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News :: Human Rights
911 Brings Burkas and Chains to America
12 Sep 2006
Modified: 10:48:18 AM
Their motto relies on the words of a former American president, Jimmy Carter,<br><br>

"America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way around.<br><br>
Human rights invented America." <br><br>

On a bright sunny day in Washington, American women handcuffed and chained themselves to the Afghan Embassy here to protest against Hamid Karzai's government.

From under a burkha, wearing black strap high heels, a spokeswoman said, that this was "just the start of demonstrations against the Afghan Embassy in Washington to protest President Karzai's illegal imprisonment of innocent Americans and treatment of Afghan women."
September 11, 2006, was a confusing day for Afghan diplomats in Washington. Having morning Chai, a form of Afghan tea, they looked out the windows onto Embassy Row in a quiet suburb of the District of Columbia, only to see their native country's blue burkhas staring back at them from behind the checkerboard cotton visor.


It was even more disturbing for them when the women handcuffed and chained themselves to the Afghan Embassy gates at the moment the first plane hit the World Trade Center five years ago.

Afghan security officers threatened the women with arrest until press photographers showed up from the Washington Post and New York City based photo agency, Polaris Images.

Embassy spokesman, Fazel Fazel, the Afghan ambassador's political spokesman, said the ambassador was not in, and told the women they could leave a letter for him.


The DC Metro Police refused to interfere in what the DC Chief of Police Public Affairs Office called "a peaceful expression protected under the First Amendment." It was even more unusual, in this post 9-11 era of heightened security and reduced personal freedoms, when the local Metro Police captain mysteriously changed course and assigned a female officer to protect the women in burkhas from Afghan security officer intimidation.

According to Jay Westcott, a Washington Post photographer, Afghan security officers first threatened to have photographers arrested, but quickly backed down when confronted with American law.

"I can't imagine that at least some Washington police haven't read the book THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN." The woman under a burkha was referring to Jack Idema, who appeared on the front cover of the blockbuster post 911 NY Times best-selling war story about the liberation of Afghanistan. The group was, among complaints about women's rights issues in Afghanistan, protesting the continued imprisonment of a group known as Task Force Saber, who were convicted by a former Taliban judge in a much publicized Kabul trial in July 2004. The trial was of questionable legality.


"This is not Afghanistan, you cannot stop us, and we will return with three hundred more women on October twelfth, and another thousand on November twelfth. We will put this embassy under siege until we get justice from your country," a spokesman for the group FREE THEM NOW said speaking anonymously under a bright blue burkha.

The group carried signs that said "Free Them Now, they saved your country and your ministers from assassination."

Asked why they were wearing the traditional Afghan burkha, one of the women replied, "when a woman wears a burkha she demonstrates her subservient submission to men. This is what Mr. Karzai wants. Women and men must submit to his total authority in his government. No court, no minister, no policeman, prosecutor, or official will disagree with Mr. Karzai, for if they do, they are fired immediately, and later arrested in many cases. Mr. Karzai has built a complete dictatorship under the very nose of the international community. His secret police run rampant with political arrests, and even run torture chambers just a few miles from Mr. Karzai's palace."

She was apparently referring to the National Security interrogation prison located in the center of Kabul city. It is alleged to be funded by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, and there has been some evidence that the Americans held there in 2004 were tortured with United States FBI agents present.


Even without revealing their faces or their identies, they still managed to get invited into the embassy.

Within two hours of handcuffing themselves to the Afghan embassy gates wearing burkhas, Ambassador Sayed Jawad Tayeb agreed to meet the women, privately.

Afghanistan is the only country in the world in which the burkha is worn nationwide by virtually all women. President Karzai had promised to ban the burkha in 2003 after he took office.

The women's website, portrays pictures of women dressed in American flag burkhas. The site also shows President Karzai's newly formed Office of Vice and Virtue beating Afghan women with sticks, and a photo of the Taliban executing an Afghan woman in Kabul. Graphically violent, the photo depicts a woman kneeling in Kabul Stadium with an AK-47 pointed at her head just moments before execution.

The Afghan Embassy refused to comment on incident, but did say they are looking into the case of the Americans held at Phul-i-charki Prison. The Afghan Defense attache' office admitted that the women had presented an "illegal and secretly obtained videotape" which had Afghan Supreme Court judges on it speaking about the case and stating that the Americans "were completely innocent."


There has been evidence that the Americans arrested in Kabul in 2004 for wrongly arresting suspected terrorists were covertly working for Afghanistan's National Security Advisor, Younis Qaounni, and had links to the US Department of Defense, although US officials did not admit Bush administration knowledge of their activities, several top officials also did not directly deny it when questioned about the case in 2004.

A former top leader in the Northern Alliance militia which ousted the Taliban with American Special Forces soldiers in 2002, Qaounni has since been elected Chief of Afghanistan's Parliament.

"Mr. Karzai has blocked all attempts by the Chief of Parliament and the Northern Alliance to release Mr. Jack," said a spokesman for former President Burihadeen Rabanni. he was referring to Jack Idema, a former Green Beret with a colorful history that included leading Afghan mujahadin against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

Women for the group would not comment on the results of their private conversation with the Afghan ambassador.

Continuing demonstrations will likely harm Hamid Karzai's attempt to secure additional US funding for his war impoverished country, now locked in a new struggle against an increasingly growing number of Taliban insurgents.

For Mr. Karzai the time may have come to let new problems go away, and old alliances be rekindled. Even if that means letting his "American hostages" out of prison to fight the Taliban again.

After all, with the Taliban returning, suicide bombings everyday in Kabul and southern Afghanistan, and thousands dead and wounded, a real Jack Bauer, regardless of his unusual tactics, might be the only way Mr. Karzai keeps his position.
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