bonn Agreement in establishing a democratic government in Afghanistan. Having been deprived of any sense of protective and human security for over two decades, the people of Afghanistan embraced democracy and even risked their lives to practice it by showing up in large numbers to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections. The women of Afghanistan exercised their new Constitutional rights by capturing even more parliamentary seats than they were guaranteed. Today, Afghanistan’s parliament has more female MPs (27.3%) than those of the most established democracies.

However, our new democracy needs a long-term commitment of support from the international community to succeed in meeting popular expectations and demands. Key to that success is enhancing institutional capacity across the government of Afghanistan to consolidate our new democracy. However, five years into the reconstruction process, many Afghans have not yet benefited from democracy’s promise of welfare and prosperity. “Our population of 25 million consists of peasants demanding alternative assistance to poppy cultivation; refugees demanding reintegration aid to rebuild their lives; landmine victims demanding welfare to escape psycho-social degradation; former combatants demanding jobs to avoid resort to crime and violence; and women and children demanding education and healthcare to build the future of Afghanistan,” explained Secretary Haidari. Yet, these same people continue to wait patiently and optimistically for their new democracy to secure their future.



Trade vs. Aid for Afghanistan


On May 16, Acting Commercial Attaché Khaleda Atta participated in a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation entitled, “Trade Is Better Than Aid: Tariff Relief Assistance for Least Developed Economies.” In her remarks, Commercial Attaché Atta noted that although fair trade has numerous benefits for LDCs, increased aid toward trade capacity building for the private sector is still necessary for Afghanistan to reach its production potentials. She added that Afghanistan is constrained by the lack of packaging and processing facilities, transportation and quality standards. Commercial Attaché Atta asserted that Afghanistan would continue to pursue support for trade capacity building programs to enable the Afghan private sector to compete at the international level. In 2005, Congressman Jim Koble first introduced the Tariff Relief Assistance for Least Developed Economies (TRADE) Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, which called for tariff relief to 15 of the world's poorest nations in South Asia in order to create opportunities for increased investment and economic growth. Currently, the United States is the only major developed country not providing duty-free access to all least developed countries (LDCs). In addition to acting as an incentive for American businesses that have invested in South Asia, such as Nike, Congressman Kolbe explained how this legislation could be an important foreign policy tool in a region where Islamic extremism and instability are serious concerns. To listen to an MP3 file of this event, please visit http://www.heritage.org/Press/Events/ev051606a.cfm
 


Eliminating Drug Problem a Global Task


Deputy Minister of Interior for Counter-Narcotics General Mohammad Daud held a series of meetings with senior US policymakers in Washington to discuss the threat of narcotics in Afghanistan during May 2-11. In their meetings, Deputy Minister Daud noted that Taliban and terrorists had allied with drug traffickers in a common fight against the government and international forces. He added that extreme poverty due to lack of alternative livelihood assistance had also pushed people in southern Afghanistan toward the Taliban and traffickers for protection. At the same time, lack of regional cooperation, particularly along Afghanistan’s southeastern border, freely allowed traffickers to smuggle in precursor chemicals and smuggle out heroin. However, he reported that the Governor-led eradication campaign had eradicated over 14,000 hectares of poppies as of January 2006. Deputy Minister Daud cautioned against forced eradication without adequate alternative livelihood assistance, which could alienate poor farmers and strengthen narco-terrorists against the government.

In their meetings, the Deputy Minister and First Secretary Ashraf Haidari stressed that Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics challenge was a global task and transnational in nature. International experience has shown that only through long-term rural development, increased security, expanding rule of law, enhanced institutional capacity, and proactive regional cooperation can narcotics be eliminated in Afghanistan. He called on the international community to provide Afghanistan with the necessary resources to fight the war on drugs and implement the counter-narcotics objectives of the Afghanistan Compact.

 


US National Guards Deploying to Afghanistan


First Secretary Haidari spoke on “Security and Governance Challenges in Afghanistan,” addressing leadership of the 41st Brigade Combat Team of the Oregon Army National Guard at Camp Shebly, Mississippi, on May 11. “As I said to an early group of brave soldiers, American forces have been deployed to many war zones and post-conflict countries to make or keep peace since the end of the Cold War. But your deployment to Afghanistan is very special. It is special because you will make a long lasting difference in the lives of 25 million Afghans, mostly young and my generation, who only suffered by growing up in war, destruction, and hopelessness over the past thirty years,” Secretary Haidari told the deploying forces. He singled out cross-border terrorist infiltrations, Taliban insurgency, and drug-trafficking as Afghanistan’s main challenge in consolidating peace and democracy in the country. More than 900 soldiers from the 41st Brigade Combat Team will complete their pre-mobilization training for deployment to Afghanistan in early June. They will be in Afghanistan for a period of one year before returning to Oregon. The primary mission of the 41st BCT will be to train the Afghan National Army, conduct patrols to hunt down remnants of Taliban and Al Qaeda, and help with infrastructure projects. Brig. Gen. Douglas Pritt will command Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix V which will consist of soldiers from more than 35 different US states.
 


Embassy Officer Leads and Organizes Girls Soccer Tournament in Kabul


Throughout the month of May, the Embassy’s Education and Health Officer Awista Ayub visited Afghanistan to lead a girls’ soccer clinic for the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange (AYSE), a non-profit she founded in 2003. The 2006 Girls Soccer Clinic was an expansion of a 2004 sports leadership camp organized and sponsored by Ms. Ayub. The clinic’s goal was to raise awareness for girls’ soccer in Afghanistan. The Afghan Youth Sports Exchange is a non-profit dedicated to preparing Afghanistan’s youth with leadership skills and promoting athletics in Afghan schools and communities. AYSE’s aims to create a structured youth sports system that will support and cultivate future sports leaders for Afghanistan utilizing already established sports programs on the ground. Ms. Ayub brought four Afghan-American coaches to Afghanistan to work with 15 teams and over 250 girls registered under the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee through the Afghanistan Football Federation. Each girl attended a soccer coaching session and received a soccer ball and a pair of cleats. One of the clinic participants, 18-year-old Azada Naim, said: "At first, my father didn't want me to play soccer. He thought I would get hurt and that it was unfeminine. Over time, he changed his mind, and now he is happy for me.”


Next month, a mini-World Cup championship called, “Kick Off for Democracy,” will take place in Kabul under the patronage of German Ambassador Rainald Steck. Teams from 16 Afghan schools are scheduled to compete against one another. The tournament will be combined with a democracy trivia game in which schoolchildren will learn more about the Afghan Constitution and European governments. For more information in the girls soccer clinic or sports in Afghanistan, please contact Education and Health Officer Awista Ayub at ayub@embassyofafghanistan.org

 


First Afghan Named University President


Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi was named president of California State University, East Bay on May 17. An active member of the U.S.-Afghan community, Dr. Quyoumi will become the first Afghan to head a major U.S. university. Dr. Qayoumi was born in Kabul and received his bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut. In 1978 he moved to the United States and earned master’s degrees in nuclear engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and business administration from the University of Cincinnati. He later received a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering. Since 2003, Qayoumi has been a board member of the Central Bank of Afghanistan and was an advisor to the Afghan Ministry of Finance. CSU Trustee Herbert Carter, chair of the presidential search committee praised Dr. Qayoumi’s outstanding academic experience, administrative background and leadership qualities. "His energy and ideas, combined with his superior resource and organizational management skills, will be a tremendous asset as the campus continues on its path in the future.”

 


Embassy Helps Organize Behavioral Health Conference  


From May 1-3, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) held the Partners’ Conference on Behavioral Health in Kabul. The Embassy’s Health Officer Awista Ayub assisted in coordinating the conference in collaboration with Dr. Ruhullah Nassery of the MOPH; Dr. Nahid Aziz, of Argosy University in Washington, DC; and Dr. Homaira Behsudi and Dr. Wasel Akbary of the Afghan American Medical Professionals Association. Minister of Public Health Dr. Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatimie and Deputy Minister of Public Health Faizullah Kakar opened the Conference by noting that mental health is crucial to fostering a constructive relationship between health and development. Minister Fatimie clarified the government’s commitment to integrating mental health into Afghanistan’s Basic Package of Health Services. Approximately 70 participants attended the conference, including SAMHSA and Government of Afghanistan officials, doctors and health care professionals, and representatives from USAID, the UN, the WHO and non-governmental organizations providing mental health services. The conference consisted of presentations and discussions of core elements of mental health and substance abuse services, capacity development needs and lessons learned. Participants identified human resource development and the integration of behavioral health care into the BPHS as priority strategies in developing behavioral health services in Afghanistan.
 


Well of Hope Fundraising for Paktika Province


On May 25, the Annapolis Rotary Club hosted a “Well of Hope” fundraising event at St. Johns College in Maryland. The event raised money to build a fresh-water drinking well for the village of Sharana in Paktika, Afghanistan. The well is going to provide safe drinking water for thousands of villagers who currently lack access to clean water. The Embassy’s Women's Affairs and Social Protection Officer Salma Afzal thanked the fundraiser group for their assistance and said, “As both drought and conflicts have damaged shallow wells and the traditional ‘karez’ system in Afghanistan, the local people will greatly benefit from the well.”

 


Afghan Women Graduates Look toward the Future


On May 20, three young women from Afghanistan graduated from Rhode Island’s Roger Williams University. Arezo Kohistani is a business management major, Mahbooba Babrakzai is a finance major and past Embassy of Afghanistan social protections department intern, and Nadima Sahar is a political science major and an award-winning artist who has been showcased at numerous art competitions. The students arrived in the United States as part of a scholarship program called the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, which provides full scholarships to Afghan women and is led by Paula Nircshel. Three other women in the program also graduate this year from the University of Montana, Kennesaw State University in Georgia and Montclair State University in New Jersey. By this fall, the program will sponsor about 30 students at 14 institutions. All three young women plan to return to Afghanistan after their studies, and hope to one day occupy high level positions in Afghanistan’s government. "Coming here was a great experience," Ms. Babrakzai said. "It just, I think, changed the future of all the girls in this program and will make a change in Afghanistan as well as we go back and work there and bring our experiences from here to Afghanistan."
 


9/11 Widows Reach Out to Afghan Women


Two American women, widowed by the September 11 attacks, traveled to Afghanistan this month to meet with Afghan war widows. Patti Quigley and Susan Retik of Massachusetts founded “Beyond the 11th,” a nonprofit foundation to aid widows in areas touched by conflict. Since 2004, they have raised $325,000 by holding charity bike rides from Ground Zero to Boston, and they hope to raise $250,000 this year. Much of this money has been donated to support income-generating programs run by CARE International, such as a chicken farm program that has bought 6,000 chicks for 400 Afghan women. They have also made donations to Women for Women International and to Arzu Rugs, an Afghan program that teaches women to weave rugs. "We wanted people to understand that these widows were widows because of the same terrorists that affected our husbands," she said. "The terrorists were in that country, it doesn't mean they were from that country."
 


ICT Conference in Kabul


Representatives from the growing information and communications technology (ICT) industry in Afghanistan gathered in Kabul on April 25 for Afghanistan’s first ICT conference. The two-day forum, jointly organized by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Communications and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), showcased investment opportunities and promoted ICT awareness within the country. Afghanistan boasts over a million cell phone users, compared to only 20,000 telephone lines four years ago. UNDP predicts that by the end of 2006, wireless fixed telephone lines will reach 285,000 and connect hundreds of thousands of households in the country.
 



Pajhwok Celebrates Second Anniversary


Pajhwok Afghan News celebrated its second anniversary by holding a gala attended by ministers, parliamentarians, foreign dignitaries, local officials, journalists and staff members at its main office in Kabul on April 25. Speaking on the occasion, scholar and writer Habibullah Rafi pointed out that the name Pajhwok translates to “echo,”applauding Pajhwok for giving voice to the hardships of the people and keeping the country informed with objective reporting. Guests congratulated Pajhwok and highlighted the role of the free press in democratic society.

 


Afghan Rapper Spreads Message of Peace


DJ Besho is an Afghan rapper whose popularity skyrocketed when international news outlets began showcasing his rhythmic talents. He has recorded a CD and music videos, and has even started his own clothing label. When DJ Besho was a boy, his family fled Afghanistan for India, then China, followed by Russia, before finally settling in Germany, the country where DJ Besho developed his rapping talent. Today, he travels between Germany and Afghanistan, where he has a contract with Tolo TV. Most of his rapping is in Dari, but some lyrics are in German, Hindi and English. His popularity is spreading in Afghanistan, where many people feel proud to see a local musician representing Afghanistan on the international stage. DJ Besho keeps his message positive, preaching peace or updating traditional Afghan love songs. In a recent interview, DJ Besho spoke out against violence, saying, “The people here are used to fighting but I teach against war, to not fight their brothers, to respect everyone.” To search for music videos by DJ Besho, click here



M. Ashraf Haidari - Editor
Embassy of Afghanistan
2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: 202.483.6410 (Ex 811)
Fax: 202.483.6488

 

E mail: haidari@embassyofafghanistan.org

Website: www.embassyofafghanistan.org