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"Osama" Screening at the Motion Picture Association of America
Remarks by Ambassador Said T. Jawad


Washington, DC
02/12/2004

Thank you Senator Clinton for the kind introduction. I would like to thank you for hosting this wonderful event.

Senator Clinton,
Senator Hutchinson,
(Secretary Elaine Chao),
Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky,
Mr. Chris McGurk,

Distinguished guests:

Tonight, we will experience for one hour what Afghan girls experienced for five years. Osama illustrates a look into Afghanistan’s dark recent past, and the struggles, hopes and dreams of millions of Afghans who suffered under terror, tyranny, and Taliban. It also projects a bright hope for Afghanistan’s future and the revival of rich Afghan culture and art. Even though Osama was the first film produced and filmed in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in 1996, it has received significant international recognition, including the Camera d’Or Special Mention at Cannes, the London Film Festival, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Feature.

The film is directed by Mr. Siddik Barmak, an Afghan who dreamed of making films since he was 5 years old when he saw Lawrence of Arabia at a Kabul theatre. Mr. Barmak completed the film using donated equipment and a small budget.

The actors of Osama have lived and experienced the pain that they portray on screen. Marina Golbahari, the young star was a street beggar in Kabul. Marina, like many other Afghan girls, could not read or write, but her eyes and expressive face connects audiences to the determination, struggles and hardship of Afghan women and children. Some have wondered about the title of “Osama” for this film. The simple answer is that this name, long before September 11, has terrorized and victimized the Afghan people.

Today, the Afghan girls have returned to school in record number, and women have gained equal rights and opportunities under our new constitution. Out of 4 million children that are going back to school, 42% are girls. We have come a long way in two short years; but in order to help Afghan women realize their rights and visions, we need the continued support and sustained engagement of the United States of America. We must keep Afghanistan in the spotlight. Senator Clinton and Senator Hutchison;

By screening this film today, you once again, have reaffirmed your commitment to our country. We appreciate it very much. You have been strong supporters of Afghan women’s rights. The Vital Voices Initiative you started in 1997 has implemented vital programs that have helped Afghan women in the areas of political leadership and economic empowerment. Senator Clinton, you renewed your commitment to peace and stability in Afghanistan by spending your Thanksgiving in my native hometown of Kandahr with the brave US solders, who are fighting to make Afghanistan, the region, and the world a safer place. They are fighting alongside their Afghan friends to make sure that the Afghan people never again become hostages and victims of Osama Bin Laden.

We remember your words in a Time article published shortly after September 11. I quote: “As we continue the hard work of rooting out the …Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorism, we must begin the hard work of nurturing the hope and planting the seeds of a governing system that will allow all the people of Afghanistan to dream of a better life for their children, girls and boys alike.” With the help of the United States and the international community, Afghanistan has planted those seeds; they are taking strong roots and growing beautifully. Many dreams are coming true with our new constitution.

Thank you.