Particularly, about the Taliban in Afghanistan and how it treats women. Now, I realize this might just seem like an “out of the clear blue sky” kinda thing, but trust me when I tell you it is not. (Photo by Steve Evans)
First, I should say that before the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, women actually had a fair number of rights. They had the right to vote about the same time women in the US did. The participated in the legislature, worked as teachers, worked in the government, and generally enjoyed a number of freedoms in side and outside the home.
And then the Taliban came along. Let’s just look at some of the changes instituted by the Taliban in terms of women:
[snip] 1- Complete ban on women’s work outside the home, which also applies to female teachers, engineers and most professionals. Only a few female doctors and nurses are allowed to work in some hospitals in Kabul.
2- Complete ban on women’s activity outside the home unless accompanied by a mahram (close male relative such as a father, brother or husband).
3- Ban on women dealing with male shopkeepers.
4- Ban on women being treated by male doctors.
5- Ban on women studying at schools, universities or any other educational institution. (Taliban have converted girls’ schools into religious seminaries.)
6- Requirement that women wear a long veil (Burqa), which covers them from head to toe.
7- Whipping, beating and verbal abuse of women not clothed in accordance with Taliban rules, or of women unaccompanied by a mahram.
8- Whipping of women in public for having non-covered ankles.
9- Public stoning of women accused of having sex outside marriage. (A number of lovers are stoned to death under this rule).
10- Ban on the use of cosmetics. (Many women with painted nails have had fingers cut off).
11- Ban on women talking or shaking hands with non-mahram males.
12- Ban on women laughing loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman’s voice).
13- Ban on women wearing high heel shoes, which would produce sound while walking. (A man must not hear a woman’s footsteps.)
14- Ban on women riding in a taxi without a mahram.
15- Ban on women’s presence in radio, television or public gatherings of any kind.
16- Ban on women playing sports or entering a sport center or club.
17- Ban on women riding bicycles or motorcycles, even with their mahrams.
18- Ban on women’s wearing brightly colored clothes. In Taliban terms, these are “sexually attracting colors.”
19- Ban on women gathering for festive occasions such as the Eids, or for any recreational purpose.
20- Ban on women washing clothes next to rivers or in a public place.
21- Modification of all place names including the word “women.” For example, “women’s garden” has been renamed “spring garden”.
22- Ban on women appearing on the balconies of their apartments or houses.
23- Compulsory painting of all windows, so women can not be seen from outside their homes.
24- Ban on male tailors taking women’s measurements or sewing women’s clothes.
25- Ban on female public baths.
26- Ban on males and females traveling on the same bus. Public buses have now been designated “males only” (or “females only”).
27- Ban on flared (wide) pant-legs, even under a burqa.
28- Ban on the photographing or filming of women.
29- Ban on women’s pictures printed in newspapers and books, or hung on the walls of houses and shops. [snip] (Click here to read the rest.)
Pretty exhaustive list, right? Wrong. There is more. Much more. To say that women are treated poorly by the Taliban is the understatement of understatements.
So, why the hell am I going on about the Taliban? Because the Obama Administration is making good on a claim Obama made to engage with them. The theory, as I understand it, is to try and get some of them to move away from Al Qaeda. How likely that will be is debatable, but these authorities seem to think it will not work:
[snip] Some Afghan policy specialists are skeptical about whether negotiations would succeed. Peter Bergen, a specialist on Afghanistan and al-Qaida, told a US Institute of Peace seminar in Washington last week that there were a host of problems with such a strategy, not least why the Taliban should enter negotiations “when they think they are winning”.
Audrey Kurth Cronin, a member of the US National War College faculty in Washington, and the author of How Terrorism Ends, said talks with Mullah Omar and the Haqqani network were pointless because there would be no negotiable terms.
She said there could be talks with Hekmatyar, but these would be conducted through back channels, potentially by a third party. Given his support for jihad, she said, “it would be unreasonable to expect the US and the UK to do so”.
Asked how Obama’s Afghan strategy was progressing, a senior former US government official familiar with the latest Pentagon thinking said: “In a word, poorly. We seriously need to be developing a revised plan of action that will allow us a chance to achieve sufficient security in a more sustainable manner.” [snip] (Click here to read the rest.)
So much for not negotiating with terrorists. I guess that is so Twentieth Century.
Indeed, the New Yorker has an article coming out soon about this whole issue, the US. and Taliban talks. This is something that is moving along, even if we haven’t heard much about it:
[snip]When asked for comment on the talks, a White House spokesman said that the remarks that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made last Friday at the Asia Society offered a “thorough representation of the U.S. position.” Clinton had tough words for the Taliban, saying that they were confronted with a choice between political compromise and ostracism as “an enemy of the international community.” She added, “I know that reconciling with an adversary that can be as brutal as the Taliban sounds distasteful, even unimaginable. And diplomacy would be easy if we only had to talk to our friends. But that is not how one makes peace. President Reagan understood that when he sat down with the Soviets. And Richard Holbrooke made this his life’s work. He negotiated face to face with Milosevic and ended a war.” [snip] (Click here to read the rest.)
Uh, yeah – “distasteful” is putting it mildly. Because here is the thing that these articles do not discuss – how the US can negotiate with the Taliban not only for its Al Qaeda ways, but the horrific treatment women suffer under their rule. Here is what happens when you “negotiate” with the likes of the Taliban (h/t Breeze. Photo credit: crethiplethi.com):
[snip] On Saturday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed his government plans to take control of some of Afghanistan’s women shelters.
“Those who are found in violation of the established standards and the rules and regulations will be taken over by the Afghan government,” he said.
Under the plan, a group of Afghan officials will decide who is allowed to seek protection in a shelter.
Human Rights groups worry that Afghan government-run shelters will be disastrous for women and girls fleeing abuse.
“I don’t trust many of the people in this government to decide who should be allowed into a shelter and who should be ejected from a shelter,” said Rachel Reid of Human Rights Watch. “Often people in government have the same conservative attitudes that these girls and women are fleeing.”
According to the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, most Afghan women and girls face severe domestic violence – and many are forced into marriage well below the legal age, some as young as 8 years old. [snip}
And what does this have to do with the Taliban? This takeover of women’s shelters is a (misguided) attempt by Karzai to “woo” the Taliban.
But wait, there’s more:
[snip] “This regulation comes at a time when the president is trying to position himself as someone the Taliban can do business with,” said Reid. “He is reaching out and calling them [the Taliban] his brothers. He isn’t very interested in protecting his sisters, his wives, his daughters at the moment. But they desperately need his protection.”
Women’s rights activists fear this is just the first step in a much larger plan to welcome the Taliban back into political life.
“I really see that in the future they will target other women’s programs and women’s NGOs just to appease the Taliban,” said Manizha Naderi, the head of Women for Afghan Women, a group that runs shelters across Afghanistan.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued a public statement saying that it was “concerned” by the takeover. Privately, American and western diplomats are furious. [snip] (Click here to read the rest.)
This is what happens when one tries to negotiate with this kind of organization, which is why they US deciding to engage with the Taliban is problematic. Why State personnel should be “concerned” about this takeover is indicative of the short-sightedness of this enterprise. What, did they think the Taliban would just embrace Obama’s Hopey Changyness and forfeit their belief system, including how they treat women? Please. Karzai is making this concession now, to take over the shelters, based on a less than credible rationale, to appease the Taliban. But what would the US do to appease them, and get them to come to the table?
I think this old proverb sums this whole situation up: when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Karzai, the US, or anyone else who negotiates with the Taliban are going to be tarnished in one way or another. Sometimes things that are “unimaginable” should remain so, and not made a reality. Like negotiating with the Taliban. Just a thought.