promoting the unwanted, redheaded stepchild that is individual liberty

The myth of women’s liberation in Afghanistan

In women's rights on October 8, 2009 at 4:53 am

(Note: The film, “Rethinking Afghanistan,” is showing Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 7:00 p.m. at MSSU’s Cornell Auditorium in Plaster Hall.)

Yesterday marked the 8-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. As support for the war is reaching an all-time-low, I find myself siding with popular opinion.

However, although I view the war as a complete and utter failure, I believed it to be successful in the area of women’s rights — until yesterday.

We’ve all scene the portrayals of the happy, newly-liberated Afghan women. The media has told us they are now teachers, politicians and business women. And some of them are. But a video I stumbled across yesterday shattered the myth I held. I believed that change in Afghan law necessarily meant change in the lives of Afghan women.

On the contrary, it appears existence has worsened for the average Afghan woman.

Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, and Mariam Rawi, member of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan, stated in an article:

“The U.S. invasion has been a failure, and increasing the U.S. troop presence will not undo the destruction the war has brought to the daily lives of Afghans.

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 Kabul, life for Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban has remained the same or become much worse.”

Kolhatkar and Rawi appear to be right.

I, like many Americans, was under the ridiculous notion that the force of law had changed the hearts of Afghan men. On the contrary, it seems to have made many of them more grounded in their sexist ideology. In April, President Hamid Karzai signed legislation legalizing rape in marriage. The law also prevents women from leaving their house without the permission of their husbands.

Many Afghan women and women’s rights groups attribute the increasing abuse to U.S. action. Specifically, America’s support for the mujahideen’s return to power.

The mujahideen were the U.S.-supported predecessors of the Taliban. Like the Taliban, they are radically sexist and oppressive of women — and they are now in control.

My discovery of the true state of women’s affairs in Afghanistan has only further convinced me that an outside force cannot liberate another people. As was the case with the American Revolution, it seems that it is the hearts and minds of the oppressed that must desire for themselves freedom — and then choose to act on that desire.

My sentiment echoes that of Orzala Ashraf with the Afghan Women’s Network:

“I don’t believe and I don’t expect any outside power to come and liberate me. If I can not liberate myself, no one from outside can liberate me.”

For more reading, click here.

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