Why Is a Leading Feminist Organization Lending Its Name to Support Escalation in Afghanistan?
Years ago, following the initial military success of the
Today, eight years after the
As humanitarians and as feminists, it is the welfare of the civilian population in
On its foundation Web site, the first stated objective of the Feminist Majority Foundation's "Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls" is to "expand peacekeeping forces."
First of all, coalition troops are combat forces and are there to fight a war, not to preserve peace. Not even the Pentagon uses that language to describe
Waging war does not lead to the liberation of women anywhere. Women always disproportionately suffer the effects of war, and to think that women's rights can be won with bullets and bloodshed is a position dangerous in its naïveté. The Feminist Majority should know this instinctively.
Here are the facts: After the invasion, Americans received reports that newly liberated women had cast off their burquas and gone back to work. Those reports were mythmaking and propaganda. Aside from a small number of women in
Under the Taliban, women were confined to their homes. They were not allowed to work or attend school. They were poor and without rights. They had no access to clean water or medical care, and they were forced into marriages, often as children.
Today, women in the vast majority of
In the past few years, some cosmetic changes were made regarding Afghan women. The establishment of a Ministry of Women's Affairs was one celebrated example. In fact, this ministry is so useless many think that it should be dissolved.
The quota for 25 percent women in the Afghan parliament was another such show. Although there are 67 women in the Afghan parliament, most of them are pro-warlord and are themselves enemies of women's rights. When the famed marriage rape law was passed in the parliament, none of them seriously raised their voice against it. Malalai Joya, an outspoken feminist in the parliament at the time, has said that she has been abused and threatened by these pro-warlord women in the parliament.
Paper gains for women's rights mean nothing when, according to the chief justice of the Afghan Supreme Court, the only two rights women are guaranteed by the constitution are the right to obey their husbands and the right to pray, but not in a mosque.
These are the convictions of the government the
Sadly, as horrifying as the status of women in
More than 2,000 civilians were killed in
For those who do not flee, life is not better. One in three Afghans suffers from severe poverty. With a 1 in 55 chance of mothers surviving delivery,
In addition, in the eight years since the
Some of the biggest drug-traffickers are part of the
If coalition forces are really concerned about women, these are the problems that must be addressed. The military establishment claims that it must win the military victory first, and then the
Improve living conditions and security will improve. Focus on security at the expense of humanitarian goals, and coalition forces will accomplish neither. The first step toward improving people's lives is a negotiated settlement to end the war.
In our conversations arguing this point, we are told that the
Feminists and other humanitarians should learn from history. This isn't the first time the welfare of women has been trotted out as a pretext for imperialist military aggression.
Columbia Professor Lila Abu-Lughod, a woman of Palestinian descent, writes: "We need to be suspicious when neat cultural icons are plastered over messier historical and political narratives; so we need to be wary when Lord Cromer in British-ruled
Feminists around the world must refuse to allow the good name of feminism to be manipulated to provide political cover for yet another war of aggression.
The Feminist Majority Foundation would do well to heed the demand of dissident Member of Parliament Malalai Joya, representing Farah province, who was kicked out of the parliament last year for courageously speaking out. Addressing a press conference in the wake of the
That should be the first action item for the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls.
Sonali Kolhatkar is co-cirector of the Afghan Women's Mission, a
Mariam Rawi is a member of the Revolutionary Association of Women of