By Fariba Nawa
August 21, 1999
Fremont — In a Centerville jewelry store, a group of Bay Area Afghans who call themselves United Guardians Defending Afghanistan stood Thursday in front of their picket signs voicing anger about U.S. military strikes in their homeland.
President Clinton ordered military strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan on Thursday to destroy what the U.S. government considered terrorist facilities run by Saudi financier Osama bin Laden.
The American government has found evidence linking the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa to bin Laden.
The number of casualties was not reported as of Thursday evening.
But in Fremont, where perhaps the largest exile Afghan community in the U.S. resides, people were concerned about civilian lives.
“We believe if there’s one bad apple in a tree, don’t cut the whole tree. Don’t bomb and kill innocent people. Just take (bin Laden),” said Sakhi Faryabi, the Fremont group’s spokesman.
The group, which claims to have at least 300 members, said Clinton’s action will only hurt innocent Afghans already marred by the civil war in their country.
The politically charged Afghan band held a demonstration Tuesday in San Francisco to protest the advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Pakistani-supported Taliban took the last major city in Afghanistan last week. To many Afghans, the Taliban victory against the opposing northern factions means the militia has won the war.
Faryabi’s group was concentrating on directing Americans attention to their paint splattered signs that read: “Pakistan Stop Bloodshed in Afghanistan.”
But now it seemed the United States was focused on their homeland — for the wrong reasons. One of their leaders, Soraya Baha, a Fremont resident, said Clinton ordered the strike to divert attention form the Monica Lewinsky scandal and in the process is sacrificing Afghan lives.
Other Afghans were more supportive of American actions.
“Bin Laden is a bacteria in Afghanistan. He gives us a bad name. Clinton’s doing the right thing by wanting to get rid of him,” said Mohammad Omar Khamosh, owner of Pamir Market in Fremont. He heard a lot of opinions from Afghans buying groceries Thursday.
Khamosh said community reaction seemed to approve of the strikes, but people are concerned that Afghans will be linked to terrorists.
“Afghans are not involved. They don’t have a part in terrorism. They’re just being used by other countries for political purposes,” said Noman Mamak of Fremont. About 26,000 Afghans live in the Bay Area, according to the Afghan Center in Union City.
Ghulam Hazrat Koshan, who lives in south Hayward and is president of the Afghanistan Cultural Society with membership statewide, said: “We don’t have any connection with Osama bin Laden, who is the trainer of terrorism.”
“We are against terrorism — anytime, anywhere, even it it’s inside Afghanistan,” he said. Mohammad Nasiri of Fremont visited Kabul, Afghanistan, six months ago. He said he wants to hear and see the evidence against bin Laden before supporting the United States. “Our people have suffered enough,” Nasiri said.