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Clinton Criticizes Afghan Women's Rights Law

Hillary Clinton On Radio Free Afghanistan
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During her visit to RFE/RL's Prague headquarters, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat down for an exclusive interview with Radio Free Afghanistan’s director Akbar Ayazi and answered questions from listeners in Afghanistan.

(PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- April 5, 2009) During today's visit to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Prague headquarters, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she is "deeply concerned" about a controversial new Afghan law restricting the rights of Shiite women. She said its "harsh restrictions on women and children are truly not in keeping with the direction that Afghanistan has been going."
I hope the leadership will look carefully and determine that this law is not in the best interest of Afghanistan, particularly its women and children

"I have expressed my concerns and objections directly to [Afghan] President Hamid Karzai," Clinton said about the Shiite Personal Status Law, which, among other things, requires a woman to gain permission from her husband or father to leave the house, pursue an education, or hold a job. It also stipulates how often a husband is entitled to sex. "I hope the leadership will look carefully and determine that this law is not in the best of interests of Afghanistan, particularly its women and children."

In her first opportunity as Secretary of State to answer questions directly from the Afghan people, Clinton fielded calls from listeners during an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. The station - which broadcasts in Pashto and Dari - is Afghanistan's most popular radio network and reaches millions of listeners inside Afghanistan and along the Pakistani border. [full transcript]

Haji Habib, a self-identified Taliban sympathizer from Kabul, asked Secretary Clinton how the Obama administration expects to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world while "sending even more troops to Afghanistan to kill more innocent Afghan children and women and to destroy their homes."

"Adding these additional troops along with more civilian workers focusing on important areas for the people of Afghanistan, like agriculture, is a way for the US and other countries to be committed to Afghanistan's future," she said. "We do not expect to be there with troops [in the long term] - we expect to be there with the hand of friendship. But first we have to establish safety and security for the people."

Responding to a doctor in Kabul, who asked about civilian casualties caused by US and NATO forces, Clinton said she "deeply regrets the loss of civilian life, which is a tragedy wherever and however it occurs." She said U.S. policy, though, is "a result of the continuing violence perpetrated by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and their allies."

"They have absolutely no regard for life of any kind. We know that their continuing actions disrupt and destroy the fabric of society in Afghanistan. They must be stopped if the Afghan people are to live in peace and security."

Secretary Clinton accompanied President Obama to Prague for talks with Czech leaders, who currently chair the European Union presidency.
RFE/RL is smart power. Your steadfast commitment to your mission and the work you do is an essential part of everything America stands for.

After her interview with Radio Free Afghanistan, Clinton told a gathering of 300 RFE/RL journalists and staff that "RFE/RL is smart power."

"I know that you and your colleagues face harassment, intimidation, kidnapping, arrests and violence," she said. "But your steadfast commitment to your mission and the work you do is an essential part of everything America stands for."

About RFE/RL
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) provides uncensored news and information in 28 languages to 20 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Russia. With more than 400 full-time journalists, 750 freelancers, and 19 local bureaus, RFE/RL broadcasts to countries where a free press is either banned by the government of not fully established.