Amnesty International issued an open letter to President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai at their "Shadow Summit" Saturday urging both leaders to safeguard women's rights.
Forty-six people signed the open letter, including Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal and Ms. magazine founder Gloria Steinem. Other signatories include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; Sima Samar, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission; Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams and Shiriin Ebadi; former Defense Secretary William Cohen; former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad; "The Kite Runner" author Khaled Hosseini; and actress Meryl Streep.
In part, the open letter (see PDF) states, "As champions of women's rights who are dedicated to protecting women's human rights, we are deeply concerned that the significant gains made by women and girls in Afghanistan may be threatened as U.S. and allied troops leave the country. We urge you to adopt a comprehensive action plan to guarantee that the clock is not turned back on a decade of strides in education, health, security and employment for women and girls. At stake is the future of Afghanistan, after billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives have been sacrificed. We believe if women's progress cannot be sustained, then Afghan society will fail."
The "Shadow Summit" in Chicago aimed to emphasize to NATO Summit leaders that Afghan women's and girls' needs must be front and center in all planning. "Adequate funding from NATO countries is essential for security and Afghan women's and girls' educational, health care, and economic programs. Afghan women's leaders must be represented in all the planning and decision-making," commented Eleanor Smeal, president of the FMF, which has led a US Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls for the past 15 years.