The West Georgian, October 17, 2007

Afghan women forced to live in terror

The Taliban may not be in power any longer, but, in theory all that has happened is one religious fundamentalist group has been replaced with another.

By: Jessica Nash

It is hard to fathom that in the year 2007 there are women who are being thrown into prison for violating the mere freedoms that are taken for granted by so many. However, it is a very real situation that is occurring every day in Afghanistan. When a woman is safer in prison, there is something very wrong with her society.

Gulsoom is 17-years-old and married. Last year she tried to commit suicide - she failed. She set fire to herself but, against the odds, survived with appalling injuries. (BBC News, Dec.7, 2006)
More photos of self-immolation ( )

When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, with them came the suppression of what few rights that Afghan women had. Since the United States has become involved in the removal of the Taliban, there has been a slight improvement for women in some parts of the country. However, in many areas women still fear for their safety.

The Taliban may not be in power any longer, but, in theory all that has happened is one religious fundamentalist group has been replaced with another.

For example, in April 2005, a 29-year-old Afghan woman was stoned to death in the province of Badakhshan. Her crime: adultery. However, it is of interest to note that in Afghan law, the testimony of men far outweighs that of women.

So, the woman may in fact not have been guilty of anything. Her husband could have simply testified that she had committed the crime and as a result she was found guilty.

In the United States, if we heard of a man who wouldn't allow his wife to wear a certain color shoes and would publicly beat her if he caught her wearing them, more likely then not, it would cause an outrage.

In Afghanistan, there are women who this is a part of their every day existence. They face public whippings as a disciplinary action for wearing brightly colored shoes. These whippings have been so severe that they have resulted in severe dismemberment and even death. A public whipping is also the punishment for an Afghan woman who exposes her ankles when she walks.

What would you think if someone told you that they traded their wife for a cow? Would you laugh and think to yourself, this guy can't be serious?

In Afghanistan, women are property. They can easily be traded for this or that. They can be used to settle debts. Women are practically slaves in their homes. They are not permitted to leave the house unless they have a suitable male escort.

The windows of their homes have to be painted so that a male passerby cannot see the women inside. The men may not be able to see inside, but this also means that the women can't see outside.

Photojournalist Paula Bronstein, who has photographed tens of self-immolation victims in the Herat Regional hospital Burn unit, wrote:
“The medical staff at the Herat hospital says that they have registered around 700 self-immolations cases so far this year.”
Getty Images, November 16, 2006

Women are also pledged to marriage as young as three. She can barely talk, but her family has already promised her off.

In the U.S., if a man cut his wife's fingers off because she painted her nails, he would be looking at time in jail. In Afghanistan, it is not uncommon for a woman to be punished by having her fingers chopped off for painting her nails. Women are not permitted to wear makeup, and nail polish is considered to be makeup.

An Afghan woman also can't wear high-heeled shoes because of the sound they make when she walks.A man is not permitted to hear the footsteps of an Afghan woman.

The list of what Afghan woman are not permitted to do is rather extensive, and it goes far beyond the examples presented here.Afghan woman can't go about their daily existence without living in the fear of breaking the law and receiving a harsh punishment as a repercussion.

As an American, we should be thankful that either ourselves, our mothers, our sisters, and even our friends can go to school, play sports, wear what they want, and basically have free will without so much as giving it a second thought.

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