Mr. Speaker, this week parliamentarians and government ministers hosted one of the most courageous and compelling heroines of our day in the person of Dr. Massouda Jalal, distinguished physician, the former minister of women's affairs and the first woman to run for president of Afghanistan.
Dr. Jalal's testimony before the foreign affairs committee's Subcommittee on International Human Rights was clear: that we are witnessing in Afghanistan a regression from the initial progress at the beginning of this decade; that a developing extremism is driving a culture of fear amidst a culture of impugnity; that, in a word, the empowerment of women can underpin democracy and freedom and usher in a culture of peace. As Dr. Jalal herself put it:
Women's rights are the key to fighting dictatorship and extremism, militarization and warlordism. Women are the key to the future.
Dr. Jalal's courage and strength should inspire us all and underpin our mission in Afghanistan now and beyond 2011, the protection and empowerment of women, and thereby, the promotion and protection of democracy and freedom for all Afghans.