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Afghan women make call for peace

December 12, 2007 (BBC): Women across Afghanistan have been holding meetings to call for peace in their country.

Organisers say that at least 1,000 women turned out to hold prayer meetings in six main provinces and share their experiences.

The event - called the Women's National Peace Prayer - was held in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, and at other locations across the country.

Such events are highly unusual in war-torn Afghanistan.

The country remains deeply conservative and patriarchal, particularly in the south.

When several hundred women were allowed to pray for peace publicly in Kandahar earlier this year, it was said to be the first event of its kind.

Now, with violence spreading across the country, women from five other provinces have joined those in Kandahar to raise their voices for peace.

"This is very unusual," said Rangina Hamidi one of the organisers, who argues that the event shows the unity of Afghan women.

"I don't think this has happened in the history of Afghanistan - first of all the fact that six different provinces organised themselves together, for no purpose other than peace.

"They made the same loud cry - that women are sick and tired of killing and the deaths that come."

'Risking their lives'

Organisers say some Afghan women were clearly worried about getting involved in such events.

The Kandahar mother whose idea sparked these meetings had asked that her name not be revealed because her family would not approve.

Rangina Hamidi said those attending the event in the violence-torn province of Kandahar were particularly happy and relieved that their public meeting passed off without threats or violence.

"They were indeed risking their lives," she said, because we really did not know how we would be received.

"And to be honest, we hadn't informed any of the security forces to protect us. We wanted to be as natural as possible.

"So when women take such an action on themselves, they felt proud of themselves and felt proud of their sisters."

Organisers say that Wednesday's meetings marked the beginning of a movement.

The goal now is to spread such events across all 34 provinces.