Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Afghan Women Fear Life After NATO Leaves- Don't Want Their Burqas Back

A depressing article about the fears Afghan women have regarding the NATO troop withdrawal in 2014. They fear having to go back to the burqa, though many never stopped wearing it. In the beginning they had high hopes, but those hopes have been dashed, even more so with the imminent departure of NATO. Even post Taliban, women have been marginalized, and those who fight for women's rights often live under the fear of death.  They fear losing the tiny bit of freedom they gained once the Taliban were no longer in power. And it's tiny. They feel totally abandoned.

The Guardian's Tracy McVeigh interviewed seven women who managed to make a life for themselves post Taliban, but they don't see much hope for their future.
The international community said the fall of the Taliban in 2001 would bring in a new era of rights. Afghanistan's women and girls would be returned to schools and workplaces and freed from the infamously fierce restrictions on their lives. It was a key political justification used by the British and Americans for their continued presence. That year US secretary of state Colin Powell declared that restoring women's human rights would "not be negotiable". Prime minister Tony Blair promised: "The conflict will not be the end. We will not walk away, as the outside world has done so many times before." Now, with the withdrawal of international forces and their caravan of international agencies, consultants and contractors looming in 2014, there is evidence that Afghan women have seen very few of the promised changes and are terrified of the future.


A 2012 survey of women across Afghanistan by the charity ActionAid found that nine out of 10 feared the departure of the international community, believing that their lives will significantly deteriorate. And violence against women has never been higher: 87% of women report domestic abuse.

Their stories are depressing, if it's bad now, imagine what it will be like when we leave.

53-year-old Dr Monisa Sherzada Hassan, who escaped to Germany in 1994, returned in 2001 to sit on a government committee for peace and reconciliation is one of the lucky ones. Her two kids study in Germany, and she has a German passport so she can leave, but this is what she had to say about the situation.

"There are 70 members [on the committee], and nine are women. The women have just a symbolic presence. By voting they get nothing – committees only have functions to hear, not be heard. For women it's not that they are not tough or capable, but that their position is not equal. I see progress if a man says: 'Hello, how are you?' Otherwise they see a woman and they look over her head.

"The younger women are the most broken and depressed. We try to show them we are with them, but they see no future. They are dependent financially on their families.

"If the US and UK wanted, they could eliminate the Taliban in two days. They brought them and they can get rid of them. Now they are trying to leave Afghanistan isolated.

"I don't understand why the foreign forces would leave now, because they just ensure that the next Afghan crisis will be bigger. Our young people have never lived without bloodshed, and the hunger of youth is a great weapon for fundamentalists.

"When the conservatives come back they will shoot all these women who have been fighting for justice. Any fundamentalist knows the addresses of those who speak out for women's rights. The international community should support and protect these women, but they just think about their own departure. These women think about what will happen when the doors of these embassies are closed in their faces and when nobody at all will think about them.

"I am lucky in that I've got a German passport and can leave when I want, but I would beg the British and the American politicians who promised so much: please make one page in Afghanistan's history a lighter one. Before it's too late."
There was a time when women had rights in Afghanistan, ironically, during the late 1970s when the Marxists took control of the government. Even Vogue Magazine made a trip there in the 1960s when Kabul looked pretty much like any Western city.  How things have changed since then.

Read the whole Guardian article here, it's heartbreaking.

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