- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2005

Children of war

The wife of the Afghan ambassador is trying to raise awareness in Washington over the plight of street children who lost parents in the conflicts that devastated her South Asian nation.

“These are the children of war,” Shamim Jawad said yesterday, as she prepared for tomorrow night’s fundraising dinner for Aschiana, an Afghanistan-based charity.

“This is important for me because of the children. They lost one or both parents, and many of these children are talented and bright,” she said.

In the Afghan capital, Kabul, an estimated 60,000 street children do menial tasks, scavenge for scraps or beg for a living. Many are also supporting what family they have left.

Aschiana, meanwhile, struggles to provide an education and vocational training to as many as 5,500 of the boys and girls between 5 and 16 years old at six centers in Kabul. Aschiana, which means “the nest,” expects to lose one of its biggest centers, which serves 1,500 children and features 12 classrooms, to economic development. The owner of the center plans to sell the property for the construction of an InterContinental Hotel.

Mrs. Jawad said the loss of the center presents another hardship for the nonprofit organization. Aschiana now pays about $1,500 a month in rent for the center, but a similar facility is likely to cost at least $9,000 a month.

“Rent in Kabul is very expensive,” she said.

Mrs. Jawad hopes that the dinner, called the Kite Ball, will raise about $60,000 for Aschiana. The ball is named for the favorite pastime of Afghan children, which was outlawed by the brutal Taliban regime that sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network. After the United States liberated the country in 2001, kites began to fly again across Kabul, she said.

“Kite-flying is one of the children’s main hobbies. The Taliban just took all of the joy out of life,” she said.

Mrs. Jawad, who described herself as “just a volunteer,” is a member of the honorary host committee for the gala. The honorary chairwoman is first lady Laura Bush.

Patrons include Mrs. Jawad’s husband, Said Tayeb Jawad, and ambassadors Jehangir Karamat of Pakistan, Jean-David Levitte of France, Ronen Sen of India and Knut Vollebaek of Norway.

In the United States, the organization is supported by the nonprofit Aschiana Foundation run out of a home in Old Town Alexandria and founded by Marie Kux, whose husband, Dennis, is a former U.S. ambassador to the Ivory Coast.

Mrs. Kux said she first became aware of the plight of the Afghan children when she met the mother of one of the street children while visiting a friend in Kabul.

“When I saw this beautiful, dignified woman suddenly crying quietly because she had received $20 to help her feed her family for a month, I felt like crying,” Mrs. Kux said.

“I knew there were thousands of other mothers like her and thousands of children without mothers who desperately needed help.”

Envoy invited

The Colombian Senate is trying to get U.S. Ambassador William Wood to appear at a hearing to discuss the recent criminal charges against American soldiers stationed in the South American nation.

“We are obviously very concerned about the allegations and want the ambassador to keep us updated,” Sen. Jimmy Chamorro, a member of the foreign relations committee, told the Associated Press.

He said the Senate sent Mr. Wood a request on Tuesday to discuss the recent arrests of five soldiers. They were accused of trying to smuggle cocaine out of Colombia. Two others were accused of attempting to sell thousands of rounds of ammunition to right-wing death squads. He said the Senate, which cannot compel Mr. Wood to meet with them, is still waiting for a response from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.

The soldiers, who have diplomatic immunity, face charges in the United States.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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