U.S. President George W. Bush has signed legislation aimed at helping Afghan refugees, especially women and children. Bush says the United States has an obligation to help rebuild war-torn Afghanistan. He says the U.S. won't walk away from that job.
Washington, 13 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush says the United States will not walk away from Afghanistan, pledging America and its allies will do all they can to help rebuild the war-torn nation.
Bush made the comments yesterday (Wednesday) before signing the Afghan Women and Children Relief Act. The legislation provides aid to improve the health and education of Afghan women and children. It also would help refugees in surrounding countries.
The measure taps an unspecified amount of emergency spending money approved by the U.S. Congress following the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States.
Bush said the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan represented a cruel phase in Afghan history. He said:
"America is beginning to realize that the dreams of the terrorists and the Taliban were a waking nightmare for Afghan women and their children. The Taliban murdered teenagers for laughing in the presence of soldiers. They jailed children as young as 10 years old and tortured them for supposed crimes of their parents.
Bush signed the bill in a ceremony at The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. He was accompanied by an exiled Afghan woman named Farida, who said the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban regime brings hope of reuniting with her family and promise of full participation by women in the country's life.
Farida worked to improve education, health care, and training among Afghan women. She said her work forced her to flee not only under the Taliban, but also earlier during what she called "the chaos and brutality of the warlords, now known as Northern Alliance."
Farida said she was encouraged by a deal for a power-sharing Afghan government, dominated by the Northern Alliance but designating for women two of the 30 seats.
Bush said: "Women now come out of their homes from house arrest, able to walk the streets without chaperones. 'It feels like we've all been released from prison,' said one young person in Kabul, 'that the whole of Afghanistan has been released from prison.'"
Bush reiterated that the U.S. will do all it can to crush the terrorist networks in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.
"The terrorist who helped rule Afghanistan are found in dozens in dozens -- of countries around the world. And that is the reason this great nation, with our friends and allies, will not rest until we bring them all to justice.
The president accused the Taliban and the Afghanistan-based Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden of seeking to export a doctrine of subjugating women. He said a central goal of the terrorists was the oppression of women. Bush added:
"Women now come out of their homes form house arrest, able to walk the streets without chaperones. 'It feels like we've all been released from prison,' said one young person in Kabul, 'that the whole of Afghanistan has been released from prison.'"
Bush also thanked his wife, first lady Laura Bush, for being a strong proponent of women's rights in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.