By Bahar Azizi
As an Afghan woman, I find the propaganda line used by the Yankees and the Brits that they must stay in Afghanistan to 'protect the wimmins' to be particularly breathtaking in its pathological audacity. We know they're really there for the oil and gas pipelines, the rare-earth minerals and the opium, so please, spare us this BS!
This recent Reuters article is a prime example of how the mainstream media distorts reality to fit the imperial agenda:
Violent crime against women in Afghanistan hit record levels and became increasingly brutal in 2013, the head of its human rights commission said on Saturday, a sign that hard won rights are being rolled back as foreign troops prepare to withdraw.
Afghan woman and boy walk by a tank in Kabul, 2004, three years after the US invasion of Afghanistan. (Photo: Steve Dupont)
"Hard won rights"? Which rights, exactly? Ever since the appearance of the 'Taliban' and the U.S. invasion and occupation, Afghanistan has been pushed into a downward spiral of destruction, death and misery. You would think that if the U.S. had any intention of improving the situation in Afghanistan during these past 12 years, things would have been... well, improving. But, obviously, that's not the case. In short, if violent crime against women in Afghanistan has hit record levels, it is a direct result of the 12 years of US and British occupation of my home country.
But before we wade further through the mire of this particular Reuters article, let's look back at how media reports described violence against women and women's rights in Afghanistan under U.S. military occupation:
• May 9, 2002: Human Rights Watch: Women Still Under Threat
Afghan women continue to fear physical violence and insecurity even after the end of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said today.
"Women can only participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan if they can be physically safe," said LaShawn R. Jefferson, executive director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. "The international community must act now to end violence against women."
• October 23, 2002: UN rights expert: Afghanistan's cycle of violence not over, impunity 'entrenched'
A top U.N. human rights expert called for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to document human rights abuses in Afghanistan, saying the war-ravaged country's cycle of violence was not over and impunity remains entrenched. ...
[Asma Jahangir, an independent expert with the U.N. Commission on Human Rights] said women were particularly vulnerable to abuses, saying she had received reports of some murdered by their families "in the name of morality."
• July 4, 2003: Fighting for the right to sing
"The majority of women are still more or less prisoners in their own homes. "The legal system is not functioning in any area or any way that protects them or advances them." And further out of Kabul and beyond the reach of government, restrictions deteriorate into outright abuse of women's rights. ...
Activist Pawina Heila has tried to raise the issue with local authorities, but said they have done nothing.
"There is no difference between now and when the Taleban were in control," she told Everywoman.
• October 6, 2003: Afghanistan: No justice and security for women
"Nearly two years on, discrimination, violence, and insecurity remain rife, despite promises by world leaders, including President Bush and US Secretary of Sate Colin Powell, that the war in Afghanistan would bring liberation for women," the organization emphasized.
The new report "Afghanistan: No one listens to us and no one treats us a human beings. Justice denied to women" documents Afghan women's concerns about widespread domestic violence, forced marriage, and rape by armed groups. In some cases underage girls as young as eight years old are married to much older men.
"This situation is unacceptable and calls for urgent action," Amnesty International said. ...
"The current criminal justice system is simply unwilling or unable to address issues of violence against women," the organization continued. "At the moment it is more likely to violate the rights of women than to protect and uphold their rights."
Now, let's fast-forward a couple of years and see if anything changed for the better:
• October 31, 2006: No 'real change' for Afghan women
An international women's rights group says guarantees given to Afghan women after the fall of the Taleban in 2001 have not translated into real change. Womankind Worldwide says millions of Afghan women and girls continue to face systematic discrimination and violence in their households and communities. ...
Womankind Worldwide says there has been a dramatic rise in cases of self-immolation by Afghan women since 2003.
Womankind Worldwide says the Afghan authorities rarely investigate women's complaints of violent attacks. ...
"Women who are standing up to defend women's' rights are not being protected," says Brita Fernandes Schmidt of Womankind Worldwide. "My message, really, to the international community is: you need to address specific security issues for women," she says. ...
"Women's rights activists are getting killed, women's NGO workers are getting killed, and that is not going to change unless some drastic action is taken," Ms Fernandes continues. ....
It says the international community should give women a greater voice in setting the aid and reconstruction agenda.
Until basic rights are granted to Afghan women in practice as well as on paper, the report says, it could not be said that the status of Afghan women had changed significantly in the past five years.
• November 24, 2006: Abuse of Afghan women: 'It was my decision to die. I was getting beaten every day'
Those who should be in the best position to help, women MPs, another supposed sign of the brave new Afghanistan, are themselves facing violence and intimidation. Malalai Joya, at 28 one of Afghanistan's youngest MPs, regularly changes addresses because of death threats. "When I speak in parliament male MPs throw water bottles at me. Some of them shout 'take and rape her'.
"Many of the men in power have the same attitude as the Taliban. Women have not been liberated. You want to know how women feel in this country? Look at the rate of suicide," she said.
Nope, no change there.
Let's fast-forward again to 2011 and 2012:
• April 17, 2011: 'Violence against women on the rise: AIHRC'
With violence against them increasing, 75 women committed self-immolation last year, Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said on Sunday.
A total of 2,765 cases of violence against women and girls were reported to the rights watchdog from different parts of the country, AIHRC official Latifa Sultani told Pajhwok Afghan News. ...
AIHRC Commissioner Nader Naderi viewed women's inadequate access to judicial organs as a major factor behind the increasing violence. "As long as relevant laws are not implemented, the scourge can't be eliminated."
• November 26, 2012: 'Sharp rise in crimes against women'
Latifa Sultani, women's rights programme coordinator at AIHRC, says 3,300 cases of violence against women have been registered from January to June this year compared to 2,700 cases over the same period last year. The crimes include physical assault, not providing alimony, sexual abuse and abduction. ...
Rahimi adds that though the law very clearly states that punishment for perpetrators of crimes against women will be most severe and there will be no amnesty or shortening of their jail terms, they use Afghan courts to secure amnesty and light sentences. "We have been witness that every decree of the president (sees) release of many criminals who have committed crimes against women. The lack of law enforcement and strictness are the reasons for the increase in violence against women," she says.
Burqas for sale in a busy market of Kabul. Many women still feel insecure in Afghanistan. (Photo: RAWA.org)
And then in 2013, we heard that the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission "has calculated a 24 percent rise in human rights abuse compared to 2012". Whether or not this increase was due to improved confidence in reporting rights violations, it doesn't change the fact that very little had been done to actually improve women's rights and the overall living conditions in Afghanistan, never mind the legal system which remains utterly corrupt to this day.
Year after year after year, at best, nothing changes for women in Afghanistan. For the population as a whole, things have tended to get much worse, with a year on year increase in the number of violent deaths, largely thanks to the British and American occupiers, who try to convince us that all this bloody mayhem is necessary because they care so very much for the poor, 'uncivilized' Afghans.
Thanks to American-British 'protection of Afghans', Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries on Earth. While elements of the Afghan elite have become incredibly rich from U.S. 'aid', the country as a whole ranks as the worst in the world for infant mortality, with a shocking 122 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
Coming back to what was mentioned in the recent Reuters report, namely that as "foreign troops prepare to withdraw, violent crime against women in Afghanistan hit record levels and became increasingly brutal." Well, as you may understand a bit better now, I have a very hard time believing that preparation for the withdrawal of foreign troops, who've been there for so long and haven't achieved diddly-squat in the way of improvement, is the reason for worsening violent crime against women.
In any case, the article continues:
Restoring fundamental women's rights after the Taliban were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition of troops in 2001 was cited as one of the main objectives of the war.
Well, of course they would say that. But that was never one of their "objectives". Obviously, it's much easier to get away with invading another country when you cite 'restoring women's rights' as one of your main objectives. See this document by Hamid Wali, entitled U.S. Intervention and Women's Rights in Afghanistan, to learn more about how the above claim is really nothing but a lie. As Hamid Wali concludes:
In summation, the state of Afghan women under the Taliban was used by the US government, with the support of the media, as a framework to justify their intervention in Afghanistan. However, their aim to liberate Afghan women was simply a plan that would allow the US to advance their economic, political, and geographic interests in the region.The situation of Afghan women has not changed as they continue to face atrocious human rights conditions.
In terms of providing aid to Afghan women, the US finds it necessary to bomb Afghanistan, yet they are daunted when it comes to implementing programs that assist and better the lives of women. Nonetheless, these are simply empty promises made prior to entering Afghanistan.
And an important point that Hamid Wali touches on, which most people often forget:
In the case of Afghanistan, American politicians and media blamed the Afghan society in that the oppression of women was simply as a result of their "uncivilized" nature. However, they did not mention the fact that the American government was responsible for arming and training the Islamic fundamentalists in the 1980s, who were eventually the cause of the plight of Afghan women. Nonetheless, the conditions of Afghan women proved rhetorically useful for American intervention in the region.
We read further in Reuters article:
"The presence of the international community and provincial reconstruction teams in most of the provinces was giving people confidence," Samar said."There were people there trying to protect women. And that is not there anymore, unfortunately."
What has the international community and provincial reconstruction team offered to Afghan citizens at any time during all these years? They pay lip service to ''trying to protect women'' and ''giving people confidence'', while they bomb the whole place to the ground, with the predictable result of making living conditions hell for Afghan people. As Richard Becker put it here, "No amount of lying Pentagon propaganda can hide the reality that the war has been an unmitigated disaster for the Afghan people."
Oh sure, it may well be that the presence of knuckle-dragging foreign 'soldiers of fortune' (aka death squads) has brought confidence to some people - namely indigenous knuckle-dragging types already vying for power in the country - but U.S. support for the extremists there is due to the destruction of the infrastructure and the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians by the Western-led alliance. This was foreseeable before the invasion, but the war industry and geopolitical goals, as always, took priority. And now the 'fruits' of the invasion are there for all to see.
Originally from Afghanistan, Bahar Azizi is a 24 year old student who currently resides in the Netherlands. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology. Currently, she attends university, studying clinical neuropsychology. Her research interests include puppet masters, society's child, and science of the spirit.