Sunday, October 10, 2010

Laura Bush Says Afghanistan Must Embrace Women's Rights

The haunting portrait of a young, disfigured Afghan woman on Time magazine's cover this summer issued a stark reminder that the stakes in Afghanistan are high -- and that the consequences of failure are brutal, especially for women.

On Friday I met with Bibi Aisha in California, where, thanks to the compassion of many individuals and organizations, she is receiving reconstructive surgery and beginning the long road of healing. The visible scars of her disfigurement will heal with time, but moving beyond the emotional and psychological trauma of her torturous mutilation may be more difficult.

Bibi Aisha's story and the prevalence of intimidation and violence against Afghan women raise important questions for those working to establish this young democracy. Will Afghanistan embrace and protect the rights of all people? Or will it be a nation that allows the oppression of women to continue unabated?

These questions are central to the challenges confronting those who seek peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan today.

Nine years ago, many around the world learned of the severe repression and brutality against women that was common in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Girls were forbidden to attend school. Women were imprisoned in their homes and denied access to doctors when they were sick. And Afghanistan had the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world.

Today there are encouraging signs of progress: More than 6.2 million students are enrolled in Afghanistan's schools, and 35 percent of them are girls. Afghan women serve as government ministers and lead as provincial governors. Women have been elected or appointed to the National Assembly. Afghan women work as entrepreneurs, educators, lawyers and community health workers. And their work is essential to the growth of the Afghan economy.

Yet serious challenges remain. A culture of fear still silences women. In many rural areas, those who dare to teach receive letters threatening not only their own lives but their children's as well. And though the Afghan constitution guarantees 25 percent of seats in parliament to female legislators, assassinations of prominent women have driven many from public life. Among those who remain, many are muted by fear.



LL said...

Islam and all the baggage that it brings with it is not compatible with our Constitutional Republic. I understand that they have freedom of speech and religion, but there are distinct limits. The mutilation and beating of women, forced clitorectomys, honor killings and all of the Koranic doctrines that they embrace can not be tolerated HERE == EVER.

Liberty said...

I think the question comes down, not to one of Taliban vs. America but more to a question of Western culture vs. tribal law. We are trying to press our way of life and thinking upon a culture that has so many intricacies we can't even imagine.

What these young women are under is generally not so much Qur'anic law (which is actually inaccurate, as there isn't much "law", per se, contained in the Qur'an. Most of Islamic jurisprudence is contained in the Hadith, I think it's called), but rather tribal customs that have been passed down from generation to generation. This tribal law varies from place to place. Something may not be a crime under one set of tribal laws, but is a horrendous crime punishable by death under another.

Under all that you have the overlapping ties of family and loyalties- the age old story of the kingdom of the world, repeated over and over.

This kind of system is so unfamiliar to the linear thinking of western life that we can only stare in amazement, really...or try to cram the tribal complex into a mold just like ours so that we can demonize it/abhor it/say whatever we want about it from our bastion.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is this: we're not ever going to get rid of this system. I would remind you that every successful fight for freedom in the history of the world was carried out and accomplished, not by foreign invaders, but by the people of the country. Further, history also teaches us that trying to proclaim freedom (Afghan/Soviet war, anyone) or help someone get it backfires. Badly. Just look what came out of the aforementioned Afghan/Soviet war, which we helped in.

Hello, Mr. Taliban.

We will not manage to vanquish tribal law via a war. Changes, transformations, in thinking have never occurred using that vehicle. Approaching this from a Christian perspective for a moment- the only thing that can radically transform thinking is Jesus Christ and His working upon a person's heart. So the "war" in Afghanistan needs to be carried out, not by soldiers, but by willing missionaries of Christ who have a radical love for Jesus and the people there.

So, going back to politics- this isn't a job for soldiers. This could possibly be a job for politicians, but they haven't done any better. So how about this. Let's just leave people alone and let them live their lives. If enough people begin to see something wrong with the system, it will change. But if they don't see anything wrong with it (which, obviously, many of them don't) no amount of our guns or persuasive arguments will help change it.

Just my take. :)

Tony said...

Well said, Liberty. And I would ask, what is the purpose of the Afghan war? Are we deploying thousands of soldiers and spending billions of dollars to influence tribal law of which we know nothing? Where is that in the Constitution?

This all sounds wonderfully sentimental, but it has nothing to do with national security.

Teresa said...


Actually it's called "provide for the common defense" or what we call national security Today. If you don't believe in national security and keeping citizens safe from terrorists who want to kill us then you just altered the Constitution just to fit your twisted version of the Constitution.

Leticia said...

"There are clear choices for those entrusted with ensuring Afghanistan's peace and prosperity. Will Afghanistan be a nation that empowers women, or one that oppresses them?"

We all know that answer to that one.