The Journal, January 16, 2009
Afghanistan: Fundamental injustice
The barbaric forced abortion carried out on a 14-year-old Afghan rape victim shocked the world. But such atrocities are increasingly common in present-day Afghanistan, where American promises of liberty seem ever more empty
Eman Mansour ()
After NATO's invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, most people thought the world had finally remembered and rescued a country drowned in pain and sorrow. But despite the attention paid by the international community, today Afghanistan is one of the poorest, most under-developed countries in the world. The false slogans of “womens' freedom” and “democracy” by the US helped it justify its invasion but today the people, especially women, feel betrayed by those false promises.
The US government brought back to power the men who devastated the country and the lives of the people like no government before. These are the criminals of the Northern Alliance who fought among themselves from 1992-96, immersing the country into deep turbulent years of unimaginable crimes: abductions, torture, rape, looting and forced labour. The warlords involved like Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani and others enjoy high posts in the so-called democratic government today – but the people want to see them on trial in courts. In a nutshell, the present government today is ideologically no different from the Taliban.
To throw dust in the eyes of the world, they sent 68 female members to the parliament as a showcase – but in fact the vast majority of them are fundamentalist women who were sent to the parliament by warlords. The Women’s Ministry is another showcase that has done nothing for Afghan women. Malalai Joya, the only MP who dared to draw attention to the plight of Afghan women, was quickly expelled from the parliament.
Atifa Bibi, an Afghan school girl, recovers in a hospital after two men on a motorbike threw acid on her in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Nov 12, 2008. Two men on a motorbike threw acid on six Afghan girls walking to school in Kandahar on Wednesday, hospitalizing two of the girls with serious burns, said Dr. Sharifa Siddiqi. Four others were treated and released. (AP Photo by Allauddin Khan)
Today the United States claims to have freed Afghan women, but women's lives are still as painful as under the misogynist regime of the Taliban. The story of Bashira, a 14-year-old girl, is a telling example. Bashira was gang-raped by three men, one of them the son of an infamous warlord in Sar-e-Pul (Northern Province) called Haji Payinda. Although she raised her voice and demanded justice, the boy is free today with no action taken against him. Previously, President Hamid Karzai pardoned three men from influential tribes in the Northern Alliance convicted of raping and then killing a woman.
Even if the matters are taken to the courts not much hope exists for the victim, as the judiciary itself is manipulated by the warlords for their purposes. In a larger view, the parliament being filled with the same criminals, there is less probability of laws being passed which would be in the favour of rape victims and against armed, influential men of their kind. In fact, a report showed that many female prisoners accused of having illegal sexual relations or having run away from home, are actually rape or abduction victims.
Though these cases have caught the attention of the world, many cases of domestic violence have gone unnoticed. These sufferings include beatings, cutting of toes, hands, noses and many other horrific acts. Because of these hardships, the depression rate among Afghan women is over 90 per cent and scores of women commit suicide by self-burning every month. Afghanistan has the highest mortality rates in the world. One in nine women dies at childbirth.
The three decades of war has left one million widows. These widows are not supported by the corrupt government and have no option except begging, prostitution and suicide – the most common means of escape. The recent imposed law banning beggary reduces this range of options still further.
The growing influence of the Taliban and other extremists create a real atmosphere of fear. The recent acid attack on schoolgirls is just a trailer of the actual show of violence the medieval-minded fundamentalists can put on. Even most of the civilians massacred by the US/NATO bombardments are usually women and children.
Afghanistan is a narco-state and drug lords have a grasp over the whole country. Afghanistan supplies 93 per cent of the world's illicit opium, and the volume produced has risen every year since the US-led invasion. In such a lawless country, no-one expects the women’s rights situation to be improved.
Afghanistan has been pumped with an astonishing $15 billion, but all that money seems to have disappeared inside the corrupt government. Today the international community is supporting a government brimming with fundamentalist warlords, war criminals and drug kingpins, all armed to the teeth.
RAWA believes that no other nation can liberate Afghan women, and it is their own responsibility to raise and fight for their rights. In this hard fight we need the support and solidarity of peace-loving and democratic-minded people of the world.
Eman Mansour is a campaigner with the anti-fundamentalist human rights group, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
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