Women of Afghanistan

I have no understanding of what it is to live like this:::

The belt made a thump when Rasheed dropped it to the ground and came for her. Some jobs, that thump said, were meant to be done with bare hands.

Magnifico asked why Afghanistan as an issue has sunk away faster than an essay on the dKos diary list… he asks this, as I have been thinking about this country and its people, after reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Hosseini is, for me, pretty straightforward in his writing. Nothing grand or blazing. Yet, it is shatteringly honest writing. It gathers as you read it. Slow. Until there is this little thing vibrating inside you.  Not anger. fear. hate. It’s that wide-awake connection with one’s own free will.

I wonder. If the fight isn’t just as elemental as safeguarding our free will and therein our innate desire for freedom.

The women of Afghanistan are all of us. The atrocities they suffer belong to all of us. They tell us, scream at us that these things have mutilated earthlings through the ages. None of us are exempt from such horrors.

I don’t know how to help Afghan women wholesale. I humbly take the lesson they give, despite the horrors they endure. Their freedom of will, of thought. The dignity of these women, as captured so well in A Thousand Splendid Suns, is loud, vibrant, inspirational.

The women of Afghanistan fight for all of us. In every act of defiance in deed or thought, they taunt brutes and bullies with dignity and will. One more sentinel is revealed… these beautiful souls, guardians of freedoms unseen.

So here you go, Magnifico. Captain America was sent to save this country, but something funny happened on the way to Kabul. These nameless victims, who are called mother, wife, sister, friend… these women … may very well show us the way to salvation…

The Hidden Half: A Photo Essay on Women in Afghanistan

“The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women,” Laura Bush said after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The First Lady added that, thanks to America, women were “no longer imprisoned in their homes.” Six years later, the burka is more common than before, an “overwhelming majority” of Afghan women suffer domestic violence, according to aid group Womankind, and honor killings are on the rise. Health care is so threadbare that every 28 minutes a mother dies in childbirth-the secondhighest maternal mortality rate in the world. Girls attend school at half the rate boys do, and in 2006 at least 40 teachers were killed by the Taliban. For two years, Canadian photojournalist Lana Šlezi? crisscrossed Afghanistan-from Mazar-e-Sharif in the north to Kandahar in the south-to document these largely hidden realities.”

Women under siege in Afghanistan

The good news is that the rights of Afghan women have been enshrined in the constitution. It even asks the government to bring changes in the law to combat traditions that work against them.Women can participate in every walk of life, including politics. Of the 361 members of parliament today, 91 are women. Women have also begun talking about forced marriages, honour killings, abortions and rape in a traditionally male-dominated society. Local human rights groups have begun documenting such atrocities.

The bad news is that the state cannot protect women and ensure that they can go about their work safely. Even an affluent, influential city-bred MP like Ms Barakzai is now tense about her future. Soraya Sobhrang, an MP in her country, says the tribal councils almost always rule against women.”When I leave home these days on work, I am not quite sure whether I will be back [alive]. Life has become so insecure. I am not planning to leave the country yet, but I do have to think about my kids.”

Afghanistan: Women still under attack – a systematic failure to protect

This report highlights the failure of the Afghan state to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of women and girls. It is not a comprehensive study of violations and abuses perpetrated against women in Afghanistan. It seeks instead to provide examples that highlight the inability and at times the lack of will of the government and its institutions – in their current state – to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of women.

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has this, among many many other things, to say…

A rein of terror imposed by the Taliban and the “Northern Alliance” terrorists prevailed across the country and requires fearless struggle. The last five years have given a clear message to our people, particularly the anti-fundamentalists and democratic forces, that neither the US nor any outside force can liberate this ill-fated nation from the fetters of the fundamentalists. Instead we require a decisive and united struggle, relying on our own power, courage, and daring sacrifice as we unite with freedom-loving people around the world.

Human rights violations, crime, and corruption have reached their peak, so much so that Mr. Karzai is forced to make friendly pleas to the ministers and members of the parliament, asking them to “keep some limits”! Accusations about women being raped in prisons were so numerous that even a pro-warlord woman in the parliament had no choice but to acknowledge them.

General Information on Afghanistan

Official Name: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Capital and largest city: Kabul

Government: Islamic republic

Chief of State: President Hamid Karzai

Population: 31.89 million

Area: 249,935 square miles; slightly smaller than Texas

Languages: Afghan Persian or Dari, Pashtu, Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen), 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai)

Literacy: Total Population: [28.1%]; Male: [43.1%]; Female: [12.6%]

GDP Per Capita: $800

Year of Independence: 1919 (from UK control over Afghan foreign affairs)

Web site: President.gov.af

In south central Asia, Afghanistan has Iran to its west, Pakistan east and south, and Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to its north. The Vakhan (Wakhan) extends into northeast along Pakistan and into the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.

and other news stories about Afghanistan…

Helicopter carrying U.S. senators makes emergency landing in Afghanistan

Taliban militants are increasingly using powerful bombs

Afghan Police Suffer Setbacks as Taliban Adapt

How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad

Opium economy will take 20 years and £1bn to remove


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    • pfiore8 on February 22, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    so much is happening. how do we prepare ourselves?

  1. So, let me try to rephrase this — are you theorizing that the reason why Afghanistan is forgotten is because we’re embarrassed about how badly America has botched things up there, not that we’re overly distracted by Iraq? We are willfully hiding our shame?

    Again, maybe I missed the point. I do not believe anymore that people want to be free. I think, at least in America, most people now rather be “safe” and sated than free.

    • masslass on February 22, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    yikes, where do we start?!  The women of Afghanistan, or for

    that matter the entire region, have lived a second (third?)

    class life always and forever.  As long as Taliban-like crazies maintain

    control I’m not sure it will change.  While

    we might be able to save one at a time we cannot save them

    all until/unless we can change their overall attitude.  imho,

    this won’t happen anytime soon.  BushCo has made us such

    bad guys in the eyes of the world I can’t imagine just what

    it will take our image.  And until we do – do we really have

    the right to tell other countries how to rule and live their

    lives?  The fact that our intentions are honorable notwithstanding…

    • jessical on February 22, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    …died on the way to superhero registration.  

    Liked this.  And “wide-awake connection with one’s own free will” was rather nice, as well…

  2. a few months ago – loved it. And especially Mariam’s last thoughts before her execution:

    Marian wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last. No. It was not so bad, Mariam thought, that she should die this way. Not so bad.

    Another great book I read a few years ago is Zoya’s Story. And if you buy it, 50% of the proceeds go to RAWA.  

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