S30: 900 gather to support women of Afghanistan

By Julissa McKinnon

HAYWARD -- Speakers calling for "justice not vengeance" in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 got an enthusiastic response Sunday afternoon at a gathering to rally support for Afghan women and children. More than 900 people took part in "Women United for Peace: A Call from the Afghan Women's Community," at the Chabot College Performing Arts Center.

Sponsored by the Afghan Women's Association International and Global Exchange, the event raised money to help feed and cloth widows in Afghanistan and to help fund a homefront anti-hate campaign.

Religious leaders, musicians, and representatives of the Afghan- and Asian-American communities called for greater understanding of the human rights abuses rampant in Afghanistan.

Speakers such as Hala Hijazi, of the Islamic Society of San Francisco said a full-scale war against Afghanistan would inflict more suffering without ending the terrorist problem.

"I do support bombing Afghanistan -- with bombs of water, food, vaccines, clothes," Hijazi said.

Sister Stella Goodpasture of St. John's Church in El Cerrito said now that the first waves of shock are subsiding after the terrorist assault, it is a time for national introspection.

"We must look back, look around, look ahead. There have been festering problems, acts of military intervention, economic policy, global trade policy that cause loss and grief in the lives of so many brothers and sisters in other countries," Goodpasture said.

Other leaders of the religious community prayed for peace. Julia Caplan and Rebecca Kaplan of the Jewish Youth for Community Action, performed an ancient Hebrew ritual, the blowing of the shofar -- a ram's horn -- meant
to wake up the heart in Jewish tradition.

Still others spoke about understanding the roots of terrorism. Afghan writer, Tamim Ansary, author of the recently mass-circulated e-mail "Bomb Afghanistan Back to the Stone Age? It's Been Done," said the Taliban regime followed a long legacy of injustice and war in Afghanistan.

"The generation that has come to power now had a childhood you wouldn't wish on your enemy, and they grew into the emotionally disturbed people they are today," Ansary said.

If we bomb now how will these children grow up? Will they be healthy and full of self-esteem? That's why we can't wait for the next generation to change the future, the time is now.

Several others spoke against hate crimes committed against Arab-Americans in recent weeks.

Saif and Angelica Ataya, shopkeepers of a grocery store in San Francisco's Noe Valley, said their storefront was repeatedly vandalized with the graffitti, "Arab Go Home." But Saif Ataya said this message is all too ironic.

"People have told me and my wife 'Arabs go home,' but I can't go home. My home is the U.S, San Francisco," he said.

Ataya said his most painful moment, though, was when he learned about his 5-year-old daughter's new hardships at school.

"She asked me 'Daddy, what's terrorist?' I tried to explain the best I could, and then she asked me 'Why kids at school call me terrorist?'"

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