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Asian American Net will publish your opinions and commentaries related to issues and problems facing the Asian American communities.  Your letter must include your full name, complete mailing address, and telephone number (your address and phone number will not be published if requested, see our privacy policy).  Please submit your letter (less than 800 words) to be published in this Opinion page. To submit your letter, please click here.

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Students of St. Scholastica's College Manila, Philippines


     We are Laurice, Gela, Kim and Abby. We are students from St. Scholastica's College Manila, Philippines. We would like to extend our appreciation to your organization because of your objectives to help the different ethnic minorities. As students, we can't help the ethnic groups personally but through your organization, we can support your missions or activities.

     We would be delighted to receive your reply concerning simple things on how we could help.

     Thank you for your time and we hope you would continue doing what you have established. Have a nice day!

Laurice Ang, Gela Barbin, Kim Batto and Abby Bernales
Students of St. Scholastica's College Manila, Philippines
EMail: angela_orange18@yahoo.com

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It's Not Women's Day in Afghanistan
by Keith Anwar

     In 1943 my mother reported from Kabul to her family in New York that she was buying a bicycle to commute to her job at Afghanistan’s only girls’ school. “People here hold their breath at our daring,” she wrote. “Firstly–no veil. I hope you realize how deliciously revolutionary that is here. First time in History. Second–I go to movies!!! Thirdly–I go swimming!!!! And now–a bicycle. At each step they’ve said, ‘You can’t get away with it.’ Then after several months they adjust, so I guess they will again this time.” A reckless troublemaker is what some people called Phyllis Anwar.

     Her husband was unusual for an Afghan, but not unique. Well before he came to the United States as a student, Mohammad Haider Anwar’s view of the world had been greatly influenced by the works of Tom Paine, pamphleteer of the American Revolution and popularizer of Enlightenment ideals. That books like The Age of Reason were being passed from hand to hand in isolated valleys of the Hindu Kush seventy years ago belies the stereotype of defiant Afghan religiosity.

     Dr. Anwar’s unveiled wife Phyllis was able to defy the muhtassibs, or religious police, for two and a half years, shielded in part by her semi-foreign status. But a menacing interview with Afghanistan’s prime minister convinced my father that violating hijab–women’s “modesty”–and promoting modernizing reforms, as he had done as head of the Teachers’ Training College, were about to land the couple in jail–or worse. Instead of caving in to the monarchy and the mullahs, they fled. A few months before leaving the land of his birth, my father wrote to his in-laws, “America is becoming more popular every day in these parts of the world and everyone is hoping that the high ideals that are cherished and put [forth] forcefully in speech and print will be put in practice as soon as the [second world] war is over.”

     Such hopes were illusory, as America’s subsequent intervention in Afghanistan would show. In 1979 the United States started lavishing arms and money on Afghan mujahedin, or holy warriors, fighting a nationalist government that offered full citizenship to women. In the world’s first civil war over the issue of women’s rights, Washington bankrolled the forces of male supremacy. When the Soviets, acting in self-defense, intervened militarily to save the Afghan government, Washington transformed its aid pipeline into the largest CIA operation in history. The U.S.-armed “freedom fighters” burned schools, flayed teachers alive, massacred ethnic minorities, and bombed Kabul to rubble. The fall of Kabul to the mujahedin in 1992 brought an orgy of violence–abductions, forced prostitution, gang rapes and mass killings–against women and girls.

     So horrific were the crimes of the mujahedin that many Afghans welcomed the Taliban into power four years later only to see conditions worsen, especially for women. Washington had little to say about Taliban atrocities until former mujahedin like Osama bin Laden started using Afghanistan as a staging ground for attacks on American targets. America’s response to the World Trade Center atrocity of September 11, 2001 was to shower 1.2 million tons of bombs on Afghanistan and turn the devastated remains over to the mujahedin. With consummate cynicism, the White House termed this outcome a victory for women.

     Three years later, Afghan women still live and die in a place called hell. Goons dispatched by the government’s Department of Islamic Teaching patrol the streets harassing women for “un-Islamic behavior.” Mujahedin militias control most areas of the country, including swaths of Kabul, and attack women with impunity. As one aid worker said, “During the Taliban era, if a woman went to market and showed in inch of flesh she would have been flogged. Now she’s raped.” (EurasiaNet, 8 March 2004). Women who report such assaults are jailed as adulteresses, along with women who refuse arranged marriages or run away from abusive male relatives. “It is because of these Mujahideen that many of our sisters drowned themselves in rivers and threw themselves from rooftops,” a man from Kunduz told representatives of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission last year. “Now the same Mujahideen are in top government positions.”

     Mohammad and Phyllis Anwar didn’t live to see what ideals the United States would put in practice when it militarily occupied Afghanistan, but they surely would have considered a theocracy where women are treated as chattel as the very antithesis of Tom Paine’s humanism. Charles Fourier, another thinker of the late Enlightenment, once wrote that “Social progress [is] brought about by virtue of the progress of women towards liberty, and social retrogression occurs as a result of a diminution in the liberty of women.” Social retrogression, thanks to Uncle Sam, is Afghanistan’s endowment this International Women’s Day.

(Keith Anwar has edited and written an Afterward for the second edition of Memories of Afghanistan, by M.H. Anwar [AuthorHouse, 2004]. Please click here to view excerpts of the book )

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Asian-Americans And Careers in Federal Government

          I saw a statistical racial breakdown of VA employees nationwide and was not surprised to see that Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders comprised the second to lowest group next to Native Americans (4.2% to be exact out of a 30% minority makeup). Frankly, being a former VA employee, I can attest that at the Los Angeles benefits office where I worked, I noted less than 10 Asian employees in an office of approximately 300 people for the over 5 years that I served there.

          I felt alienated at times, both by non-Asian employees and management, because people of my race were not strongly represented, and I think I was often targeted or used as a scapegoat for being an Asian female as well as a young minority with a college degree, which many employees there were not. While I can't say that the Los Angeles federal office is representative of the VA as a whole, I think there is a serious problem with hiring and recruitment at the VA in general with respect to Asian-Americans. To be honest, I think the VA is reluctant to hire Asian-Americans. I feel that people of my race are often treated like foreigners, in my opinion, like non-Americans, at the VA. The director of the office even felt it was perfectly ok to have a young Vietnamese girl on an ID card in his publicly displayed museum labeled as a "prostitute," even though there was no factual information on the card to identify her as such. Perhaps this mentality has something to do with the fact that a majority of American military involvement has historically been in Asian countries and there is a lot of resentment towards people who trace their heritage back to these countries. Also, I feel that this mindset has alot to do with ignorance and stereotypes about Asian women on the part of male Caucasian managers and directors at the VA.

          For those Asian-Americans who are seeking a career in federal government, and particularly the VA, I would advise you to be sure you are comfortable in the agency you are hired by before you decide to accept an offer of employment. I worked at the VA for the past 5 years to support myself and my family, not necessarily because I liked the environment. I was forced out because I was a whistleblower who reported my superiors for the wrongdoing and injustice that I personally experienced and witnessed. The museum incident was the first incident I had reported, but there were many incidents as well where managers fabricated information to make me look like a bad employee and then used these fabrications as justification for suspending me without pay for weeks and weeks on end. The union at my office was weak and powerless to defend me against any actions that the managers took. The last 2 years at the VA from 2002 to 2003 were complete hell for me and really took a toll on my health. Ironically, the managers decided to concentrate their efforts on expelling me when there were many employees of other races who, for many years, were not pulling their weight or doing their jobs correctly. I would encourage federal agencies, such as the VA, to open their eyes, stop being ignorant and intolerant, and give Asian-Americans, like any other race of people, a fair chance and opportunity to serve their country.

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Correcting Mistakes about 'ASIA' in US Government & Media

     The US government as well as the media groups frequently wrongly report and describe "Middle East" (West Asia / South-West Asia) as a separate region from Asia,  e.g., writing /saying stuff like “…from Middle East to Asia…” (which in fact they truly mean  ‘from Middle East to East Asia’).  This is as senseless and idiotic as saying ‘..from Mid-west to United States’.   I am not against the use of "Middle East" but US government must realize that "Middle East" is really West Asia, (just like ‘Far East’ is ‘East Asia’) and must not wrongly described or imply it as a separate region outside Asia. 

     This is one perfect example of US government’s mistake.  During the recent US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA), both US State & Commerce Departments wrongly described US-Singapore FTA as ‘First between US and an Asian country’ but they totally ignore the fact that US’s first FTA with an Asian nation is in fact with Jordan in West Asia (Middle East).  The US-Singapore FTA should only be correctly described as First FTA between US with an ‘East Asian’ or ‘Asia-Pacific’ nation.

     In another wrong use of ‘Asia’, US media often wrongly add ‘Oceania’ nations (from the Pacific) into 'Asia’ (i.e. confusing ‘Asia-Pacific’ with ‘Asia’), e.g. frequently wrongly describing/classify Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, etc. as ‘Asia’ / ‘Asianwhen these should be correctly described as ‘Oceania’, ‘Pacific’ or ‘Asia-Pacific’, but never as ‘Asia’ / ‘Asian’. 

     ‘Asia-Pacific’ is an imprecise term which refers to nations from BOTH ‘Asia’ AND ‘Oceania’ (‘OCEANIA’ means Continent Australia together with islands in the Pacific).  This alone is sufficient reason why ‘Asia-Pacific’ is NOT ‘Asia’.

     Besides that, most people generally use ‘Asia-Pacific’ to refer to East Asia, South-east Asia, South Asia PLUS Oceania (Central Asia are sometimes excluded).   However, ‘Asia-Pacific’ usually does NOT include West Asia (Middle East)and North Asia (Russia’s Asia).  This is another reason why ‘ASIA’ must never be used interchangeably and wrongly with ‘Asia-Pacific’.

     US media also love to use ‘ASIA’ loosely to refer only to East Asia/South-East Asia, while totally forgetting that ‘ASIA’ refers to much more than just these two regions of Asia.  For example, when capturing Hambali, South-East Asia top terrorist, US media hailed it as capture of ‘ASIA’s OSAMA’, totally ignoring the fact that Hambali is only operating in SE Asia and Asia is much more than SE Asia.  The US government/media have also never realized that as a Saudi national, Osama Bin Laden is in fact ASIAN too!

United States Government & Media –  Getting ‘ASIA’ Wrong:
Why the ‘ASIAN’/ MidEast / ‘Pacific’ Error & Confusion

     The abovementioned mistakes are likely due to US government’s methods of classifying world regions.  Such US style ‘regions’ are named and defined differently from standard continental regions (e.g. Africa, Europe, Australia/Oceania) in that countries from the same continent may be divided up and placed under separate (US styled) ‘regions’ while a (US styled) ‘region’ can comprise of countries from different continents.  The names and boundaries of these ‘regions’ are also NOT standardized across different US departments.  Office of US Trade Representative splits up ‘ASIA’ into three regions of ‘Asia & the Pacific’, ‘Europe & the Mediterranean’ and ‘China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mongolia’.  The US State Department splits Asian nations to be placed under four regions of ‘East Asian & Pacific’, ‘South Asian’, ‘Near Eastern’ and ‘Europe & Eurasian’.

     There is nothing wrong with those US ‘regions’ per se.  However, with some Asian regions/countries are classified under US ‘regions’ with names that don’t sounds ‘Asian’ at all, the unintentional outcome is that with US’s global influence in international politics/economic affairs, those Asian regions are less frequently being described as ‘Asian’ / ‘Asia’.  For example, West Asia/Middle East that is placed under ‘Near Eastern’ by the US State Department, and placed under ‘Europe & the Mediterranean’ by the Office of USTR; and North Asia (Russian Asian) & Central Asia are grouped under ‘European and Eurasian’ by the US State Department.   The US coined words ‘Middle East’ is increasingly being used internationally.

     With less ‘Asia’/‘Asian’ in names of those US ‘regions’ and in words used by American government and hence US media, even the US government departments/officials began to consider Middle East (and other Asian regions) as separate / different from their concept of ‘Asia’ (i.e. only Eastern/Southern Asia).  This is the most likely reason why most US official documents have wrongly describe US-Singapore FTA as US’s ‘first with an Asian nation’.  With use of ‘East Asia & Pacific’ and ‘Asia & the Pacific’, the US government and media also wrongly and conveniently consider Oceania/Pacific nations as ‘Asia’ without bothering to check the facts.

     I am not against using ‘Middle East’, ‘Asia-Pacific’ or ‘Near Eastern’ but US government officials must keep in mind  that while ‘US regions’ are a little different from Continents, they must still know how to name and describe nations and regions properly when using names of standard continental regions.  For example, it is alright to say from ‘Middle East to East Asia’ (no different to saying ‘from Midwest to New England’) but it is wrong and ridiculous to say ‘from Middle East to ASIA’ (equivalent to saying ‘from California to the United States’).
Seng Woon-Fa

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A Message of Peace to Islam

    I am not a Muslim, but respect people of peace.  I hope this may help undo even just a little of the damage being done in the aftermath of the unspeakable terrorist strikes in the United States.
    Some Muslim people are being verbally or physically abused by a handful of hotheads who are acting out of anger and fear.  These people represent the worse of our society and not  the huge majority of Americans.  I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive them.
    If one of the outcomes of events is that we draw closer together through mutual understanding, peace and respect, there may indeed be a silver lining even to this tragedy.
    Please accept my condolences for looses you are experiencing in the wake of this  tragedy.
Diane Ducharme

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Largest Country in Asia

I just wanted to applaud your site for recognizing countries in Asia other than those where Chinese people live. Most AA site only consider Asians to be those who look Chinese. Basically making the term elite, exclusive and bordering on ridiculous.
But, can you answer me one question, what is the largest country in Asia? No, not China or India. Russia. Russia IS Northern Asia. How can you as a site have any credibility when you omit the largest country in the continent? 
Audrey Poon

Comments by Asian American Net: 

Dear Audrey Poon:
    Thank you very much for writing to Asian American Net. We appreciate your comments and the fact that you liked our web site. To answer your question regarding the largest country in the Asian continent, we would like to point out that, yes, "part" of Russia (more than two-thirds) is in the continent of Asia. That part, of course, is not a country itself. As we know that Siberia alone is larger than the U.S., territorially. The larger part of Russia which is in the Asian continent is not a country by itself. Russia is usually considered a European country primarily because the great majority of its population live on the west side of the Ural Mountains which is in Europe. Also, the capital city, Moscow, is in Europe. That's why most people, including our State Department, CIA, etc. consider Russia as a European country. Historically and culturally, the "core" Russia belongs to Europe. The only parts of the previous Soviet Union which have historic, cultural as well as demographic ties with other Asian countries are the present Central Asian countries, and we included those five countries in our web site. 
    I hope you will agree with our definition and the decision about not to include Russia in our web site. If you have further comments and suggestions please let us know.
    Thank you again, and please write to us whenever you can.
Asian American Net

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