As an Afghan woman who for more than 30 years has been an active participant in the women's movement in Afghanistan and has been a witness to the gradual and steady improvement of women's condition, I was appalled and distressed by Richard Weintraub's distorted and naive expose' in "Revolution Changes Lives of Islamic Women: Communists Roll Back Traditions in Afghanistan" {June 16}.

Weintraub's observations contained many distortions and provided an erroneous account of the history of the women's movement in Afghanistan and its evolution prior to the Soviet invasion of 1979. I do not believe that the system imposed by the Soviet-installed communist regime can in any way be termed "liberation." It is equally wrong to imply that the "traditional" Moslem woman has no rights; in fact, Islam was the first major world movement to address the question of women's rights. In Afghanistan, it is a well documented fact that the "traditional" woman has always played a major role within society and especially in the preservation of national independence and freedom.

But the theme that needs to be elaborated on is that the modern women's movement in my country did not originate with the so-called communist "revolution" (which, in fact, was a military coup d'etat), but rather in the 1920s under King Amanullah's enhancement program of women's status, which was a major aspect of his political agenda until his overthrow in 1929. The first Afghan girl's school opened in 1925, and I myself was one of its students. Soon afterward, intermediate and high schools were opened and the first women's magazine was published during the same period.

The beginning of King Zaher Shah's reign saw rapid progress and development in the education sector. The first women's college was established in 1948, and I was part of the first class to graduate in 1952. As a result, hundreds of schools were gradually opened in the cities and in the rural areas of the country. Thousands of women began to enter the work force; throughout the years, I have been a witness to Afghan women becoming factory workers, civil servants, nurses, teachers, judges, journalists, writers, business administrators, doctors, diplomats and even politicians.

In 1946, the "Afghan Women's Society" was inaugurated. The society employed more than 2,000 full-time staff and students and became a contact point with various international women's organizations. It published a monthly magazine and opened branches in several Afghan cities. For 13 years I worked in the education and publication department of this organization. In 1964, two women became members of the Counseling Committee in charge of drafting the new Afghan Constitution, and four others, including myself, became members of the Grand Assembly, which adopted the constitution in 1964. This constitution granted the right to vote to all Afghans, including women. I became one of four females to be elected to the first House of Representatives. Between 1965 and 1971, two women were nominated to the Senate and two more were appointed to cabinet ministries.

Afghan women did not and do not need a communist takeover and more than 115,000 Soviet troops to learn about the values of education and participation in the building of their society. They have been doing it all along and are doing so even now, with commitment and dignity, in the refugee camps of Pakistan and among the rubbles of war torn Afghanistan. -- Rokia Habib