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Cablegate: Women Gather Publicly to Pray for Peace

VZCZCXRO4778
OO RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #4152 3521238
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 181238Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1993
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4321
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS KABUL 004152

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA.FO DAS CAMP, SCA/A, G/IWI
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR KIMMETT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM MOPS AF
SUBJECT: WOMEN GATHER PUBLICLY TO PRAY FOR PEACE


1. (U) On December 12, mostly unidentified organizers
coordinated separate public gatherings of Afghan women in six
cities across the provinces of Balkh, Ghazni, Helmand, Herat,
Kabul and Kandahar to pray for "an end to war and
destruction." According to media and eyewitness reports, the
women gathered at mosques and shrines to pray and recite
verses of the Koran. The gatherings numbered in the hundreds
at each site. Media reports estimated total participants
across the country at about 1,000. Between sessions of
formal prayer, individual women shared publicly stories about
family members they had lost to the conflict and described
how violence had changed their lives.

2. (SBU) The prayer gatherings, organizers have declined to
be named for fear of retaliation. The provincial director of
the Women's Affairs Ministry in Balkh province told us
Saifura Niyazi, a member of parliament from Balkh, had helped
organize the gathering in that province. Reportedly, the
prayer gatherings in insurgent-plagued Kandahar and Helmand
were particularly well attended. The gatherings coincided
with the multi-day Afghan-ISAF drive to recapture Musa Qala
district in northern Helmand province from the Taliban;
however, the women did not seem to be protesting or reacting
to that military operation.

3. (SBU) Mass public gatherings of women are unusual in
Afghanistan. Women maintain very low profiles, especially in
the Pashtun-dominated southern provinces. Nevertheless, on
June 14, in what appears to have been the first event of this
type, several hundred Afghan women and girls, accompanied by
male relative chaperones, gathered at the Shrine of the
Prophet in Kandahar, a conservative mosque that is normally
closed to women. The shrine,s mullah allowed the women to
pray collectively for peace through the mosque,s public
address system and individually recite verses from the Koran.
Neither the June 14 event nor the much larger December 12
gatherings were publicized in advance, possibly because of
security concerns.

4. (SBU) Comment: The December 12 prayer gatherings seemed
to be apolitical pleas for peace. The women, apparently, did
not take the opportunity to blame either ISAF or the
insurgents for the war. The media relayed no complaints
about collateral civilian casualties due to ISAF military
operations. If the prayer gatherings, participants escape
retaliation, we would not be surprised to see a repetition of
the event on a larger scale.
WOOD

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