Women in Peril

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As the United States begins its scheduled 2014 troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Afghan government has intensified its reconciliation efforts with the Taliban. Needless to say, the outcome of any subsequent peace deal with the Taliban holds enormous consequences for the women of Afghanistan, given the brutality they suffered at the hands of the fundamentalist regime.

Thus, many Afghan women have been adamant that any negotiations with the Taliban have substantial female representation, as a way to ensure that the rights they have gained won’t be crushed if the Taliban returns to the Afghan fold.

This seemed like a genuine possibility at first, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai created the High Peace Council to direct negotiations with the Taliban and gave the committee female representation. Unfortunately, the government top-loaded the council with 60 men and only 9 women, a disparity in numbers that brought immediate concern from Afghanistan’s nascent crop of women leaders.

One such leader, Fauzia Kofi, a member of Afghanistan’s parliament, said of the female council members, “They’re negotiating for our rights — for my rights, for the rights of my daughters — from a position of weakness.” Suraya Parlika, head of the All Afghan Women’s Union, added, “The women on the council are…pawns.”

Unfortunately, their view was confirmed by the council’s deputy director, Ataullah Luddin, who said, “They want to go as a group of women to meet with Mullah Omar [the Taliban supreme leader]. But that’s just not possible. If they go, they will be killed.” Luddin also added with a laugh, “And anyway, we all know that women can’t keep a secret for more than 34 hours.”

Luddin’s quip notwithstanding, his appraisal of the Taliban response to such an encounter was spot on. While Muslim men in the region more often than not treat women little better than livestock, the Taliban’s approach takes the situation to a whole other, disturbing level.

Under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, life for Afghan women was nothing short of a terrifying nightmare. Required to wear a head-to-toe burqa, Afghan women were forbidden to work outside the home or even leave their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative.

Other prohibitions on women included being banned from appearing on the balconies of their apartments or houses, laughing loudly, being photographed or filmed, or being in public gatherings of any kind. Failure to abide by any of these rules resulted in public whippings, beatings or stoning.

In addition, the Taliban banned both sexes from listening to music, watching movies, television and videos. While the Taliban banned most sports, those that were allowed required spectators to replace clapping with chants of Allahu Akbar (“God is great”).

When the Taliban was ousted in 2001 and Afghan women were freed from their terrible yoke, they made some remarkable progress in the ensuing years. In fact, many of their gains have been quite significant, such as Afghan women being elected to government office, allowed to attend school or trained to be military pilots. Other achievements, perhaps less noteworthy but equally groundbreaking, include Afghan women training to be Olympic boxers or openly marching in protest for women’s rights.

One such protest came recently when 30 Afghan women marched through the streets of Kabul protesting sexual harassment, carrying banners that read: “This street belongs to me” and “We won’t stand insults anymore.” While the protest march drew angry stares from male onlookers and necessitated a full security escort, the fact that it was even allowed was in itself a mark of substantial achievement.

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  • PhillipGaley

    After the second paragraph: "This seemed like a genuine possibility at first, . . ."? My gosh, did our author at any time subscribe such an impossible and outlandish notion, it must have been a moment of temporary insanity, . . .

    • Fred Dawes

      The part of the world has no hope.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Well well, back to Taliban hell, Karzai wants to embrace his Taliban brothers and
    the Afganistani women will be going back to hell. Does this sound like anyone is
    affraid of American backlash, American power pressure in any form or do we come
    off as some kind of desert pestilence that will slither away. These people understand
    power and force, nothing else and even then they are intent on finding death in
    acts of murder. The Karzai government should have more fear of and irate
    American government and people than fear of the Taliban but maybe they know
    something, maybe there is a Taliban guy in Washington who be well pleased by
    the unthinkable and Americans will wonder what happened to the destruction of
    the Taliban which is al Quida with another name……..has America dropped off of
    the world map, have our dead been just yesterdays news and ho hum. If this
    situation ends up so ugly we should send all of our politicians to live in Afghanistan
    in death rags, ending their lives screaming alley oop………………….William

  • StephenD

    More proof that a better approach would be to announce to the world that we will stand with Western Style Democracies that share our values of personal freedoms and individual responsibility; that we will only provide material or financial support for such friends and NO OTHER type society. When other such societies see our friends prosper and they find themselves living under a Totalitarian regime either they'll come our way or not. No matter, we will at least have not wasted any of our resources.

  • Stephen_Brady

    William stated it correctly, above, in my estimation.

    As America drops out of its global responsibilities, the inevitable power vacuum occurs. Just as nature abhors a vaccum, so does international politics. There will always be someone willing to fill a vacuum. What is happening in Afghanistan is a microcosm of the gloabl power macrocosm which will be delivered to the West by its enemies, in coming years.

    God bless and protect those women in Afghanistan who believed that we were there, for the long haul …

  • DrBukk

    Is there a Nobel Pandora Prize? Can Nobel Peace Prizes be rescinded? GWB deserved the prize for bringing constitutional rights to 26 million women in Iraq and Afghanistan and our Muslim buffoon in the WH wants to give that away just like Carter gave away Iran.

  • svendarbuckle

    God bless these women and children. They are in for a very rough ride and the poor ladies working for their rights are in grave danger.

    • Fred Dawes

      No danger all will come here and start it all over in 40 years here inside the former USA, If you can't see jsut go to sleep and be happy.

  • Fred Dawes

    It is the muslim Cultural ideals. let the muslims kill all the woman that way in 50 years we have no more muslims.

  • Stuart Parsons

    The Taliban, like Muhammad, will find reasons to go back on any agreement they sign up to and they will convince themselves it is what the mythical Allah and his Prophet want.

  • Damien

    Frank Crimi,

    Women are really treated bad throughout the Islamic world. Women are little more than slaves to their husbands and male relatives, who can't even show their faces in public. Not to mention their inhuman, four male witnesses to prove a rape rule, where women who are raped, can be put to death for adultery otherwise.

  • waterwillows

    Taliban or not, life is hell on earth for the Afghan women. But is was not always this bad for them. Their grandmothers and great-grandmothers would not recoginise the lives of their decendants. In the 1950's things were much different for women.
    But this is what happens when a country or a people open the door for evil to walk in. Woe to them who call evil a good thing. Once that standard is accepted, it is a rapid decent into the deepest, darkest part of the pit. Now, it is all an abomination and there is much suffering.

  • http://baersart.com Jane

    I grieve for my sister-mothers

  • waterwillows

    I also, deeply grieve for these women. Who could witness their suffering and not be moved? It is simply beyond the pale what they must endure.
    It give me a real insight to the state of women in Sodom and Gomorrah. Only destruction can come, as the injustice and horror literally screams to the Most High Throne.

  • John S

    Where are the groups such as NOW, Code Pink, etc? Don't these people count as actual human beings or could it be that our lefties are racist and maybe don't care about the poor women who live in the hell that is the Middle East?

    • WilliamJamesWard

      It may not be a legitimate question for these groups as they are simply self
      glorifying frauds and their interests seem to be confined to getting in front of
      a media camera and attention, giving the word stupid great meaning………William