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"OSAMA" Screening at Georgetown University
Remarks by Ambassador Said T. Jawad


02/19/2004

First, I would like to thank President Jack DeGoia and Dean Jane McCauliffe for once again partnering with our Embassy and making this evening possible. And what better venue than the Bunn Intercultural Center to bring this important cause to light,

I would also like to thank United Artists and MGM for allowing us to show this powerful film to such a large audience,

And MPAA for their assistance with facilitating this event (Mr. Valenti might be there).

Tonight, you will experience for an hour and a half what Afghan women and children experienced for five long years under the brutal Taliban regime.

The film “Osama” represents a look into Afghanistan’s dark past and the struggles of millions of people who suffered under the Taliban. It poignantly illustrates how Afghans were victimized by terrorists and the Taliban. The heartbreaking crimes committed against women and children that are portrayed in this movie have nothing to do with culture or religion. In fact, one of the first atrocities committed by terrorists was the destruction of Afghan culture and national identity. This film projects hope for the revival of Afghanistan’s rich cultural and artistic traditions.

Having been the first film produced and shot on location in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in 1996, “Osama” has received international recognition. The film earned the Camera d’Or Special Mention for Best First Feature at Cannes last year, Best First Feature at the London Film Festival, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film.

“Osama” is based on the true story of a young Afghan girl who was forced to disguise herself as a boy to find a job and help earn money for her family. In one moving scene, life becomes so unbearable for the women that they wished God had never created women at all.

Today, Afghan women are proud to be the main force behind rebuilding the country. The women who two years ago seemed so helpless; two months ago were actively debating the future of Afghanistan at the Constitutional Loya Jirga. The end result was the adoption of a Constitution that enshrines equal rights for women and men, and mandates that at least 25 percent of parliamentary seats must be held by women.

Afghan girls once again have the right to an education. Close to half of the 4 million children currently enrolled in school are girls. However, women still face many challenges. Afghanistan needs continued support and sustained engagement by the international community to overcome these challenges and afford women all the opportunities they so richly deserve.

This emotionally evocative film is directed by Siddik Barmak, an Afghan who dreamed of making films since the age of five when he saw “Lawrence of Arabia” at a Kabul theatre. He grew up in Afghanistan, but was forced to leave his country many times. The Taliban ransacked his house and destroyed his most precious possession: an old 8 mm camera. Many dreams are coming true in today’s Afghanistan. Armed with only a small budget and donated equipment, Mr. Barmak managed to complete this powerful film.

The actors in the film are real. They experienced first-hand, the pain and hardships that they portray on screen. Marina Golbahari, the young star who delivers an amazing performance, was a street beggar in Kabul when Mr. Barmak saw her and was captured by her haunting eyes.

Her life has changed now. In a recent interview, the once sad, illiterate and shy Marina had blossomed into a self-confident, happy teenager with dreams of making movies and world travel, and above all education. She is a symbol of her generation in Afghanistan. There are millions of girls like her in today’s Afghanistan that are leaving the nightmares of the war and violence behind them and staring a bright journey full of dream into a peaceful and prosperous future.

Together, we have to make sure that their dreams and visions are realized and no Afghan girl, no human being, would ever have to suffer the agony that she went through.

Thank you.

And now Arzo Mansury from our Embassy will read a prepared statement from the visionary director of the film, Mr. Seddiq Barmak.