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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Background Into Afghani History

Aired September 29, 2001 - 09:25   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: For more insight now on the political and military situation inside Afghanistan, we turn to our two guests here next. They first traveled to Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion.

Paul Fitzerald, Elizabeth Gould are freelance journalists who have covered the region on and off for about 20 years. They're both with us live this morning in Boston. Good morning to both of you.

PAUL FITZGERALD, FREELANCE WRITER/PRODUCER: Good morning, Bill.

ELIZABETH GOULD, FREELANCE WRITER/PRODUCER: Good morning.

HEMMER: Before we get to your pictures and hear your narrative about what you took almost 20 years ago, one of the main points you make is that Americans are poorly armed with knowledge about that country. What can we learn the most about Afghanistan from your experience?

FITZGERALD: What we would like to explain to people is that Afghanistan has been looking for a relationship with the United States now for at least 50 years. We think that military force at this point, going into Afghanistan, is probably very necessary. However, without nation-building and without getting together with the millions of Afghans that are out there here in the United States and in Europe, who are quite willing and able to set up institutions.

Then this is what needs to be done.

HEMMER: All right. Let's go tot he pictures. Elizabeth, why don't you start? Take us through -- what are we seeing in the first picture, back, I believe, in 1981?

GOULD: This is a -- this is the interview that Paul did with Barbrak Pamal (ph). This was the first interview. We had gotten permission together in it after the Western media had been kicked out. And it was a process that ended up taking us actually over a year. We had basically convinced them that they needed someone to get in there and at least begin to look and reveal something.

So that was the opportunity, and this was the first interview.

HEMMER: And here, gravestones? FITZGERALD: This is the back of -- backside of Kabul. These are gravestones being manufactured. This is a tombstone manufacturing facility.

HEMMER: What was significant about that back in 1981?

FITZGERALD: Well, there were plenty of gravestones being made. What's interesting about it is, is that these gravestones have no writing on them. Basically the shape of the gravestone is what determines who is there. So it's kind of an interesting metaphor in the sense that you always get your own specific shape and not your name, back in stone.

HEMMER: Back to the pictures now. I believe we have from 1983 a meeting with the imam there in Afghanistan. Do we have that picture?

(CROSSTALK)

GOULD: Not yet.

HEMMER: There we go.

FITZGERALD: That's Paul, that's myself, with three mullahs who were trying to explain what the Afghan government's position vis-a-vis Islam was at the time. There was, of course, conservative Islam in the mountains, but there was also another form of Islam in the cities. So this is something that hasn't been established, and people really don't understand.

HEMMER: Elizabeth, also, as we look at these pictures and see so many men, what was the situation with women at that time?

GOULD: Well, that's a great question, because the truth was that when we went there, we really had no idea about the women's issue. And that's what struck us, that this really was, even at that time, an issue about how Afghan women were going to be progressed into the 20th, 21st century. And that really seemed to be the split that was going on.

And so instead of it being cold war politics, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, when we got in there and realized that the Afghan culture was going through its own process that was completely independent of cold war politics, that's what really struck us.

Women were in many different aspects of social life, of cultural life, of working life. You could see in the city of Kabul women walking in any number of dress. And, of course, that seems to be the most popular focus, which really only is the beginning of the quality of life that Afghan women believe they had preceding 1978.

In fact, amazingly, Afghan women were given the right to vote in the 19 -- I think it was 1924, in...

HEMMER: Huh.

GOULD: Yes, exactly. And they didn't ask for it, they were given it. So I think there's just a lot of lack of knowledge and misunderstanding about what this culture is about.

HEMMER: Right. John -- Paul, the other point that's made is, we know in this country there are many different branches or divisions or Christianity. But you point out there are even more branches of Islam.

FITZGERALD: Well, there are numerous ways -- I mean, you have the basic division between Suni and Shi'ite within Islam. But you also have variations upon variations upon variations. And it's a -- the kind of Islam that the Taliban carry into Afghanistan at this point is alien to Afghanistan. Afghanistan's Islam was very tolerant. The people of Afghanistan were very tolerant.

This is essentially -- when we talk about the Taliban and we talk about their management of Afghanistan at this point, we really have to think of them as being an invading force, which goes back historically to Pakistan's fear of Afghanistan and Pakistan's hegemony in that particular region.

So there is -- there are nationalistic issues here as well as pan-Islamic issues. And unfortunately, Afghanistan has been the victim of that.

HEMMER: All right. We have seen your documentary, "Afghanistan: Between Three Worlds." Much appreciate sharing your thoughts and reflections over the past 20 years. Paul Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Gould, live with us in Boston.

FITZGERALD: Thank you.

HEMMER: Many thanks to both of you, OK?

FITZGERALD: Thanks for having us.

HEMMER: All right.

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