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Call for US Reparations to Afghan Civilian Bombing Victims - 2002-02-09

A young Afghan-American woman is joining a human rights group in urging the U.S. government to provide reparations to families who lost relatives in the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan.

Masuda Sultan lost 19 members of her extended family when an errant U.S. bomb hit a family farm outside Kandahar, Afghanistan, last month. Together with the San Francisco-based group "Global Exchange", she is asking the U.S. government for $20 million in reparations for the many Afghan families who have suffered losses similar to hers. "We are calling on the government to set aside some funds, whether they raise it, whether they earmark it, or take it from funds already going there, and to at least acknowledge that those people were innocent, that it was a mistake," she says. "And that this war wasn't against them."

Independent studies estimate the number of civilians killed in the bombing campaign at somewhere between 1,000 and 4,000. The U.S. government has acknowledged civilian casualties, but has not provided an approximate number.

At the age of five, Ms. Sultan moved to the United States with her family. On a visit to her homeland in August, her first since leaving, she was disturbed by conditions there, and determined to improve them. Upon her return to America, she founded the Young Afghan World Alliance. "I saw some really unbelievable things in August, under the Taliban and also because of all of the war that had gone on, and was motivated to take action then. Among our goals are humanitarian projects. Ultimately, we'd like to build a school in Kandahar dedicated to students who show potential, and take them from the public school system and offer them a world class education," she says.

Ms. Sultan went back to Afghanistan in January to survey the ruins of her family's farm. A documentary based on her recent experiences there will air on U.S. television.

She says she and Global Exchange have already approached several members of congress with their proposal on reparations, and it has been received warmly.