Is everything we fought for in Afghanistan lost?

I am repeating two articles published in the Toronto Star March 7, 2012. How many of you are really surprised by these developments? The Americans put Karzai in power. How many Middle East leaders backed by the CIA over the years have turned on their benefactors, including Bin Laden? There is a movement in the States that decries western interference in Middle East affairs, but the West (NATO) risks our military force‘s lives to maintain access to oil, not to give the local people a better life. Our troops fighting there come into contact with the people and bond with their plight and innocence. Our “boots on the ground” want to make a difference but the political powers behind these invasion decisions are not motivated by humanitarian need. It’s always been about oil. My heart aches for our troops and veterans who fought so hard to free the Afghan people, especially women and children, from insufferable conditions and treatment.  Now their sacrifice is thrown back in their faces. The public will not forget and the prime minister will face an uprising if he sends our troops into harm’s way again under similar circumstances. BONNIE

STORY ONE: Afghanistan’s ‘code of conduct’ casts shadow over progress for women

Published On Wed March 7, 2012 TORONTO STAR

Afghanistan may still be a violent mess but Afghan women can breathe today without having to answer to cruelly sexist Taliban overlords. They can run for parliament, vote, work and study. Legally at least they are equal to men. They have emerged from a great darkness. But for how long?

President Hamid Karzai, anxious to reach out to the Taliban and conservatives before American and allied troops leave, has just signalled his support for a benighted “code of conduct” drawn up by Muslim clerics that challenges the gains women have made. Rights activists fear it may “re-Talibanize” the nation. It is a depressing development, as we mark International Women’s Day on Thursday.

The code, posted on Karzai’s presidential website, is presented as a set of guidelines that pious Muslim women are invited to embrace voluntarily. It flatly states that men are “fundamental,” and women are “secondary.” It demands women wear the hijab. It counsels women to “avoid mingling” with men at the office, in school, shopping and in other areas of life. It tells them to travel only with a male chaperone. And provided there is a “sharia-compliant reason,” it endorses beating women. It is an affront to Afghanistan’s relatively new constitutional protections for the equality of women and men.

“The future of women’s rights in Afghanistan is more unpredictable than at any stage over the last 10 years,” warns the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization. “Important achievements… are likely to be reversed.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has been quick to voice “serious concern” over this grim development, and so should our allies. Canada has committed $2 billion in aid, some of it for girls’ schooling. Harper should advise Karzai, in the bluntest way possible, that the Canadian public will balk at supporting a regime that winks at turning back the clock to a time before women could aspire to be politicians, judges, lawyers, merchants, rights activists, police and soldiers.

The constitution is clear: “The citizens of Afghanistan, man or woman, have equal rights and duties before the law.” What part of equality involves men beating women? And how can a modern president condone such brutality, no matter how patriarchal, ignorant and discriminatory some of his citizenry may be?

Is Karzai prepared to sacrifice Afghan women to placate the vilest elements of society? If so, Canadians will want no part of it.

STORY TWO: Afghan president endorses clerics’ code that downgrades women’s rights


By Olivia Ward Foreign Affairs Reporter
Published On Wednesday, March 7, 2012 TORONTO STAR

On the eve of International Women’s Day, President Hamid Karzai has given Afghan women an unwelcome present: the message that they are second-class citizens.

In remarks made Tuesday, Karzai backed a “code of conduct” written by the Ulema Council of 150 leading Muslim clerics. It could dramatically restrict women’s daily lives and threaten a return to the dark days of Taliban rule.

“Men are fundamental and women are secondary,” the council said in its statement released last week, and later published on Karzai’s own website.

The move appears aimed at enticing the Taliban into the peace process — but also gives pause to Canada and other countries that have supported efforts to advance women’s rights in the land they fought to take back from the extremists.

“These reports are of serious concern to Canada,” said a statement from Joseph Lavoie, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. “We call on the Government of Afghanistan to uphold the provisions of Afghanistan’s constitution, which establishes equal rights for men and women, and to respect its obligations under international law.”

Since 2002, 158 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

The Ulema Council’s code is part of a general framework for political issues. It was described as “voluntary” for women who are devout, and not legally binding.

It says women should not travel without a male guardian or mingle with men in public places such as schools, offices or markets. It also allows wife-beating in the case of a “sharia-compliant” reason, although it rejects forced marriage and the bartering of women to settle disputes.

In Kabul, Karzai said that the council had not put “any limitations” on women, and that it was only stating “the sharia law of all Muslims and all Afghans.” But some Muslim scholars have disputed the clerics’ strict interpretation.

“We want the correct Islam, not the Islam of politics,” activist Fatana Ishaq Gailani, a founder of the Afghanistan Women’s Council, told reporters in Kabul.

Before the 2001 invasion, Afghan women were confined to their homes and forced to wear burkas. Girls were not allowed to go to school, and females could not get medical attention from male doctors.

Since then women have made large strides, returning to work and school, starting businesses and taking part in the political process. But their lives are frequently at risk, and have become more difficult as security has frayed in recent months.

“Sixty-five per cent of the population is under the age of 25, and young women are not prepared to take it any more,” says Toronto author and journalist Sally Armstrong, who has written on Afghan women’s rights. “They are brave, and they march in the street. The message is ‘Karzai must go.’”

Karzai has been backtracking on women’s rights in recent years, as Western countries began to roll up their military operations. By 2014, most will have left the country, although they have pledged to continue support for its development.

“Karzai is between a rock and a hard place,” says Mark Sedra, an adjunct lecturer at University of Waterloo who studies Afghanistan. “He doesn’t want to end up like (Soviet-backed president Mohammad) Najibullah, who was left hanging from a lamp post,” years after the Soviet troops withdrew.

Other factions besides the Taliban are deeply conservative, Sedra added, and Karzai needs their support.

“It makes political sense to him to make these statements. He may be ridiculed in the West, but his position is tenuous now.”

That bodes ill for women, who will also have a harder struggle if Islamist factions gain ground.

“They will continue protesting,” said Armstrong. “They are raped, killed for producing girl children, beaten and harassed. They don’t have anything to lose.”


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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One Response to Is everything we fought for in Afghanistan lost?

  1. Wayne DeHaan says:

    I hate thinking of our fallen men & women, My Brothers & sisters in arms & what they & their families have sacrificed for peace & security! I don’t sugar coat anything so I will state it as I see it, feel it & understand it. It just pisses me off! Over 150 of our Canadian people died in Afghanistan, The USA has heavy losses there & Iraq. how does our government & other world leaders back us??? Well, they don’t! I will explain this shortly. All of the gains in Afghanistan, some small, some big, are going to slide back to the way things were before the first boots hit the ground years ago. not from a lack of hard work by our troops but from a government that has a whole separate agenda.
    It comes as no surprise that oil is a major player in overseas politics. I have nothing against that until troops are needed or the threat of nukes are used which threatens entire countries. Losing human lives so we can have oil is the same thing as trading your pre teen daughter to a pimp for a big bag of crack!
    But politics don’t stop there. If we look at the latest killing in Afghanistan, as tragic as it is to have lost lives in that manner, Was it all just one soldiers mistake? NO! How many times can you put a soldier into a theater of battle before he stops flying in a strait line? 3 tours in Iraq, with injuries & now he gets deployed to a 4th mission? I don’t want to hear that phrase “He slipped through the cracks” out one side of the governments mouth while they say “Charge him with murder” out the other side! Not saying that the soldier in question is fully innocent but if he is found guilty I expect to see “ALL” of his higher up’s standing with him in shackles!
    A classic example of the government not using their stones is the case where the Koran was burnt & the Afghan people wanted heads to roll. What was our governments response to that? Who cares, it wasn’t proper so it’s a mute point! They should have told the Afghanistan people, “Sorry, it wasn’t intentional like the World trade center & look in your governments bank account where millions upon millions of North American currency is flowing in to help you all get a life”!
    There is one huge issue right there. Our soldiers are wounded, missing legs & arms, some have lost their sanity, others lost their lives & the government is more concerned about oil, poppies & other issues than to back the the soldiers who sacrifice so much each time they are deployed!
    The honest truth about war is simple. World opinion hand cuffs us from fighting & gaining control on equal terms! Alquaeda likes tactics like road side bombs. If we did that, we would be murderers. They strap bombs to their bodies & run into crowded areas to light them off, Well, were having a few issues with volunteers on that front but you get the picture. To win a war & restore order quickly, you have to fight on common ground with the same rules or you have to stick to the 3 main components that make you superior. Speed simplicity & violence! World opinion once again thinks we should all just hug & talk it through. I wish more people could go to some of these places & see how totally different the cultures are from ours. I think then they might understand what the soldiers face when their face to face with an angry soldier armed to the teeth & you don’t speak their language.
    Time to educate our governments on respect for soldiers & basic human life!
    Hatch. .Pro Patria!!

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