article-1110208-01A6AC050000044D-11_468x318

Obama has finally made a decision on Afghanistan which can pretty much be summed up as: “I make no decision and reject all the options you have given me.” Barack just wants to know which way the exit is. So basically the Administration’s decision on Afghanistan for now is more indecision.

While it has become the common desire to bring the troops home and call it a day with the seemingly never-ending Afghan War, support for the war amongst the American public is also at an all time low.

As the Obama Administration ponders the very real possibility of becoming the newest addition to the “graveyard of empires” (aka Afghanistan), there is one aspect of Afghan society everyone seems to have forgotten: the women.

Yes, Afghan women. Anyone remember them? It was only in their name that the war was fought in the first place, right? That and to find Bin Laden in some cave of course.

It was the plight of Afghan women that really served as an emotional tool to garner support for the US Invasion back in 2001. But with the allied forces never really investing accurately in humanitarian efforts on the ground (read: building schools, hospitals, roads), it did not take long for the security situation in the country, which really never extended beyond Kabul anyway, to deteriorate.

When there is no security, there are no women, mainly because they are locked up at home. In the absence of security, nothing much can flourish, especially not democracy. I recently read that one of the best indicators of how safe your society is can be measured by how safe women are.

In the case of Afghanistan, the situation for women has actually worsened under the watch of American soldiers. Violence against women has increased to the point that statistics now show over 70% of Afghan women and girls are victims of violence; girls’ schools are regularly bombed, teachers shot in front of their students, one if four Afghan women die in childbirth, and widespread campaigns exist to make vocal women’s rights voices vanish. Oh and the Taliban, who never really went away, are back. The situation is so bleak that major women’s rights groups, even in the US, have called for a full troop pullout.

But it can’t be that easy for us to wash our hands of Afghan blood. As civilian causalities mount, “smart bombs” continue to miss their target, the US policy in Afghanistan is misguided at best. In order for the US to make its strategy in Afghanistan work, it must take into account the rights of Afghan women and girls whose lives have really borne the brunt of over 30 years of war.

Yes, right now the US is supporting a President who pretty much stole the recent Afghan elections, and only months ago implemented a new law which basically allows men to deny their wives food if they refuse to have sex.

The point I am trying to make though is that while the current US policy in Afghanistan is a disaster, it can never be made right unless women’s needs- healthcare, education, increased political presence- are all seriously improved upon and invested in. And I am talking real basic level investments to start with.

You just cannot really rebuild a society that has seen as much war as the Afghan society by excluding 50% of the population- women. In the case of Afghanistan it is even more important to include women not only because that’s what we said we would do, but because it is the winning strategy.

There is still time to make a war gone/going horribly wrong go right, and that is by working with and investing in Afghan women. As President Obama takes his time and ponders his options, someone needs to bring women back into the equation. Then we can start talking about leaving Afghanistan.

*This post of mine was also published on The Huffington Post.

12 comments

  1. It is so important that women who have access to the resources of media, internet, blogging, etc. to use their positive voices on behalf of those who cannot speak. Thank you, Anushay, for being a much needed and powerful force.

  2. Malalai Joya, the Afghan parliamentarian who was dismissed for speaking out against the so-called ‘deomcracy’ in Afghanistan, puts it best I think. She argues that women were a little hopeful at the onset, but it became abundantly clear many many years ago that the US and its allies had no interest in women’s rights of any kind. That was only ever a moral screen put up to help rally support against an illegal war. The US was attacked by Al Qaeda, which is a non-state, transnational network. You don’t build democracy by devastating villages full of innocent men, women, and children. Point and click warfare, ‘smart’ or otherwise, is not how you fight counter-insurgency. And that ignores the different reasons why myriad manifestations of Afghans resist the foreign occupation of their country. They aren’t all Taliban.

    Anyway, Joya argues that since it is clear that the foreign occupation is only interested in propping up its puppet (in the same way the USSR and England have done in the past) that it would be easier to fight one enemy than two. She, and the women that support her, want the troops out of Afghanistan.

  3. At first glance, the solution to the problem of democratizing Afghanistan seems wholly political. After all, democracy is a political ideology, and Afghanistan’s political instability is indeed concerning. Perhaps this is why we began to neglect the horrors of the social problems that plague Afghanistan. The violation of human rights that occurs on a daily basis in Afghanistan is something that has not changed even after the fall of the Taliban. Women’s rights are a particular concern because women face daily threats of rape and abuse. Many people misconceive that the oppressed lifestyles of women in Afghanistan are phenomena that will change after the democratization of Afghanistan. The truth is that the first and major step in initiating democratization in Afghanistan is tending to the rights of women in Afghanistan. Such social reparations are an absolute necessity should any reforms be attempted in changing the political foundation of Afghanistan.
    The war in Afghanistan is no longer a war driven by rightful motivations, as indicated by the declining support for the war. When Bush initiated the war, one of the promises he made was that he would secure the rights of women in Afghanistan. And to a certain extent, Bush kept his promise. The Taliban, the body that most people thought was the primary cause of the oppression of women was eliminated. But today, we see no improvements in the lives of Afghan women. Laws that essentially legalize marital rape have been legislated by the “democratically-elected” Karzai, and women still spend most of their life as captives of their homes. While President Obama is deploying 300,000 more troops into Afghanistan to end the war, the war is not going to end fruitfully unless something frees women from the shackles that keep them home, living lives of servitude. Despite the inauguration of the much-anticipated President Obama, much hasn’t been said or done in support of the patient women in Afghanistan.
    And if Obama is really the Messiah that we hoped he would be, he needs to realize the pivotal role women play in the situation in Afghanistan. I like how Anushay says “[the US policy in Afghanistan] can never be made right unless women’s needs are all seriously improved upon and invested in.” As long as women are barred from having a political voice, and are barred from the outside world in general, Afghanistan cannot be a democracy. But this is not to say that change for women will come overnight because the inferiority of women is inherent in the history and religion of Islam. This war however, can turn out to be the turning point that Afghanistan needs.

  4. I definitely agree with your point that what Afghanistan needs the most is support for Afghan women. The United States should invest more in humanitarian issues like building libraries and schools instead of launching attacks and bomb raids. However, it is misleading to assume that the violence against women increased regardless of the watch of American soldiers. Only recently the Taliban started to initiate acid terror attacks on children and students. It is a bit too hasty to conclude that the stationing American soldiers in Afghanistan serve no purpose. I believe what Afghanistan needs is a safe environment for education. In order to provide more security, I believe one way is to station more American soldiers.
    Afghanistan meets all the requirements to change and reform. The people are ready to change. Despite constant threats and attacks, women are seeking education. Even the schoolgirls are determined; a 17 years old girl named Shamsia is firm in her stance that she will still continue her schooling after the acid attack. Moreover, according to Orzala Ashra, who is an independent civil rights and human rights activist, women are not locking themselves at home because of physical threats. Despite the lack of security, the nation longs for education and change. At this point, I believe United States should not withdraw, but intervene to help bring about a change to the country. It is the chance to prove that the war is not an aimless war. It is the chance to prove that United States engaged in combat to reorganize and rebuild the nation. Before the United States intervened in 2001, Afghan women were kept inside the darkness. The Taliban strictly forbid any education to the women and the status of the women in Afghanistan was constantly deteriorating. However, once the country is willing to fix the most deeply enrooted tradition in the society, it is ready for change.
    It is certainly reasonable for President Obama to take time and ponder about his options. It is hard to initiate any actions when there is no reliable partnership. Yes, the Afghanistan president is not cooperating as much as the United States expected. However, President Obama should know that at least fifty percent of the nation is ready to lend a hand, which is the reliable partnership that President Obama should be looking for.

  5. In media, we frequently see many career women who are also wives and mothers. Most of these women always seem to have one similarity: they often stress over work or family issues which affect the other. The idea that balancing both career and a family is challenging. Of course, sometimes one ideal woman is able to handle being the perfect wife, perfect mother, and perfect employee. Who hasn’t dreamt of becoming that extraordinary woman? However, realistically speaking, it is doubtful that all women can handle both. If all women became perfect – perfect being able to cope with both career and a family – their hard efforts would just be considered normal. I prefer a world where only a few women successfully work and enjoy family life, and where having to both work and build a family together are not requirements of a women. Also women who choose either career or a family can focus on their specific goal; these women, I believe, can dedicate themselves more on their career or family as well as have the time to take other interests. Eventually, the world will be filled with many different types of women who take interest in different things, creating diversity within the female population. Concern about both work and family can lead to stress. I think that although this may be true for many women, there are also women who love their decision to keep both career and family. Saying that it only leads to stress felt like those who actually take pleasure and satisfaction in that they are doing are ignored. Therefore, I believe there should still be the choice of selecting both.

  6. Dear Anushay,
    Although I can understand what you are getting at, don’t you think that you’ve simplified the matter a bit too much? President Obama has a lot of different viewpoints to please, and he can’t please them all. I think that he just had to prioritize his “missions” in Afghanistan, and right now especially with the international threats of terrorism, it seems a logical conclusion that anti-terrorism would be at the top of his list, seeing as how it directly impacts America’s national security. I don’t think that it was because he was being insensitive to women’s rights, or that he was approaching it a completely wrong way. I think that he is trying to approach it in a way that would deal with the situations that are at the top of the list, which right now seem to be eradicating terrorist forces like Al Qaeda from their havens along the borders of these nations. That’s not to say that I whole-heartedly support his policy. I think that Obama’s policies and decisions could have been better thought out and could have been approached from a different angle. I think he could do a lot better with the timeline for his schedules, the increase in troops he’s about to put in, and on his reque sts that he’s making for the Afghanistan government. But considering current world affairs, and the current, proliferated threat of terrorism, I would have to disagree with you that women’s rights are the angle to approach this situation. Sadly, not many women are in a position of power right now to influence politics, and the unstable status quo makes it harder for Obama to address women’s rights immediately. I do believe that women’s rights are of critical importance, but don’t you think that for now, we have to wait for the situation to improve, and for women’s rights to be more prolific before we start advocating such a contemporary stance on such a conservative country? Yes, women’s rights and equality are important, but the safety of these people and the international community as a whole are of utmost importance right now. So I would have to say that although not perfect, Obama’s doing what he can to please a lot of different people with different agendas. What he wants may not be exactly what women want, but it sure looks like it’s something that women need.

    Chris Yang

  7. I definitely agree with your point that what Afghanistan needs the most is support for Afghan women. The United States should invest more in humanitarian issues like building libraries and schools instead of launching attacks and bomb raids. However, it is misleading to assume that the violence against women has increased regardless of the watch of American soldiers. Only recently the Taliban started to initiate acid terror attacks on children and students. It is a bit too hasty to conclude that the stationing American soldiers in Afghanistan serve no purpose. I believe what Afghanistan needs is a safe environment for education. In order to provide more security, I believe one way is to station more American soldiers.
    Afghanistan meets all the requirements to change and reform. The people are ready to change. Despite constant threats and attacks, women are seeking education. Even the schoolgirls are determined; a 17 years old girl named Shamsia is firm in her stance that she will still continue her schooling after the acid attack. Moreover, according to Orzala Ashra, who is an independent civil rights and human rights activist, women are not locking themselves at home because of physical threats. Despite the lack of security, the nation longs for education and change. At this point, I believe United States should not withdraw, but intervene to help bring about a change to the country. It is the chance to prove that the war is not an aimless war. It is the chance to prove that United States engaged in combat to reorganize and rebuild the nation. Before the United States intervened in 2001, Afghan women were kept inside the darkness. The Taliban strictly forbid any education to the women and the status of the women in Afghanistan was constantly deteriorating. However, once the country is willing to fix the most deeply enrooted tradition in the society, it is ready for change.
    It is certainly reasonable for President Obama to take time and ponder about his options. It is hard to initiate any actions when there is no reliable partnership. Yes, the Afghanistan president is not cooperating as much as the United States expected. However, President Obama should know that at least fifty percent of the nation is ready to lend a hand, which is the reliable partnership that President Obama should be looking for.

    (You could delete the post I uploaded earlier)

  8. NOTE* Please delete previous comment!

    Blog Comment by Kevin Kim (S)
    At first glance, the solution to the problem of democratizing Afghanistan seems wholly political. After all, democracy is a political ideology, and Afghanistan’s political instability is indeed a concern. Perhaps this is why we began to neglect the horrors of the social problems that plague Afghanistan. The violation of human rights that occurs on a daily basis in Afghanistan is something that has not changed even after the fall of the Taliban. Women’s rights are a particular concern because women face daily threats of rape and abuse. Many people misconceive that the oppressed lifestyles of women in Afghanistan are phenomena that will change after the democratization of Afghanistan. The truth is that the first and major step in initiating democratization in Afghanistan is tending to the rights of women in Afghanistan. Such social reparations are an absolute necessity should any reforms be attempted in changing the political foundation of Afghanistan.
    The war in Afghanistan is no longer a war driven by rightful motivations, as indicated by the declining support for the war. When Bush initiated the war, one of the promises he made was that he would secure the rights of women in Afghanistan (Kristof). And to a certain extent, Bush kept his promise. The Taliban, the body that most people thought was the primary cause of the oppression of women was eliminated. But today, we see no improvements in the lives of Afghan women. Laws that essentially legalize marital rape have been legislated by the “democratically-elected” Karzai (Nesrine), and women still spend most of their life as captives of their homes. While President Obama is deploying 300,000 more troops into Afghanistan to end the war, the war is not going to end fruitfully unless something frees women from the shackles that keep them home, living lives of servitude. Despite the inauguration of the much-anticipated President Obama, much hasn’t been said or done in support of the patient women in Afghanistan.
    If Obama is really the Messiah that we hoped he would be, he needs to realize the pivotal role women play in the situation in Afghanistan. I like the way Anushay says “[the US policy in Afghanistan] can never be made right unless women’s needs are all seriously improved upon and invested in.” As long as women are barred from having a political voice, and are barred from the outside world in general, Afghanistan cannot be a democracy. But this is not to say that change for women will come overnight because the inferiority of women is inherent in the history and religion of Islam. This war however, can turn out to be the turning point that Afghanistan needs.

  9. It is inevitable to improve women’s rights in Afghanistan. To have girls sprayed with
    acid simply for going to school is a criminal act. To kill women for advocating the rights of
    women to return to work, to reveal their faces once again, and participate in other activities that had once been permitted before the Taliban’s regime is unacceptable. It is unfair to have women in Western societies enjoy their lives with full rights when women in Afghanistan are being murdered for displaying their regained rights.
    I agree that Obama should interfere politically by holding peace talks with the Taliban.
    The economic recession may have prevented the Obama administration from fully funding the basic needs of Afghani people, but it can still establish democracy in the nation. As the head of one of the most powerful countries in the nation, Obama should also stress the equality of women and men; though this may seem to be a Western idea to Muslims, the equality of women is actually stated in the Qu’ran by giving women full rights to property and divorce.
    However, the Obama administration cannot completely fix Afghanistan. It is necessary
    for the Afghanis to work together to change the mindset that men have towards women. In order
    to become a successful country today, it is necessary to give equal opportunities to both men and women. Though Afghani men may claim that it is cultural for them to abuse women if they do something against their wishes, it is criminal to attack them violently in forms of rape and beatings. Afghani men must realize that while they preach democracy, their country will not become stable until they recognize women.
    The Taliban must also equally be condemned for their actions. Though they have already
    received bad press, they are the reason why women continue to get murdered for their activism. The Afghani people must also realize that the Taliban’s beliefs are extremist and do not accurately embrace the traditional Muslim beliefs. The Afghani people, especially men, cannot be scared into starving their wives when they refuse to have sex or beat them because they could be seen from a window. To preach democracy, they must stand up for their beliefs rather than be intimidated into what may become another Taliban-run government.
    In order to regain women’s rights, the Afghani people must come to terms with living in a democracy and in a country with full rights. No government can fix this completely; this is the obligation of the Afghani people and whether they are ready to fight for what they truly believe in.

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