March 21, 1983

Today, March 21st, is New Years Day in much of the Moslem world. New years, of course, should be an occasion for celebration. But for the Moslem people of Afghanistan, whose country was attacked and is occupied by the Soviet Army, it is a bitter reminder of a national calamity that befell their nation more than 3 years ago. To focus the world's attention on this crime against an innocent and brave nation, we observe today the second annual Afghanistan Day.

In Afghanistan, tens of thousands of people have been killed, millions have lost their homes and their livelihood. Others have been subjected to torture and other atrocities, and many have been victims of the grisly chemical and biological weapons, including yellow rain -- weapons the Soviets have used in violation of solemn international agreements. The consequences of this calamity extend to Pakistan, which has assumed the burden of sheltering and feeding nearly 3 million refugees.

Yet, while we condemn what has happened in Afghanistan, we are not without hope. To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom. Their courage teaches us a great lesson -- that there are things in this world worth defending.

To the Afghan people, I say on behalf of all Americans that we admire your heroism, your devotion to freedom, and your relentless struggle against your oppressors.

The Soviet people have known great suffering -- more than other people. They should be able to sympathize with the terrible suffering of the Afghan people. To the Soviet leaders, I urge you in the name of humanity to end the bloodshed so that an independent Afghanistan can again take its place in the community of nations. The West has no designs upon Afghanistan. We do not threaten you there or anywhere on the globe. All we seek is the restoration of peace and freedom for a noble and brave people whom we remember today.

Note: The President's message was taped at 11:12 a.m. in his study adjoining the Oval Office at the White House.