Monday, March 05, 2007

Afghan Women: Used by the Taliban, Used by Us

It drives me crazy when women's rights are used as an excuse for the occupation of Afghanistan. Well, I suppose widowing a woman is one way of liberating her: liberating her from her husband, provider, security, and very possibly from love ...

Yes, it bothers me that women under the Taliban were so oppressed. But somehow I have a hard time believing that the best thing for them is killing those women, their sons and daughters, their brothers and husbands. Liberating women by waging war is like curing a paper cut by cutting off the finger.

War is so horrific, and it has a particular set of special consequences that are visited upon women.
The harm, silence and shame women experience in war is pervasive; their redress, almost non-existent. The situation of women in armed conflict has been systematically neglected.
Along with the deepening violence women experience during war, the long-term effects of conflict and militarization create a culture of violence that renders women especially vulnerable after war. Institutions of governance and law are weakened and social fragmentation is pronounced. Until the state's security and legal infrastructure are rebuilt, women's security is threatened inside and outside of the home, where they are subject to the rule of aggression rather than the rule of law. (Unifem PDF)

The display of concern for women's rights by the White House, and by our own government is cynical and insincere. This is painfully obvious because they do everything they can to set back the women's movement at home. But they have no problem USING the women of Afghanistan when it serves their purpose.

When it comes to equality for women, Stephen Harper is all for it — as long as the women are in Afghanistan.

Last May, the Prime Minister told Parliament that ensuring equality rights for women was one of the key reasons Canada is waging war in Afghanistan.

Certainly Harper's claims of championing the rights of burqa-clad women have helped him sell that unpopular war to Canadians. (

The women of Afghanistan have suffered through decades of war and occupation, the incredible oppression under the Taliban, and now more years of war and occupation by us. An increasing number are turning to suicide because they see no other options. Again and again they are used.

The Taliban used the "women's question" to enforce its own agenda. The imperialist occupation forces have also used the agenda of gender equality to ultimately pursue their own interests: the occupation of Afghanistan for strategic geo-political reasons. (RAWA)

To support women in Afghanistan means recognizing their real needs: short term and long term. Ideally, we'd ask them what they want instead of imposing it. My guess is they need peace first. They also need a rebuilt infrastructure and economy, and support for the courageous women and their indigenous women's movements.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing about this. I watched the PBS/NOW piece on Joya, last Friday. Best wishes--GDK

sparkle hayter said...

Yes, strange wasn't it? Once the Bush admin wanted to bomb afghanistan, suddenly they were feminists, concerned wiht human rights! Dick Cheney couldn't jump on that bandwagon fast enough. Few people noticed that at the very same time, they were rolling back already meager refugee provisions for women who were victims of gender-based crimes. The same double-cross can be seen with the armed forces in America, they love the soliders when they need cannon fodder, or a photo op, but they've cut benefits for veterans.

Bimon said...

The punitive expedition to A-stan was never about liberating women. There never was a real effort to change the way things work there. The oppression of women is now also condoned by the new Afghan constitution. Meet the new boss, same as the old one.