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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: When it comes to the subject of Afghanistan, many people write as if Afghans never knew democracy or freedom. I am writing you today because I knew a very different Afghanistan. In fact, my husband helped to write Afghanistan's constitution in 1964, which included universal suffrage, an equal rights amendment for women (including provisions for equal pay), and a separate judiciary. Women were members of Afghanistan's parliament; some were judges.

I am deeply pained to think that many people view Afghans as illiterate refugees who look different and live differently than Americans, when in fact, we have many things in common. For example, I attended high school in Afghanistan, played on a sports team after school and worked outside the home.

Unfortunately, the Taliban erased this from the global community's mind in only five short years. They burned the books, banned music, and forbade Afghans from congregating in twos or threes. People now think that Afghans have always lived this way -- when in reality the Taliban came into our country and took our liberties and freedoms away. The Taliban are regarded by many Afghans as an occupying force that does not respect the Afghan culture or way of life.

I am thankful for the help of groups here in the United States, such as the Feminist Majority Foundation, who have worked tirelessly to educate the American public about the atrocities committed by the Taliban and to urge the U.S. government to stop the human rights abuses against the Afghan people, particularly women and girls. I hope that we will soon see our constitution returned to its rightful place in Afghan society. -- SARA AMIRYAR

DEAR SARA: I join you in that hope.

P.S. When the subject of the Taliban's abuse of women in Afghanistan first appeared in this column, some people wondered why I would print a letter about women in a country so far from our own. As we now know, a regime that would perpetrate such flagrant human rights abuses against half its population is capable of supporting terrorism and murder anywhere. Those interested in participating in the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid may call 1-888-WE-WOMEN (1-888-939-6636) or visit www.helpafghanwomen.com.

DEAR ABBY: I am a retired family physician. Recently I was traveling on the interstate highway when I observed an auto accident. A policeman was as near as I, so we both got to the wreck at the same time.

It turned out my medical services weren't needed. However, the policeman's first direction to the driver was to turn off the ignition. Everyone should know about this. Stopping sparks that might start a fire is crucial. The people in the vehicle were wearing seat belts. It would be terrible to have one's life saved by a seat belt, only to lose it in a fire.

Please share this with your readers. -- FRANK B. ADAMS JR., M.D., SENECA, S.C.

DEAR DR. ADAMS: Gladly. Your suggestion is a sensible one. People who have just had an auto accident are often so shocked and distracted that they don't think to do the obvious.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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