Press Advisory: American Women’s Peace and Education Delegation Reports on Their Findings
Thursday, March 31, 2022, 9:30 a.m.
Balkh Hall, Ground Floor, Intercontinental Hotel, Kabul
Contact: Azizullah Saeedi, 93-795228538 (WhatsApp)
An American Women’s Peace and Education Delegation visiting Kabul for the past week will hold an important press conference on Thursday at 9:30am at the Intercontinental Hotel. They will talk about their efforts to unfreeze the Afghan funds in U.S. banks and the overwhelming support they heard during the week for all Afghan girls to have access to education.
“While the world attention has turned to the crisis in Ukraine, we felt it was critical to bring attention to the continued plight of the Afghan people by bringing a group of prominent American women,” says Masuda Sultan, an Afghan-American who organized the delegation.
The delegates [biographies below] have deep ties to Afghanistan, and several of them are faith leaders. They are Rev Chloe Breyer, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of NY; Daisy Khan, founder Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality; Sunita Viswanath, founder Hindus for Human Rights and co-founder of one of Afghanistan’s largest women’s organizations; Ruth Messinger, a Jewish American human rights advocate; Masuda Sultan, an Afghan-American women’s rights activist who spearheads Unfreeze Afghanistan; Kelly Campbell, a member of 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows; and Medea Benjamin, author, feminist, pacifist and co-founder of the women’s peace organization CODEPINK.
Many members of the group are involved with Unfreeze Afghanistan, an organization committed to releasing aid to the country and central reserves back to the Afghan Central Bank (DAB) because this money belongs to the Afghan people.
The delegates have visited local NGOs, a clinic, an orphanage and schools; met with various local leaders and advocated for expanding education for all girls and for additional humanitarian aid dollars to be made available in a country with severe unmet needs. They have met with government officials and Central Bank representatives to advance their causes.
The delegates will share stories of hope and challenge that they have heard during the week and bear witness to post-war conditions on the ground, especially for women and children moving forward in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Masuda Sultan is a co-founder of Unfreeze Afghanistan. She is an Afghan-American women’s rights activist and entrepreneur who has been working for over 20 years in support of women and girls in education, vocational training and protection from violence. In 2008, Ms. Sultan was appointed as an advisor to the Ministry of Finance in Afghanistan. She is a co-founder of All in Peace, a coalition of organizations dedicated to bringing the longest war in American history to a peaceful end. Ms. Sultan currently serves on the Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy Advisory Committee and is a member of the US-Afghan Women’s Council. Her memoir, My War at Home, was published in early 2006 by Simon & Schuster. She has an MPA from Harvard University.
Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of the foreign policy advocacy group Global Exchange and the women-led peace group CODEPINK. She is a cofounder of the advocacy organization Unfreeze Afghanistan. She has been active around Afghanistan for 20 years, including seeking compensation for Afghan war victims, raising funds for girls’ schools and advocating for an end to the U.S. military intervention.
“I learned so much on the delegation about the deep desire of Afghan girls to go to school and take their rightful place in society. I also learned more about the impact of the U.S. policy of freezing the Central Bank funds, and feel more committed than ever to advocate for unfreezing the funds upon our return.”
Kelly Campbell is a co-founder of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and traveled to Afghanistan in January, 2002 with other 9/11 family members to call attention to Afghan civilian casualties. She is co-chair of the group’s Afghanistan committee which is currently focused on ensuring that all the Afghan Central Bank funds are returned to the Afghan people where they belong and not held for the purpose of settling lawsuits by 9/11 family members.
“Twenty years ago, when I traveled to Afghanistan, I met girls who were so excited to be in school for the first time. I have returned to witness the situation for Afghan women and girls today and see how we in the international community can best support them.”
Sunita Viswanath is a cofounder and former board member of the 21 year old women’s organization Women for Afghan Women. She is a progressive Hindu faith leader. She is an advisory member of the advocacy organization Unfreeze Afghanistan.
“I am part of this women’s peace and education delegation in order to stand witness to the brave grassroots efforts in present day Afghanistan for women and girls’ rights and wellbeing and their access to education, and to participate in humanitarian aid at this time of economic crisis and near famine.”
Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer is Executive Director of The Interfaith Center of New York, an organization that works to overcome prejudice and violence by activating the power of the city’s grassroots religious leaders. Breyer first went to Afghanistan in 2003 for an interfaith effort to rebuild a bombed mosque. She returned multiple times as a board member of Afghans4 Tomorrow to support schools and a health clinic in Wardak Province. An Episcopal priest in the Diocese of New York, Breyer assists at St. Philip’s Church in Harlem. Her doctoral work was in Islamophobia and Christian Peacemaking, and she received her Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from Union Theological Seminary in 2017.
“After first going to Afghanistan in 2003 as part of an interfaith effort to rebuild a bombed mosque north of Kabul and then returning to provide ongoing support for a girls and boys school and a health clinic, I am glad to return once again. I share the conviction with other members of this delegation that one measure of peace in Afghanistan and around the world is how many girls are able to attend school.”
Ruth Messinger is the former President and inaugural Global Ambassador of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and was formerly part of the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group. Ruth is also currently doing domestic social justice work at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan. Ruth is also an icon in New York politics: she served as a NY City Council member and then as Manhattan Borough President.
“My connection to Afghanistan goes back to 1998 and my early days at American Jewish World Service when we worked with Dr. Sakena Yacoobi and the Afghan Institute of Learning to provide support for schools that continued to provide girls’ education despite the ban. I have continued to have an active interest in the issues for women and girls, worked with several in this delegation on the serious problem of getting teachers and health care workers paid and on the challenge of helping Afghans who are seeking to leave the country. I am tremendously concerned now with the threats of famine and deteriorating health care and think it is critical to visit, help on the ground and bring information back to the US to do informed advocacy.”
Daisy Khan is a Muslim campaigner, reformer, and executive director of the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality, a women-led organization committed to peacebuilding, equality, and justice for Muslims around the world.
Lucy Martens has followed lives and captured voices from all corners of the world. As a cinematographer, director and editor of documentaries and NGO films, her stories have been published on BBC Storyville, BBC 3, PBS, ARTE, CNN, SWR, UNHCR, World Food Program and National Geographic Learning. The feature-length documentary, “Out of the Ashes – the rise of the Afghan cricket team” (BBC Storyville) was co-produced by Sam Mendes and won a 2011 Grierson Award. She is part of Ripple Effect Images, a nonprofit collective of world-class storytellers whose work supports aid groups that empower women and children.
She is a co-founder of Le Ciel Foundation, a charity based in London, whose mission it to connect people back to nature and to bridge our ancestral wisdom with the best of modern society.
She first traveled to Afghanistan in 2006, coming in and out of the country for years and eventually moved there full time from 2010-2012, shooting films mostly around women’s issues, such as the PBS series “Women, War & Peace”. She is now returning to Afghanistan to film with Masuda Sultan and the Women’s Peace and Education Delegation.