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MORNINGS WITH PAULA ZAHN

What Does Future Hold for Afghan Women?

Aired November 29, 2001 - 07:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. For the first time since the Taliban took control of Kabul five years ago, Afghan women are again able to show their faces in public. The fall of the Taliban has freed women to shed their burkas, lifting the veil that made them all but invisible. But what does the future hold for Afghan women?

Joining us now from Capitol Hill New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton along with her, an Afghan woman named Farida. Farida left Kabul just as the Taliban came to power. Her husband remains there in hiding. Welcome to both of you, delighted to have you with us.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, (D), NEW YORK: Thank you Paula.

ZAHN: So Senator, before we talk with Farida directly, I have a question for you. We have had a number of Afghan women on the air over the last several weeks who have basically accused the Northern Alliance men of being animals and they say they don't treat women all that differently from the Taliban. How concerned are you about the fate of women in this transition period as a government is formed?

CLINTON: Paula, I'm very concerned. I think one of the reasons we're holding this hearing today to hear from Afghani women like Farida is to make sure their voices are heard and one of their experiences is that the Northern Alliance was not a stable governing regime and in fact, there were many abuses of power and crimes against women and others committed during that time period. Then the Taliban came along, partly as a reaction to try to impose law and order and of course went so far that they oppressed half of the Afghani people.

We want to have a stable situation, a peaceful one, with the kind of security that will enable women to go about their daily lives, to resume in their positions in the workplace, to be part of whatever transitional government takes place. But in order to do that, we have to have a stable regime. I'm pleased that in Bonn they seem to be making some progress, and there are women there as participants and observers.

But I think it's only right that the Afghani women speak for themselves after having been silenced so long, first by fear because of lawlessness and then second, by the Taliban's repressive regime which kept them basically without a voice.

ZAHN: Farida, you have been in America for a year now. You have political asylum. Do you plan to return home or are you still afraid? FARIDA: Sure, I plan to go back to Afghanistan, but first of all to make sure that there is peace and stability and security and (INAUDIBLE) security (INAUDIBLE) guaranteed there. I'm sure every single Afghan will contribute and they want to participate in rebuilding and reconstruction of Afghanistan.

ZAHN: And what do you believe will be the key to a better life for Afghan women?

FARIDA: I think first of all that to make sure that and all that broad-based government is established once in Afghanistan and to have the participation of all groups and all ethnic groups and representative of all side of Afghanistan and also women to play a key role in establishment of government in Afghanistan.

ZAHN: Farida, what do you think might have happened to you if you hadn't sought political asylum, if you had stayed in Afghanistan during the Taliban era?

FARIDA: Obviously if I was there, I would have been killed. It was not just myself, my family and especially my children that I have hope for their future to be builder of Afghanistan and their future (INAUDIBLE) Afghanistan and the next generation that we want them to have peaceful life and security at to what they want to wish to achieve in their life and to provide them. So this is my hope that once we will get this.

CLINTON: You know Paula, one of the things that we're going to be talking about at the panel today with all of the senators is how so many of these women were really forced to leave Afghanistan. They had to seek refuge. They crossed the border, usually into Pakistan, but in Farida's case and the case of so many others, they kept going back often at great personal danger.

The reason you don't know her last name is because her husband is still in hiding. We want the individual voices of these women to really communicate to Americans how difficult this has been, but how much hope and resilience they have and how willing they are to play their part in building a peaceful, stable future for Afghanistan.

ZAHN: And Senator I know this is an issue you have cared deeply about for years. As you know First Lady Laura Bush got a great deal of credit for - excuse me I'm losing my voice here - doing a radio address focusing in on the plight of Afghan women two weekends ago. As you look back at your time as First Lady, do you think if there was anything more you could have done to focus America's attention on the plight of these women?

CLINTON: Well I'm really grateful that Mrs. Bush has taken such a strong leadership role in speaking out on behalf of Afghani women and their rights and the role that they must play in the future. I spoke with her yesterday and I was delighted that these women were able to go to the White House through the Vital Voices partnership, which has sponsored their visit here to meet her personally and to sit and talk with her. You know during the Clinton administration, we took some very strong stands. We refused to recognize the Taliban. I and Secretary Albright and others were very vocal in saying that you can not recognize a regime that basically has imposed an apartheid (ph) system on half their population, which has attempted to deny women all their rights. That goes in the face of universal principles of what we believe human rights are - certainly was absolutely contrary to what I believe and as I stated in Beijing about women's rights being human rights, I think we have seen a lot of progress in our understanding of what the women in Afghanistan suffered.

But I think now is the real opportunity for us to stand with these women to provide the education and health care and other services that they're going to need and to recognize that we can't walk away from Afghanistan again as we did more than 10 years ago. We have to be willing to support those brave Afghan men and women who are willing to stand against the Taliban, but also against disorder, criminal behavior, violence in order to build a peaceful society.

ZAHN: Senator Clinton, Farida, thank you both for filling us in on the hearings that come later today and we'd love to have the two of you back once a former government is in place and maybe to gauge your reaction to how you think women are represented in that government.

Thank you both for your time this morning. Good luck at your hearing.

CLINTON: Thank you Paula.

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