Speaker: Help for Afghan people is crucial

Although some lives have improved, others still need help.
& lt;a href=mailto:viviano@vindy.com & gt;By JoANNE VIVIANO & lt;/a & gt;
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Afghan boy stared over the shoulder of Dr. Charles Norchi as he spoke to a group at Youngstown State University.
The slide show image featured his dark eyes under dark hair. A cheek rested against the machine gun held with its muzzle over his shoulder.
Perhaps, Norchi said, children like this would not be fighting if there had been a library from which they could borrow books to help them learn about Thomas Jefferson or George Washington.
Perhaps, he said, that knowledge might have prevented children from being taught in Taliban madrasas religious schools. Perhaps financial aid to Afghanistan in the 1990s would have prevented what happened in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
Norchi spoke on "Afghanistan After the Taliban" at YSU on Monday as the 2003 Alice Budge Peace Studies Speaker. The event was sponsored by the YSU Peace & amp; Conflict Studies Program, Islamic Studies Center and Department of Political Science.
Professor in-residence
Norchi, a professor-in-residence at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, specializes in international legal and human-rights issues and worked as a journalist in Afghanistan.
He is a contributing author of "Beyond Reconstruction in Afghanistan" and editor of "Afghanistan: An Essential Fieldguide."
The Taliban was a group that planned to restore order and make Afghanistan safe during two decades of Soviet Union occupation and civil war. They taught in the madrasas in refugee camps along the Pakistani border.
The Taliban overtook Kandahar, near the Pakistan border, in 1994.
Two years later, they surrounded capital city Kabul, nearly beat to death then-president Najibullah, castrated him and dragged him around the walls of the palace, Norchi said. He was then killed and his body hung from the only traffic light in the city, along with the bloodied body of his brother.
Taliban barred women from the work force, closed girls' schools and colleges and banned television, soccer, chess and kite-flying, Norchi said. Lashings, amputations and executions were held Fridays in the city's soccer stadium.
Now, with the Taliban out of power, Afghans are free to dress as they please and to fly kites. Children are still hospitalized, however -- their limbs amputated because they don't see the land mines strewn throughout the country or they think they are playthings.
What's needed
Norchi said refugee camps remain a reality and only a drop has been pledged to help a nation that needs $15 billion, according to estimates by World Bank organizations.
As the Afghans begin to write a constitution, that aid -- from the international community -- is crucial to the success of Afghan communities where widowed women need assistance and children trained by the Taliban need help reintegrating into Afghan society.
Norchi said the United Nations Human Rights Commission has recommended other needs: improved security; full support of disarmament; more resources to Afghanistan's human rights commission; participation by all segments of the population in drafting the constitutional document.
In the 1990s, Norchi said, the United States eliminated libraries it had established all over the world, including one in the Pakistan where Afghans could borrow books -- something otherwise unheard of.
"It's very important that we continue to be concerned about people who live in places like that," Norchi said, adding that an Afghan woman working with a humanitarian agency recently told him that, yes, her life is much better today than a year ago.
"I think our collective success is going to depend on continuing responses like that," he said.