Afghan Protesters Stage Second Demonstration
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 16, 2003
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN--For the second time in six weeks, Afghans with disabilities have protested the government's lack of attention to their needs.
Up to 80,000 Afghans experience physical disabilities stemming from the Soviet occupation from 1979 to 1989 and the country's civil war that followed. Many were permanently injured by land mines.
The crowd Tuesday included about 300 veterans, many missing arms and legs, who gathered outside the health ministry at the capital. Police kept the crowd from moving onto the presidential palace.
"We're here demanding our rights," Mohammad Akbar, whose leg had been amputated below his knee, told the Associated Press news agency. "We're not terrorists, we're sons of the nation who sacrificed and suffered."
The veterans want the new government of President Hamid Karzai to pay them their pensions, amounting to $2 US a month, that have been owed to them for the past several months. They also want the government to increase the amount of those pensions.
"It's nothing, we have to spend twice the stipend we get on transport," protester Gull Baba told the AFP news agency.
In addition, the demonstrators want the government to help them with subsidized housing, food coupons, and jobs.
"I'm an educated man. I'm not illiterate," said Mohammed Abdullah, a graduate of the former government's military academy. "Yet they won't give us the opportunity to make a decent life, so we live like beggars."
The protest ended when President Karzai promised to meet with the group's leader to discuss the veterans' concerns.
On December 9, a crowd of protesters, which included women and children, marched on the capital with similar demands. They warned the government that the demonstrations would continue until their demands were met.