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Kabul Korrespondence

Fresh, factual, and funky view of Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian region

Peace awards spotlight Afghan women's efforts

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Washington Post
By Mary Jordan

Suraya Pakzad was 12 when she saw a gunman kill the headmistress of her Afghan school because the woman taught girls and refused to wear a head scarf. A few weeks later, a rocket smashed into the school and killed a student sitting near her, another warning for girls not to learn.

Now 39 and a celebrity known for her courageous work to further women's rights in Afghanistan, Pakzad sat in a grand Washington hall Wednesday night where she was being honored with a new local prize for female peacemakers, tears welling in her intense brown eyes when asked about her own safety at home.

"During the night, sometimes I am scared," said the mother of six who runs secret shelters for abused women and runaway child brides. "Sometimes I think if they come to get me in my house, it will be hard for my children to see it."

As Washington debates its future in Afghanistan and as U.S. military planners weigh war-college terms like counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, Pakzad worries that a U.S. withdrawal from her homeland would mean more girls enduring more horrors.

"It would be devastating," she said of the U.S. military pullout that many Afghanis fear is coming. Even if President Obama increases the number of troops, she said, that alone will not bring a solution: "I don't believe war -- fighting -- produces a winner." She said Afghanistan is sliding deeper into poverty and that people in her country badly need jobs and the opportunity to build stability.
posted by Travis, 6:07 pm

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