- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

Fahima, a U.S.-based advocate of women's rights in Afghanistan, cringes at the thought of Osama bin Laden and the hold he maintains on the country she fled more than two decades ago.
"His language is terror," she said, and the people of Afghanistan would like nothing better than to get rid of him.
"They're grieving under the Taliban as much as the rest of the world," Fahima said. "These are innocent people. They're hostages.
"We should fight the terrorism together. The [Islamic] fundamentalism is like a cancer. Before we know it, it will come here and come back to haunt us. Let's end this cancer."
Fahima, 46, spoke last week about the plight of Afghan women at Montgomery College in Rockville, as the United States prepared for a long battle against bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 suicide attacks, and the Taliban rulers who protect him.
She asked that her last name not be used.
As Fahima grew up in Afghanistan during the 1960s, she recoiled at the way her own family discriminated against women and valued men. That, she said, is when her fight for women's rights started.
"For years and years, we were screaming, crying," Fahima said. "I always felt this is not right. We want somebody to listen to us."
The situation went from bad to intolerable, she said, after the Taliban came into power in 1996.
Women were no longer allowed to attend schools or work and told to stay in their houses, with windows shut and painted black.
Soon, listening to music and watching television were prohibited.
"If a man peeks in a house and sees a woman, that could be immoral," Fahima said. "They think women would be provoking a man. White socks are not allowed. Colored clothes are not allowed. High heels are not allowed. Even clapping, laughing or talking loud is not allowed."
"The women of Afghanistan have no rights," she said, " and that hurts."
Women cannot walk out the streets without a male relative accompanying them and hiding head to toe under black robes known as burqa.
If they walk alone, Fahima said, "They would be beaten on the streets, even stoned to death or executed."
Torture and public executions are rampant, and the suicide rate in Afghanistan is high, Fahima said, adding that three of her cousins had chosen to take their own lives.
She fled Afghanistan in 1979, after the Soviet Union invaded the country, came to the United States in 1983 and became a citizen in 1997.
She now runs a rug store and a restaurant in Annapolis and donates portions of her business earnings to a group that works underground to provide secret schools and medical care to women and girls.

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