UNICEF envoy opposes U.S. attack, Japanese support

by Kiyoshi Ota

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, a television celebrity and goodwill ambassador of the United Nations Children’s Fund, said in a recent interview with Kyodo News that she is opposed to a violent retaliatory campaign by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan.

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

She is urging the Taliban regime to hand over Osama bin Laden, the man identified by the United States as the prime suspect behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, in an effort to avoid further carnage.

Kuroyanagi is also a member of a private consultative council on foreign policy headed by Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka.

Kuroyanagi, who has served as a UNICEF envoy since 1984, visited Afghanistan in this capacity in July.

How would you describe the situation in Afghanistan?

There are a number of domestic refugees because of the civil war and drought. People are living in tents at refugee camps in wastelands. They have no food and other necessities, relying entirely on support from UNICEF and other relief organizations. I had heard that Afghanistan is a poor country, but had never imagined the extent of the poverty until I went there.

What do you think the outcome of the growing tension will be?

With the departure of UNICEF staff and those of other relief organizations, the transport of relief goods has stopped. For the time being, people can live on stored food. But if the food runs out, there will be many deaths from starvation among women and children even before military action starts.

What about the anticipated U.S. military action?

As a person working for UNICEF, I cannot make political statements. But aerial bombardment will inevitably affect a number of ordinary people. Hope for the future of children who have suffered mental scars and are troubled by nightmares due to the civil war will be broken off and they are going to die. This, I cannot tolerate.

I am opposed to violence in retaliation to (terrorist) violence. I can understand the hatred harbored by U.S. citizens toward the terrorists, but want them to understand that a number of innocent children will die if there are retaliatory attacks.

In Afghanistan, people are banned from watching TV under the orders of the Taliban regime. If they are attacked, they will die without knowing anything.

To avoid the tragedy, the regime must hand over Osama bin Laden.

How do you think Japan should respond to the situation?

I do not understand why Japan should extend a helping hand to the United States this time. (If support is extended to the U.S.), Japan could be the target of retaliation by terrorist groups in the future.