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Embassy Row: Rugs to Riches

by James Morrison

Washington Times

02.20.2007


Afghanistan's ambassador is hoping that the ancient art of rug weaving will help spur development in his Central Asian nation, which is struggling with Taliban terrorism and donor fatigue from nations that have so far failed to put up the money to match their aid promises.

"Afghan rugs connect you to thousands of years of history, a group of talented artists halfway around the world, and a reconstruction process that is helping millions of people find security, prosperity, education and new hope," Ambassador Said T. Jawad said at a recent exhibit of Afghan rugs in Atlanta.

"Afghanistan's rug trade is at least 1,000 years old. The Silk Road and Afghanistan were the nexus of civilizations, knowledge and trade, stretching from Spain to China. Today, Afghan rugs are regaining their fame and recognition for excellent value, superb quality, rich colors and unique patterns."

The exhibit, attended by top U.S. officials, attracted wealthy investors who bought nearly all of the rugs on display.

David Sampson, U.S. deputy commerce secretary, noted that the exhibition was a "smart step" toward the goal of promoting Afghanistan's traditional rug industry, which generates $50 million in annual exports.

Mr. Jawad urged buyers to help Afghanistan's economy by investing in its arts and crafts, which have tax-free access to the U.S. market. He noted that his country is trying to recover from 30 years of conflict -- from the Soviet invasion in 1979 to the resurgent threat from the extremist Taliban, trying to regain power after the United States overthrew them in 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.

"You are helping millions of women and families struggling to recover from three decades of war and despair," the ambassador said.

"Afghans are grateful for your support and assistance and the sacrifices of your soldiers fighting to defend freedom in Afghanistan, here in the U.S. and all over the world. They are all heroes."

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