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Making Nice With The Taliban

Many of us were surprised last year when President Obama considered reaching out to the Taliban. The very idea was upsetting on a number of levels, particularly around our national security, what happened on 9/11, and the current wars in which we are engaged.

But there is another element that may not have been considered in addition to the above, and that is how making nice with the Taliban would affect women. Far too often, women are the afterthought in these discussions, a grievous oversight especially given the history of women in Afghanistan. This article highlights the concerns women face in Afghanistan, Afghan Women Fear Loss Of Hard-Won Progress.

And rightly so, it seems to me, given what the Taliban have done to women, and continue to do to women in this country. There may have been some advancements, though not without a price paid:

LAGHMAN, AFGHANISTAN — The head-to-toe burqas that made women a faceless symbol of the Taliban’s violently repressive rule are no longer required here. But many Afghan women say they still feel voiceless eight years into a war-torn democracy, and they point to government plans to forge peace with the Taliban as a prime example.

Gender activists say they have been pressing the administration of President Hamid Karzai for a part in any deal-making with Taliban fighters and leaders, which is scheduled to be finalized at a summit in April. Instead, they said, they have been met with a silence that they see as a dispiriting reminder of the limits of progress Afghan women have made since 2001.

“We have not been approached by the government — they never do,” said Samira Hamidi, country director of the Afghan Women’s Network, an umbrella group. “The belief is that women are not important,” she said, describing a mind-set that she said “has not been changed in the past eight years.”

The Taliban’s repressive treatment of women helped galvanize international opposition in the 1990s, and by some measures democracy has revolutionized Afghan women’s lives. Their worry now is not about a Taliban takeover, Hamidi said, but that male leaders, behind closed doors and desperate for peace, might not force Taliban leaders to accept, however grudgingly, that women’s roles have changed.

Those concerns share roots with the misgivings voiced by many observers, including some U.S. officials, about Afghan efforts to forge a settlement with the Taliban, whose leaders promote an Islamist ideology that seems wholly at odds with rights the Afghan constitution guarantees.

The unease about such a settlement stretches from Kabul to the mountain-ringed valleys of Laghman, a scrappy town in a province still stalked at night by Taliban fighters. As a young girl here, Malalay Jan studied in a private home, hidden from the Taliban regime that forbade her education. Four years ago, her girls’ school was torched in a rash of suspected Taliban attacks. Now, she said, she is sure of one thing: Afghan women should have a spot at the negotiating table.

“We don’t want them to stop us from getting an education or working in an office,” said Jan, 18, wearing a rhinestone-studded head scarf at her rebuilt school. Women, she said, should be “the first priority.”

Indeed. But if the women are not being consulted, if they do not have a place at the table to offer input, and have their input actually considered, how can women in Afghanistan fulfill the promises of their Constitution? Here is more:

Karzai, the Afghan president, has endorsed the idea of talking with all levels of the Taliban, and his aides insist that women need not worry about the equal rights the Afghan constitution guarantees them. But they also say they are performing a difficult balancing act, and suggest that making bold statements about the sanctity of such topics as women’s rights might kill talks before they start.

“We will act from a position of principle. And that principle is that half the public wants these rights to be protected,” said Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, who is drafting Karzai’s reconciliation plan. “It is not the authority of a group of people in government or a group of people in the insurgency to decide the fate of a whole nation.”

In today’s Afghanistan, females make up one-quarter of parliament, fill one-third of the nation’s classrooms and even compete on “Afghan Idol.”

But violence against women remains “endemic,” according to the State Department. The percentage of female civil servants is steadily dropping. Just one of 25 cabinet members is a woman, and female lawmakers say their opinions are often ignored.

That point was underscored in January, many observers said, when the women’s affairs minister was not invited to an international conference in London on reconciliation and reintegration.

Bringing the Taliban into the government could make things worse, Hamidi said.

“They think women should stay at home,” she said. “And all of them have the same perception and same beliefs, from the lowest to the top level.”

Many of us remember the stories of what has happened to women in Afghanistan, the school burning mentioned above, the beatings of women who dared to go out in public without a male escort, the throwing of acid on school girls. It is hard to reconcile these stories with this:

The Taliban itself, led by Mohammad Omar, has tried to dispute that. As part of what analysts call a public relations campaign to soften the movement’s image, Omar, though still in hiding, released a statement last fall that said the Taliban did not oppose women’s rights and favored education for all.

Arsala Rahmani, a lawmaker and former Taliban government official, said he thought women’s activists were being close-minded, defying what he called “a mother’s duty to always try to unite their sons.” He said that the Taliban restricted women to protect them from conflict — not out of ideological misogyny — and that Omar and his fighters would accept any ideas the Afghan public favors.

To human rights activists, those Taliban messages are ploys to dim support for U.S.-led military efforts in Afghanistan. They point to Taliban-dominated Kandahar province, where militants have closed two-thirds of schools, and Helmand, where tribal leaders say female teachers are threatened with death.

Wow, talk about your “blame the victim” mentality. It is WOMEN’S fault for talkng about gaining equality that is the problem. Yeah, sure, that’s it – it has nothing to do with these women being treated like chattel for a number of years. Spare me. And I am not the only one not buying what Rahmani is selling:

It is a worrisome prospect to women such as Khujesta Elham, an aspiring politician who on a recent day was chatting with friends between classes at Kabul University. She said she thought Taliban fighters should be shunned, though she did not expect that to happen.

“Whatever decision Karzai makes will be his alone,” said Elham, 22. “The government does not care about women’s rights.”

The depth of the Taliban’s control varies across Afghanistan, as was the case during its rule, and so do views on the movement. In the 1990s, the Taliban viewed Kabul as a den of depravity, and it was there that its notorious Vice and Virtue police most brutally wielded batons against women who exposed their faces or wore high heels.

In Laghman, a rural Pashtun province in the shadow of snow-capped mountains, patriarchal traditions meant many of those rules were already in force. The area’s Taliban officials mostly ignored unauthorized girls’ schools, said Qamer Khujazada, who ran one until the Taliban was ousted in 2001. Khujazada became principal of Haider Khani high school, but militants burned down its administrative offices four years ago.

Hanifa Safia, the women’s affairs representative for the province, said she thinks a settlement is the only way to peace. The Taliban fighters who throw acid on schoolgirls’ faces or threaten professional women do so just to antagonize the government, she said. “I have talked to so many Taliban. They are not against women,” Safia said. “Once they have been given positions in government, they will definitely change.”

Khujazada, the principal, tentatively agrees. She walks confidently through the halls of her fraying school, overseeing a staff that she boasts is exactly half female.

But many of the girls slip into blue burqas before they leave the concrete-walled schoolyard, and Khujazada acknowledged that most will be married off before they ever set foot in a university. What is important, she said, is that they have the right to continue their schooling.

“Education has a lot of friends,” Khujazada said cautiously. “But it has some enemies, too.”

Education is key, to be sure. Secretary of State Clinton has said that numerous times about girls in general, but Afghanistan in particular. She is right about that, but there has to be a systemic change in Afghanistan, along with other nations (like the United States). Women and girls in Afghanistan may have made some strides, but they have far yet to go (as do we).

I cannot help but wonder if we all worked together, sister to sister, could we not bring about change, real, lasting change? Can we not teach our sons that girls and women are equal partners to them? Can we not teach our daughters that anything less than true equality, true partnerships, and respect, is unacceptable? Can we not change the world? I think we can. I think we must. For these women and girls in Afghanistan; for the women and girls, as young as TWO YEARS OLD, in Haiti who are being raped daily after the earthquake (and can our military who are there not help PROTECT them?); for those women in Sudan; for the women here in our own country? We must. We MUST.

  • sowsear

    He chose a good “facsimile” of Afghanistan if it really was somewhere else. When he was asking those two natives where Osama (I wrote Obama, could you believe that?) was, I wondered where he was filming it. Also the caves: I was thinking Southwest  possibly for those. Would North aAfrica have caves?

  • oowawa

    HaHa sowsear–interesting idea.  This guy delights in doing outrageous things and is fearless in that regard.  I just found out that this video was shot in North Africa somewhere (Afghanistan wouldn’t have surprised me).  Don’t know which country yet . . .

  • sowsear

    One of my grandsons was a great fan of Spider Man when he was very young. His father rented a Spider Man costume and went to his son’s birthday party at school. He scared the hell out of those 6 yr. olds…Maybe we could send your friend down to Washington for a little party..

  • lorac

    :)

  • lorac

    Thanks!

  • Rabble Rouser Rev. Amy

    I’ll go take a look, lorac (sorry, I was out all afternoon).

  • Rabble Rouser Rev. Amy

    Thanks, Cindy!!  I knew Hillary was working on this issue, too – of course.  I would expect nothing less from her.  :)

  • Rabble Rouser Rev. Amy

    Thanks, armymom – that’s what I thought I heard Laura Bush say.  He did it while he was president, correct?  And she has worked on this issue, too.  Good news indeed.

  • ~~JustMe~~

    Lorac I posted for you over there from Fox news

    HTH

  • sowsear

    Wasn’t that the reason no case could be made against the DNC’s Rulz (May 31,2008).

  • yttik

    No, no we can’t. But you would hope he could at least understand the nat’l security concerns that revolve around women and girls being oppressed.Of course then he would have to possess a clue and we’ve already established he doesn’t have one.

  • jwrjr

    Can somebody explain how the welfare of Women is an issue for Barack “99 problems but a b*tch ain’t one” Obama?

  • jbjd

    Cindy, thank you; I have already been warned by a virtual contact, this slogan will be stolen.  I say, use it in good health.  (In Texas, the Texas Democratic Party really is only a club, legally!)

  • lorac

    RRRA, I left a comment/question for you on the open thread below.  I’m wondering about your opinion on something….

  • armymom

    You heard right Amy, Bush has started a program for the education of women/girls in Afghanstan. He spoke at it yesterday in Texas I believe

  • No Longer Banned in Beantown

    Healthy, Happy and Hot  sounds like a hoax created by Right to Lifers attempting to discredit Planned Parenthood.

    This is on the PP site:
    Planned Parenthood is committed to bringing real sex education back to America’s schools, and rejecting failed abstinence-only programs. Here are a few of the issues we’re working on:
    evidence-based sex education programs
    abstinence-only programs
    the state of teen health

    Happy and Healthy are the themes that appear frequently on PP, no sign of HOT.

    The only place HOT appears on the Girlscouts of America website is in describing HOT water for HOT cocoa.

  • Cindy

    (jbjd) COUNTRY before CLUB

    excellent!!

  • confused American

    I almost don’t believe what I read but oh my my my

    At RCP Obama has more people who disapprove of him than approve of him… Hasn’t it been just barely over a year???
    47.2% approve of the President

    47.8% Disapprove of the President



    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls … html#polls

  • Cindy

    oowawa—-Great video! Your friend is funny and did a great job. i know you’re proud of him.
    Thanks for the laughs, which I always welcome!

  • jbjd

    Stupak postpones press conference, originally scheduled for 11:00 AM.  So, ensuring the restriction of public money spent on a legal medical procedure which can only be performed on women’s bodies, apparently is the only stumbling block to ‘passage’ of an otherwise unConstitutional unpopular mandate to purchase health insurance from private companies.  Do I pray Nancy Pelosi fails to take out the offensive language; or leave it in?  
    http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/20/stupak-postpones-news-conference/ 
     
    I am so angry. 
     
    COUNTRY before CLUB

  • jbjd

    Stupak postpones press conference, originally scheduled for 11:00 AM.  So, ensuring the restriction of public money spent on a legal medical procedure which can only be performed on women’s bodies, apparently is the only stumbling block to ‘passage’ of an otherwise unConstitutional unpopular mandate to purchase health insurance from private companies.  Do I pray Nancy Pelosi fails to take out the offensive language; or leave it in? 
    http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/20/stupak-postpones-news-conference/

    I am so angry.

    COUNTRY before PARTY

  • oowawa

    A friend very recently made this video about Superman dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan.  He’s a pretty funny guy . . .

  • Rabble Rouser Rev. Amy

    My pleasure, Cindy.  Speaking of Laura Bush, she actually had an event yesterday on the Women of Afghanistan at SMU.  If I recall correctly, she said something abt her husband having started a program for the education of women/girls in Afghanistan.  I’m on my way out, so can’t check for a link now, but will look later.

    :)

  • Cindy

    And Hillary!
    <img src=”http://www.state.gov/img/09/33051/2007_07_07_afghanwomen_600_1.jpg” title=”Date: 07/07/2009 Description: Secretary Clinton and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women&apos;s Issues Melanne Verveer [left] meet with group of Afghan women visiting at the State Department. © State Department Photo by Michael Gross” alt=”Date: 07/07/2009 Description: Secretary Clinton and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women&apos;s Issues Melanne Verveer [left] meet with group of Afghan women visiting at the State Department. © State Department Photo by Michael Gross”/>Secretary Clinton and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer meet with senior executive Afghan women civil servants on a program sponsored by USAID and the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council at the State Department

  • Cindy

    Rev. Amy–Thank you Thank you for this important story.
    And to yttik’s point:


    On January 28, 2002, Presidents Bush and Karzai announced the creation of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council to promote private/public partnerships between U.S. and Afghan institutions and moblize private resources to ensure Afghan women gain the skills and education deprived them under years of Taliban misrule.  <img src=”http://www.state.gov/cms_images/usawc1.jpg” alt=”women from afghanistan”/>This initiative will also help to ensure that Afghan women play a role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.  Once announced, the Council received enthusiastic support from the Afghan government, several U.S. government agencies, and the public at large — especially from the community focused on recovery efforts.  

    The Council is co-chaired by the Under Secretary for Global Affairs and the Afghan Minister of Women’s Affairs and Minister of Foreign Affairs.   The Council is staffed in the United States by State Department’s Office of International Women’s Issues. 
     
     Rev. Amy- Laura Bush made several trips to Afghanistan…….and while Michele Obama works on her “abs”,  Laura is still working tirelessly for the Afghani women! (Sorry if i have duplicated any of your links, but my computer keeps freezing up, and won’t give me access!)

      

  • jbjd

    Maybe men/boys are raping 2-year-old girls because they believe ‘sex’ with a virgin cures HIV/AIDS.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6076758.stm

    Proof we need to educate the boys, too.

  • Yttik

    I really enjoyed Bill Clinton’s presidency, but the one thing I still complain about is how he didn’t help the women of Afganistan. Back then many of us were engaged in an all out campaign to get the US involved and get President Clinton’s attention. Women were actually going backwards in Afrganistan and their concerns being set aside in the name of nat’l security. Well, we all know how ignoring the women in Afganistan paid off nat’l security wise. 

    You can’t ignore what’s happening to half the human population in a country and pretend it has no impact on future of US nat’l security. It’s hard to explain to people how the two issues are closely entwined, but Hillary has started to when she said women’s rights really are a nat’l security issue. Every country that breeds terrorism, first must oppress women. When women are able to thrive, to feel safe, to take care of their families, you can’t recruit enough people willing to die for the cause.

    It always seems as if Democrats have the hardest time understanding this. I thought Bush was a terrible president, but even he acknowledged the importance of women’s rights as a nat’l security goal. He had his whole “W is for women” campaign and his wife was out talking about getting Afgan girls into school and work and higher education.They worked to get women included in the Iraq Constitution and government. President Obama? Well, the extent of his concern seems to be “we want to support Muslim women’s right to wear a hijab.” That was so far off base it’s like he pulled it out of a cracker jack box or a fortune cookie.

  • Rabble Rouser Rev. Amy

    WTH?????  That is obscene!  What is WRONG with these people???

    You are so right – it is very hard to change the misogyny/sexism when organizations like the UN, of all places, is encouraging it!

    Holy crap!

  • Docelder

    We ought to be helpng where it is appreciated. Period. Not letting the American flag fly ought to be the first clue that we aren’t welcome there. Money tends to do that, or more like jealousy tends to do that when you have nicer things than your neighbor does. I am sick to death of apologizing over here because of what we are or what we have that third world corrupt countries will never have until they change from the inside. There is disaster and misery all over this world. We can’t stop it and we can’t put a band-aid on everybody’s butts every time it happens. So, we ought to save up for when our real friends need help.

  • tzada

    How can things be changed when you have something like this going on?
    They are trying to make girls into sex objects.  Was it the Girl Scout Leaders who did this?  Was it the UN? Or someone else?  We send our girls to Girl Scouts to learn life lessons not to become a life lesson.

    Girl Scouts hiding secret sex agenda?
    Accusations fly over U.N. meeting, Planned Parenthood ‘hot’ girl handout

    http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=129757

  • Noogan

    Propublica investigation along with Newsweek:

    $6 Billion Later and the Afghan Police Forces are Incompetent and Corrupt

    http://www.propublica.org/feature/six-billion-dollars-later-the-afghan-national-police-cant-begin-to-do

  • Captain Jack Sparrow

    “For these women and girls in Afghanistan; for the women and girls, as young as TWO YEARS OLD, in Haiti who are being raped daily after the earthquake (and can our military who are there not help PROTECT them?); for those women in Sudan; for the women here in our own country? We must. We MUST.”

    First, Afghanistan…. now that is a political mess!  Karazi can’t protect most of Afghanistan’s people, while women are really hurting there. Just a huge mess! Secondly, if it was not for the US Military the Haiti disaster would be far worse. Right now the US Military is winding down its operations in Haiti by order of the USDoS. Ask DoS why the US Military is not being tasked for protection and why the Sea Bees and Army Corp is not building the necessary temporary shelters? Here is just a snippet of whats going on in Haiti…..

    Joint Operations and Tasking Center
    Daily Support Planned Activities
    19/03/2010
    UN Military
    Will provide convoy escort and site security in Distribution Points (DPs) Nos. 4, 6, 12, 18, 19, 29, 36, 50, 51.Will provide escort and security to WFP from the Log Base to the Killik port.Will perform Mobile Joint Security Patrols for IDPs securitization.Will provide security escort to WFP from Port-au-Prince to Gonaives and from Port-au-Prince to Les Caye.Continues to provide security and machinery support to extract the paintings which are under the debris of the Galerie d’Art Nader (until 21 March).Continues to provide escort and security to WFP for food truck loading operations at the airport industrial park (PaP) (until 26 March).Continues to provide security and engineering work at Fort Dimanche (PaP) (until 24 March).Continues engineering work at Camp Delta (until 22 April), Tabarre ISSA IDP Camp (until 31 March) and at the former MINUSTAH HQ (PaP).Continues to provide security at the Port-au-Prince airport (including the American hospital), JLOC Log Yard, WFP camp (Log Yard 2), WFP warehouses in Delmas 2 and the Jordanian Camp (PaP), ESKO warehouse (Tabarre), SONAPI compound (PaP) and airport industrial park (PaP).Continues to improve security on Route Nationale 1.Continues to perform security and assessment maritime patrols. 

    US Joint Task Force
    Continues to provide 10 medical logisticians to the Promess warehouse to reorganize and establish inventory control measures.Continues to support the Port-au-Prince airport operations in conjunction with Australian RAF and Haitian Airport Authorities.  Continues with repairs to the South pier to enable the off loading of humanitarian relief supplies.Continues to Support UN/NGO Security tasks as required.Beginning to assist and track the DMTF in conjunction with UN and International partners as required, in order to remove debris from Port au Prince Neighborhoods.US Forces in Haiti:  6,615 (On ground: 4,202 / At sea: 2,413).

  • Rabble Rouser Rev. Amy

    tzada, I heard something abt that recently, but it was only in passing.  WTH with that??

    It is unfortunate that the countries who are there helping out are not helping out the women and girls there.  I cannot believe there is nothing they can do abt it…

  • tzada

    Doubtful if our military in Haiti can do anything besides hand out supplies.  They are not even allowed to fly the American flag.  Other countries can and are, but ours is not.  Why?  We might offend someone or make them afraid.  hmmmmmmmm

    Good diary Amy