- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

A crowd of Afghans living in the United States last evening condemned the terrorists who struck America on September 11, prayed and said other terrorists and the Taliban must be driven out of Afghanistan so freedom can be restored to their independent nation.
"Our Afghan customs have taken us on the opposite track from terrorism," Hashim Raig told more than 500 expatriates representing 20 organizations, mostly from the Washington area. "The number one challenge is to unify and work with every Afghan in this regard."
"We commiserate with Americans because we have and still feel the pain of terrorism," said Omar Samad, who helped organize the meeting for expatriate Afghans to discuss the ongoing political, military and humanitarian aspects of the war against terrorism that has put a focus on their land.
Men are not alone in the fight against terrorism, Nasiern Gross said as she donned a veil that covered her almost entirely and walked across the stage in the George Mason University Johnson Center ballroom.
Being completely veiled is a stricture imposed on women by the Taliban and is not an Islamic tradition, Miss Gross said. It allowed the smuggling of drugs, criminals and unwanted foreigners into and out of Afghanistan because the Pakistani border guards searched only men.
At the same time, the Taliban canceled all rights of women, in effect throwing out 50 percent of the votes for constitutions and elections, Miss Gross said.
"The Taliban are a foreign convention trying to occupy Afghanistan," she said.
Most of the meeting was conducted in the two languages of Afghanistan, interspersed with English that is partly quoted here.
Speeches were interrupted with bursts of applause. Several men could be seen fingering prayer beads. A young bearded man in a skull cap prayed in monotone. The audience occasionally held their hands, palms upward, touching their fingertips in a form of prayer. Most women wore scarves covering their hair.
The meeting, which also attracted Afghans from New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, ran two hours overtime and was expected to conclude with the adoption of a nine-point resolution.
The first "reiterates its strong condemnation of the terrorist acts on September 11, 2001. … Community members convey their outrage and express their deepest sympathy with the victims' families and the American people."
Next, "We urge the public and media to differentiate between terrorists and followers of a particular religion or citizens of a country. … We believe that the people of Afghanistan are themselves victims of terrorism and suffer under an oppressive system in their own country."
It asks the international community to help clean out the Afghanistan rulers and restore a Grand Constituent Assembly headed by former King Mohammed Zahir Shah, who now lives in Rome. The community resolution states support for democracy and human rights, especially the restoration of the rights of women.
"For 23 years, Afghans have struggled against extremists of the left and then the right," said Mr. Samad.
Like other speakers, Mr. Samad criticized Pakistan, which he said claims to be opposed to terrorists, but is secretly supplying goods to them.
Majid Maangel of Fairfax paid homage to the Afghans who gave their lives in the fight against the Soviet Union and the communists. That created a political void in Afghanistan that the first Bush administration and then the Clinton administration indirectly helped by removing U.S. assistance and leaving the country to the mercy of neighbors like Pakistan, he said.
That allowed millionaire Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the September 11 attacks, to hole up in Afghanistan, Mr. Maangel said.


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