Human Rights Group Calls on State Department to Speed Humanitarian Assistance to Innocent Afghan War Victims

In Meeting with US Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, Global Exchange Demands Help for Civilian Casualties

Washington, DC‹Since last January, the international human rights organization Global Exchange has submitted to US officials 505 assistance claims from Afghan families who lost loved ones or who were injured during US bombing raids. Yet as months go by, none of these civilians has received any aid from the US government. In meetings this week with State Department officials including US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Global Exchange will demand that the US government speed humanitarian assistance to desperately suffering Afghans.

Global Exchange will hold a press conference in front of the US State Department, located at 23rd and C Streets, at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, July 17 to discuss the growing campaign to get humanitarian assistance for Afghan war victims. A member of Sept. 11 for Peaceful Tomorrows and Masuda Sultan, an Afghan American who lost 19 relatives during the bombings, will also be at the press conference.

“We have given the US government the names of more than 500 Afghan civilian families mistakenly hurt by the US military. Yet the government still hasn?t done anything to help these people,” says Medea Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange, who has traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan twice since the bombing campaign began last October. “The government should do a study of how many civilians were killed and injured, the circumstances that led to these casualties, and how such casualties can be avoided in the future. Then we should provide humanitarian assistance to those innocent victims and their families.”

Global Exchange and other organizations such as Sept. 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and the American Friends Service Committee have been campaigning for months to establish a US government fund to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent Afghan civilians harmed by the US military. The groups say an Afghan Victims Fund would provide badly needed help to people in dire conditions while improving the US’s image internationally.

Calls for creating an Afghan Victims Fund are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, among some Sept. 11 victims? families, and with the American media and political leaders in Afghanistan.

In May, 40 members of Congress signed a letter sponsored by Representatives Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) asking Congressional leaders to set aside $20 million in the upcoming budget for an Afghan Victims Fund. A June poll by Zogby International revealed that 69 percent of Americans agree the US should aid Afghan war victims as a gesture of goodwill. Editorials by The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Sacramento Bee have called for compensating Afghan victims. And Hamid Karzai, the interim leader of Afghanistan, also supports the plan. Karzai told a March Global Exchange delegation to Kabul: People have suffered, let us help them out of compassion.

For more information on the State Department press conference or other details about the Afghan Victims Fund Campaign, contact either Jason Mark at 415-558-9490 or email at jason@globalexchange.org; or Kelly Campbell at 415-518-1991 or email at kelly@peacefultomorrows.org.

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