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U.S. STRIKES BACK

Afghan Emigres Want a Role in Rebuilding

Planning: Coalition of 400 in California hopes to help form a Muslim democracy after the Taliban is overthrown.

October 14, 2001|ERIC BAILEY and NITA LELYVELD | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Said Tayeb Jawad, a 43-year-old writer and commentator who left Afghanistan in 1979 after graduating from law school at Kabul University, worries that the United Nations and Afghanistan's neighbors, including Pakistan and Iran, may end up having too big a say in determining the country's future.

"They're leaving the Afghan people out," he said.

The younger generation also wants to help. Khaleda Atta, a 22-year-old bank account executive, left Afghanistan as an infant. But she said she might go back if stability returned, taking with her what she has learned in America.

"The judiciary, democracy, voting, gender equality--those are great strengths in the American system," she said. "If it can be intertwined with Afghan culture, it could be so beautiful."

Momand of the Afghan Coalition believes that more than 10,000 expatriates will ultimately return to Afghanistan to help.

But a former Kabul University professor living on the East Coast, who asked that his name not be used because of the tense divisions among Afghans these days, doesn't believe such words.

Afghan Americans have grown accustomed to freedoms and comforts--from 24-hour electricity to TV to free expression--that will be scarce in the early days and months of any rebuilding effort in Afghanistan, he said.

"Let them all go," he added. "In a week, they'll be coming back here."

Barna Karimi, a Los Angeles rug store owner who fled Afghanistan seven years ago, has joined with Taher Hashemi, a former political science professor at Kabul University now living in Thousand Oaks, to draft a petition to President Bush and the exiled king, who lives near Rome. It calls for representatives from all of Afghanistan's ethnic groups to have a hand in ruling the nation after the Taliban.

"They're not going to come listen to us," Karimi said. "It's our job that we make them listen to us. We call them. We bug them. Otherwise, they won't."

But not everyone is so confident that lobbying will make a difference.

Sayed K. Hashemeyan, a former professor at Kabul University who now publishes the expatriate Afghan Mirror, said he sent a letter to the White House on Sept. 16 warning that a bombing campaign would not hurt the Taliban but simply strengthen civilian allegiance to the regime.

Hashemeyan said no one from the administration acknowledged his letter.

*

Times staff writers Robin Wright in Washington and Jessica Garrison in Orange County contributed to this report.

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