In 2006, Afghan human rights activist Safia Ama Jan was assassinated by Taliban terrorists who wanted to silence the woman who had secretly educated girls during the worst years of Taliban rule. At the time of her death, she was still speaking out for women in a supposedly "free" Afghanistan, the one that we had liberated when we defeated the Taliban and installed Karzai as our presidential puppet.
When I wrote about Ama Jan's death, I wrote with fury and sadness, my tears mitigated only by the hope that her death would not have been in vain, that we would rededicate ourselves to the proposition that women were entitled to civil rights in Afghanistan, and that the days of women locked up in their houses were over.
Then, a few months ago, I wrote about Afghani school girls who had had acid thrown in their faces. Their crime?
I began to feel as if I were Cassandra. Was no one noticing the policies of violence and intimidation that were being practiced against women who were daring to come out from underneath the Burqa, who were asserting their rights to an education and a vote in a free Afghanistan?
I guess those days have been officially decapitated. Stoned to death in the Parliament. The Guardian and The Independent are reporting that the Afghani parliament, over the objections of its female members, has passed a law that would return women in Afghanistan to an existence that rivals the restrictions they suffered under the Taliban.
So much for Operation Enduring Freedom or whatever the fuck it was that we called it.
Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, has signed a law which "legalises" rape, women's groups and the United Nations warn. Critics claim the president helped rush the bill through parliament in a bid to appease Islamic fundamentalists ahead of elections in August.
In a massive blow for women's rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman's right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.
"It is one of the worst bills passed by the parliament this century," fumed Shinkai Karokhail, a woman MP who campaigned against the legislation. "It is totally against women's rights. This law makes women more vulnerable."
President Obama, are you listening?
Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan's presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands' permission.
The Afghan president signed the law earlier this month, despite condemnation by human rights activists and some MPs that it flouts the constitution's equal rights provisions.
The Guardian goes on to report:
The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands' permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands' permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex.
A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.
Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, said the law was "worse than during the Taliban". "Anyone who spoke out was accused of being against Islam," she said.
So far, Western diplomats have refused to comment on the law for fear of being seen as intervening in Afghani internal affairs.
Excuse me? We invaded their country, have used it as a launching pad for a war against Al Quaeda and the search for Bin Laden, have wanted access to the pipeline that supplies oil, have told Karzai what we want him to do, and when it comes to women's rights, NOW we don't want to get involved?
Soraya Sobhrang, the head of women's affairs at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said western silence had been "disastrous for women's rights in Afghanistan".
"What the international community has done is really shameful. If they had got more involved in the process when it was discussed in parliament we could have stopped it. Because of the election I am not sure we can change it now. It's too late for that."
I understand that President Obama's new objectives in Afghanistan are to find Bin Laden, destroy Al Quaeda and get the hell out. But if we leave behind a strengthened Taliban that has complete control of the Parliamentary process and leaves women in the same slave-like role that they were in before the war, have we fulfilled whatever moral duties we had when we went around for all the Bush years claiming to have removed the Taliban from power?
Do women really get the short end of the stick, again?
An Irish official has argued that if members of the Taliban can be brought back into the Afghani government tent, that it will make the peace process easier, and that the continued fighting between Americans and Muslims only makes militant groups within Afghanistan stronger. But his answer to the question about women is vague. No, more than vague. I think he knows exactly what women are in for should such a thing happen.
Look at how the following is worded:
Q - Do women have a lot to fear from a reconciliation scenario involving the Taliban?
A - Women have a lot to hope for from the restoration of security in Afghanistan. Women are big losers in the current situation in Afghanistan where the country seems to be locked into a perpetual conflict and the price of that continuing conflict is lack of access to the basic services that are there on paper but don't exist or that they are not safe in accessing. Women are big losers from the killing of children and family members. So women have a lot to gain from the restoration of stability. However of course there is this key issue of the terms on which that security and stability is restored.
It's that however that troubles me.
However, sings Cassandra, beware the man who says however.
UPDATE: 10:45 EDT
This is the second time I've seen this today. It seems we're trying to peel off the 'peaceful Taliban' as long as they are willing to accept the Constitution. BUT if they change the constitution to make the Taliban happy, how does that figure into this? What the hell is Hillary Clinton doing?
"We must ... support efforts by the government of Afghanistan to separate the extremists of al Qaeda and the Taliban from those who have joined their ranks not out of conviction, but out of desperation," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the conference in The Hague.
"They should be offered an honorable form of reconciliation and reintegration into a peaceful society, if they are willing to abandon violence, break with al Qaeda, and support the constitution," Clinton said.
Please, please tell us what this means, Sec. of State Clinton. Does this really mean that we are willing to accept the Taliban--which is an extremist group to begin with--back into the Afghan government? Are we willing to sacrifice women's lives? What the hell is our foreign policy right now?