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"Osama" Screening for the members of the U.S. Senate
Remarks by Ambassador Said T. Jawad


05/06/2004

Honorable Senators,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

I would like to thank Senator Richard Lugar and Senator Ben Nelson for hosting this wonderful event, as well as the Security for a New Century. I want to specifically thank Libby Turpen, and Michael Phelan, here in the Senate, for their great effort in facilitating this screening.

Further, I would like to thank United Artist and MGM for providing the film and projection equipment to allow a theatre like experience for this award winning film.

Osama illustrates a look into Afghanistan’s dark recent past, and the struggles, of millions of Afghans, who suffered under terror, tyranny, and Taliban. It shows how long before September 11, the Afghan people were terrorized and victimized by Talibans and terrorists. The film also projects a bright hope for Afghanistan’s future and the revival of Afghan’s rich culture and art. “Osama” is the sad story of a 12-year-old girl under the Taliban, when work and personal freedom were denied to all Afghans, especially Afghan women.

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 Camera d’Or Special Mention at Canne, Award at 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, when he saw “Lawrence of Arabia”. Mr. Barmak completed the film using donated equipment, and a small budget of $50,000. Watching the movie, you will be astounded by the quality of Mr. Barmak’s work, which bursts through all barriers and resonate with beauty and excellence.

The actors of Osama have lived and experienced the pain that they portray on screen. Marina Golbahari, the young star is a poor girl from Kabul. Her black eyes and expressive face deeply connects the audience to the struggles and hardship of Afghan women and children.

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 5.2 million children that are going back to school, 35% are girls. We have rebuilt some of our schools and published millions of textbooks. But we still face many challenges. We need to build 2500 schools. To date, only 29% of our schools are housed in a building.

Thanks to your support, we have come a long way in two short years. Afghan women and children have experienced a significant improvement in their living conditions. Last year, we reached an economic growth rate of 30%, and continuing at 20% this year, according to the IMF. Today, an Afghan woman, Masuda Jalal, is campaigning to become the next President of Afghanistan in our upcoming national elections in September. Freedom of expression is restored. There are 270 newspapers and periodicals published in the country. Fourteen privately owned radio stations, including radios for women by women, are broadcasting throughout the country and thereby helping build a civil society in Afghanistan. Before the Soviets invasion, the war and the violence in Afghanistan, Afghan women were members of parliament, cabinet ministers and generals in the army. They are gradually reclaiming their rights.

But in order to help Afghan women remove the numerous obstacles they are facing and fully realize their rights and visions, we need your continued support and sustained engagement to build national institutions and to provide for jobs and education for women.

We are very grateful for the support provided to us by the US Congress. Senator Lugar, Senator Nelson and many other friends of Afghanistan have played a major role in rebuilding Afghanistan. Both senators have traveled to Afghanistan. Senator Lugar was instrumental in guiding US policy on Afghanistan, particularly in the current post-Taliban era. He worked closely with his colleagues Senator Biden and Senator Hagel on developing the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act, signed into law in late 2002. Senator Nelson traveled to Afghanistan shortly after the establishment of the new government in Afghanistan and brought with him school supplies for Afghan children.

By screening this beautiful and thought provoking film today, you, once again, have reaffirmed your commitment to our country. We appreciate it very much. We must keep Afghanistan on the spotlight.

Thank you.