- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2001

One of two women appointed to Afghanistan's post-Taliban government yesterday said she has advised Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that women's rights must be central in the reconstruction of an Afghan government.
In her first press conference in the United States yesterday, Dr. Sima Samar said she told Mr. Powell that women must be included in the international peace-keeping mission in the war-torn Muslim country, and that a woman must be appointed as an ambassador to Afghanistan.
"We need to involve women in every aspect," said Dr. Samar, deputy prime minister of Afghanistan's interim government and prime minister for women's affairs. "I hope they will not make the same mistake as before."
Under the Taliban, women in Afghanistan were banned from attending school and were prohibited from working outside the home. Women also were not allowed to leave their homes without the company of a close male relative or without wearing a full burka, a head-to-toe covering that allows women to see through a small screen over their faces.
The U.S.-led international coalition this month dislodged the Afghan capital, Kabul, from Taliban control.
Dr. Samar, a 44-year-old physician, and surgeon Suhaila Seddiqi are the two women who will serve in the country's 30-member, six-month transitional Cabinet, which is to take office in Kabul on Saturday.
Dr. Samar yesterday said international peacekeepers must stay in Afghanistan at least a year after the war ends because it will not be easy to collect Taliban weapons throughout the country.
"The Taliban is not in power right now," Dr. Samar told reporters at the National Press Building. "But it doesn't mean they're finished."
Her comments came hours after British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is spearheading the peacekeeping effort, said British troops would likely stay in Afghanistan for only a few months.
Dr. Samar said the United States should provide 75 percent of the funds needed to rebuild Afghanistan. Although she declined to provide an amount, Dr. Samar did say it should "equal the cost of the bombs."
"We need the resources to rebuild our country," she said. "I hope they do it."
As prime minister for women's affairs, Dr. Samar said her top priority will be to work for women's rights and make sure all women and children get an education. "Women's rights should be counted as human rights in the country," she said.
Dr. Samar said she wants to set up centers for traumatized women and orphanages for children who have worked as servants.
She also wants to create technical centers that will provide training for women and children. "We want to them to be able to work in society," Dr. Samar said.
"We don't want to continue the Kalashnikov culture anymore," she said, referring to the Soviet-made assault rifle used by Taliban forces.
Dr. Samar, founder and director of the Shuhada Organization, managed a network of schools and clinics from exile in Quetta, Pakistan. The organization, which is based in Quetta, operates four schools for Afghan refugee children in Pakistan and 49 schools for girls and boys in Afghanistan.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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