Don’t throw stones in my face

Obama seems to be hoping Afghan women will just fade into the background now.

Obama’s lack of overt attention to Afghan women has led many to fear their hard-fought gains will slip away as the United States hands off security responsibility to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, with ever-present Taliban leaders still holding sway in much of the countryside.

Women’s issues are not on the formal agenda at the NATO summit the United States will be hosting in Chicago later this month. Afghanistan is poised to send an all-male delegation.

Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said it was “really worrying” that Obama only made a passing reference to women on his trip to Afghanistan last week, when he affirmed a general need “to protect the human rights of all Afghans – men and women, boys and girls.”

Not even putting women and girls first – making them second, just as the Taliban does.

For more than a year, the White House has been pursuing, with little success, reconciliation talks involving the Islamist group that could give it a share of power in Kabul.

“When you are negotiating with the Taliban, ensuring the rights of women is not a simple matter,” Nossel said. “In that sense you can understand why they are not talking about it but that is why it is doubly worrying.”

From everything I know it’s not so much not a simple matter, it’s impossible. Crushing women is always the Taliban’s very first priority. It’s the first thing they did when they first won the battle.

Over the past year, the volunteer group Young Women For Change glued more than 700 posters around Kabul showing a woman’s veiled face that read: “don’t grab my hair/don’t throw stones in my face/I can stand on my own two feet/I can build this country with you together.”

Almost all the posters were torn down within days.



  1. scott says

    This sort of thing drives me to despair. The US and allies have two impossible choices:

    * Continue an unpopular, unsustainable, and perhaps unwinnable war, depose the useless (at best!) Karzai government, and impose an indefinite police state to enforce basic human rights (oh, the irony).
    * Leave and let some of the very worst barbarians on the planet have their way with a defenseless population.

    So we have to choose between what can’t be done and what mustn’t be allowed to happen. Given this, I can see why the US government wants to downplay the effect on Afghan women. What else can they say- “It sucks. Sorry!”?

    I hate that I can’t think of any way out of this that’s even vaguely acceptable. Even if we could go back to 2001 knowing what we do now- we’d then have the choice to let atrocity continue, or sweep in like the wrath of god and dictate civilization to the defeated like Germany and Japan in 1945. Neither of those really appeals either.

  2. Konradius says

    This is exactly why in stead of invasion we should support charter cities:
    The crucial point would be having a real constitution and real human rights in play.
    My country (the Netherlands) also have soldiers in Afganistan, and I really hate that we’re essentially supporting the crummy laws there.

  3. Dunc says

    Anybody who ever imagined that the plight of women in Afghanistan was ever anything more than a convenient post-hoc justification seriously needs their head examined. If we gave the least shit about human rights, we wouldn’t be best pals with the Saudis, not to mention Islam Karimov.

  4. sharpur says

    Scott, let’s be honest, option two on your list is the only one under consideration. The US and allies went into Afghanistan without clear aims. This, plus the fact that modern Western opinion wants wars to be quick and almost casualty-free (on our side) ensured that the campaign was doomed from the first. All the Taliban have ever needed to do was to not go away, knowing that soon enough the Western powers would.

    Konradius, the only way to apply Paul Romer’s ‘charter cities’ idea to Afghanistan is to do exactly what he says he doesn’t mean: Colonise the place. Accept the old-fashioned, decades long process of making ‘them’ more like ‘us’. Except, if Afghanistan had any potential as a colony it would already have been one. Neither C19th Britain nor C20th Russia found anything there worth the effort.

    To try to create a charter city in Afghanistan as it is now wont produce Hong Kong, it will produce Kabul: Not an economic powerhouse, but a bottomless sink of corruption surrounded by Taliban controlled countryside. An armed camp regularly infiltrated and doomed to fall the day the Western troops leave.

  5. Your Name's not Bruce? says

    “Afghanistan is pois(on)ed to send an all-male delegation.”

    There, FTFY

  6. pipenta says

    Same as it ever was. Has any American president ever really given a shit about the lives of women under the Taliban? Nope.

  7. Brian M says

    That’s the issue….what does one do when “the culture” has fundamentally poisonous views of women? Is it “our” role to “do something” here? What if “doing something” means raining death and destruction down on the place, directly or indirectly, for three decades? How can such violence do anything but exacerbate the worst attributes of a culture? Especially when “our” allies are almost as bad or…given how lawless terriroty under their control often can be…worse…for women’s rights?

    No answers at all.

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