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Afghanistan hunger

Severely malnourished Afghan children fill the therapeutic feeding wards at the Indira Ghandi Institute of Child Health, a state hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on January 18, 2022. (Photo: Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

Ilhan Omar Blasts 'Unconscionable' Biden Plan to Seize Afghan Assets

"President Biden has the opportunity to make amends right now! He can unfreeze the funds belonging to the Afghan people," said one 9/11 widow.

Brett Wilkins

As U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar on Friday led condemnation of a reported Biden administration plan to permanently seize $7 billion of currently frozen Afghan assets and distribute half to relatives of 9/11 victims, advocates pointed to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and urged President Joe Biden to change course. 

"This is theft. Graft. Amid famine, no less. Newsflash: Zero of the 9/11 terrorists were Afghan."

Noting that "there wasn't a single Afghan" among the 9/11 hijackers—and the U.S. gives billions of dollars to the Saudi and Egyptian governments despite their "direct ties to the 9/11 terrorists"—Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted that punishing millions of starving people is "unconscionable."

Omar said she agrees with Barry Amundson—a member of 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows who lost his brother in the Pentagon attack—who warned the proposed seizure would "cause further harm to innocent Afghans." 

"That's exactly what will happen," Omar tweeted

Khaled Beydoun, an Egyptian-American scholar, tweeted: "This is theft. Graft. Amid famine, no less."

"Newsflash: Zero of the 9/11 terrorists were Afghan," he added. "This is absurd." 

The advocacy group Afghans for A Better Tomorrow said in a statement that the proposed redistribution of Afghan funds "is short-sighted, cruel, and will worsen a catastrophe in progress, affecting millions of Afghans, many of whom are on the verge of starvation."

"Taking money which rightfully belongs to the Afghan people will not bring justice but ensure more misery and death in Afghanistan," the group—which is circulating a petition aimed at convincing the administration to immediately unfreeze some of the funds—asserted. 

Phyllis Rodriguez, whose son died in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and who is also with Peaceful Tomorrows, was among those urging Biden to reject the proposed policy. 

"President Biden has the opportunity to make amends right now! He can unfreeze the funds belonging to the Afghan people," she said. "They are not the Taliban's property but of everyday folks like us. Let's see this as a humanitarian crisis that we can address immediately."

Others noted the dire conditions the Afghan people are currently enduring. 

Masuda Sultan, an Afghan-American author and activist with Unfreeze Afghanistan, said that Afghans are "experiencing a historic famine within a pandemic, and their economy has been in a freefall worse than the Great Depression."

"If the funds are not returned and the famine is not averted, America will be blamed for one of the worst famines in history."

"One of the main drivers of the economic collapse is the freezing of their assets," she added. "If the funds are not returned and the famine is not averted, America will be blamed for one of the worst famines in history."

Rodriguez said that "it saddens me that there are 9/11 family members who can't see the discrepancies in our relative privilege to demand reparations instead of recognizing the dire need of Afghans."

"They have suffered unjustly for the actions of a cadre of extremists—a tiny minority of the population," she continued. "Major famine, disease, displacement, and destruction that our government and its allies created should be reversed through all means possible."

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led peace group CodePink, said in a statement that "taking funds that rightfully belong to some of the poorest people in the world who are now facing a catastrophic famine is a cruel move that will not bring justice to the 9/11 families." 

Referencing the U.S. occupation that Biden ended last year as the Taliban retook the country, Benjamin tweeted that taking "billions of dollars away from starving Afghans" would be "a fitting end to 20 years of screwing the Afghan people." 

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