4.01.2009

what canada is fighting for in afghanistan

The pro-war commenters who used to hang around here (before they were banned) liked to accuse me of being a hypocrite on women's issues. Their equation: Taliban bad for women, war in Afghanistan bad for Taliban, therefore war in Afghanistan good for women. They often claimed the war in Afghanistan was being fought to liberate Afghan women.

Women are oppressed all over our planet. I wonder why the US and Canada only want to liberate women in certain countries? It couldn't have anything to do with a certain three-letter resource... No, I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

Now about those Afghan women.
President Hamid Karzai has signed a law the UN says legalises rape in marriage and prevents women from leaving the house without permission.

The law, which has not been publicly released, is believed to state women can only seek work, education or doctor's appointments with their husband's permission.

Only fathers and grandfathers are granted custody of children under the law, according to the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

Opponents of the legislation governing the personal lives of Afghanistan's Shia minority have said it is "worse than during the Taliban".

Mr Karzai has been accused of electioneering at the expense of women's rights by signing the law to appeal to crucial Shia swing voters in this year's presidential poll.

While the Afghan constitution guarantees equal rights for women, it also allows the Shia community, thought to represent 10 per cent of the population, the right to settle family law cases according to Shia law.

The Shiite Personal Status Law contains provisions on marriage, divorce, inheritance, rights of movement and bankruptcy.

The bill passed both houses of the Afghan parliament, but was so contentious that the United Nations and women's rights campaigners have so far been unable to see a copy of the approved bill.

Shinkai Zahine Karokhail, a female MP, said the law had been rushed through with little debate.

She told the Guardian newspaper: "They wanted to pass it almost like a secret negotiation, "There were lots of things that we wanted to change, but they didn't want to discuss it because Karzai wants to please the Shia before the election."

The Afghan justice ministry confirmed the law had been signed, but said it would not be published until technical difficulties had been overcome.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai would not comment.

30 comments:

redsock said...

I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

Yep. So Hamid Karzai was a former Unocal oil consultant who worked with the US to overthrow the government of Afghanistan and was installed as leader of the country? That just shows you how quirky the world can be.

John F said...

Sickening. I will admit that I once supported our mission in Afghanistan (though I obviously have never trolled your blog). I was convinced by the argument that the new regime was better for women and for civil liberties in general. My support for the mission has been fading for a while, and this news was my personal last straw.

I now admit that I was 100% wrong, misled, overly naive, or whatever you want to call it. If womens' rights were a valid reason for going in there, then I guess it's time for us to assault Kabul again and drive this lot into the hills. Or, as I now believe, it's time to get out.

L-girl said...

John F, it's excellent and so much to your credit that you kept an open mind and were willing to change it.

So many wars are continued and escalated - so many lives lost - because people don't know how to change their mind without "losing face".

Good on you.

Cornelia said...

Yeah, the Afghanistan mission has not really helped women, unfortunately. Alas, Karsai has sold out completely to the fundamentalists. Horrifying, heinous and dreadful seem too mild words for such an outrageous, dehumanizing, oppressive, sexist, patriarchal law!!! There was a great article published in Ms. Magazine, making it clear how oil had always been a priority over women's human rights (not surprising for the Republicans, hey!!!)

Cornelia said...

And that was the article:

And that was the link:

(Martha Burk: Crude Awakening / US Policies in Afghanistan and Iraq Sell Out Women in Favor of Oil / www.msmagazine.com/iraq/default.asp)

The article helped me to understand many things.

Cornelia said...

As it stands now, they might get out as well (and they need to if casualties etc. get even worse!)
Obama won't be able to turn back the tide any more either. So many terrible dire mistakes have been made and even progressive organizations like RAWA are in no way happy with the US intervention (www.rawa.org)
I am happy that Obama stands with the Feminist Majority Foundation on the Afghan Women's Rights Act, which was championed by Barbara Boxer, but further military involvement over there probably is not going to help in any way. I guess it will take a long time until the situation gets better in Afghanistan and it might be much wiser and better and safer just to implement the Afghan Women's Rights Act (which is about giving more financial and political support to Afghan women's rights organization) while getting out militarily.

Cornelia said...

which is about giving more financial and political support to Afghan women's rights organization)

Sorry, I meant organizations!!

Lisa said...

I am not a war-monger, but I lived and worked in Afghanistan for more than two years (2002-04) and continue to be involved there. Forceful intervention was needed to help the Northern Alliance oust the Taliban. Unfortunately all the promises of development were not fulfilled.

BUT, those that were filled DID help women. Just for example, in the media: I helped start a news agency, Pajhwok Afghan News, to provide reliable independent information for Afghans. Half our staff members were women. We also had an Afghan journalism training organization that trained women journalists nationwide. All this was paid with USAID money. A friend with a Canadian organization started women's radio stations all over Afghanistan. Countless programs helped women, with training, jobs and support.

A co-op in Kandahar, started by former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes, makes handmade soap. Men and women work together. This soap is sold around the US; I sell it to support a girls school in Logar. Oh, yes, that girls school started after the fall of the Taliban, and now has more than 800 students.

Social change is slow. You don't just run into a country, liberate the women, and then "get out."

Sometimes it takes prolonged military intervention to provide the security needed for social change. Working for nonviolent change is not always enough.

L-girl said...

Social change is slow. You don't just run into a country, liberate the women, and then "get out."

Real social change can only be made by the people who will live it. Westerners should not be presuming to go in anywhere and "liberate the women". It's not up to us how the people of Aghanistan live. Just like it wasn't up to the Soviets.

If we want to help support Afghan women in their own liberation, there are many ways to do that, and they don't involve the military.

The US's and Canada's mission in Afghanistan has nothing to do with women or liberation or a free media or democracy or any of these other projects. It has to do with oil pipelines and installing governments friendly to US corporate interests.

Thanks for your thoughts.

L-girl said...

Meant to also say:

Sometimes it takes prolonged military intervention to provide the security needed for social change.

I absolutely agree. But that military intervention must be requested and wanted by the people who have to live with it - i.e. peacekeeping.

If it's not, this "intervention" is actually an invasion. How would we feel if the US decided Canada wasn't doing a good enough job for Canadians, so it needed to "intervene" militarily, for our own good?

Canada in Afghanistan is no better than the US in Iraq: an invading army.

Lisa said...

I'm trying to add some subtlety to this discussion. The world is not divided into oil vs. good guys. US interests are complex. People who work on US programs overseas are not doing so to support big oil.

Politics is about power and money, absolutely yes. What would you like to do about it, other than "get out"?

What makes you think that Afghans don't want us there? What if some do, and some don't?

I completely agree that social change has to be brought about by the people who will live it. That includes democracy. It has to rise up, not be brought in.

Some practical issues that I would like to see consideration of: How do we know that "Afghan women" want to liberate themselves against oppressive regimes? They're not a monolith. Do we do a survey?

What support would be appropriate?
What are the many ways to do that?

Do you think that training for women in Afghanistan in the past seven years "involved the military"?

L-girl said...

US interests are complex. People who work on US programs overseas are not doing so to support big oil.

When I say "US interests," I don't mean the interests of the American people. I mean US government interests, which when it comes to foreign policy, are corporate interests. Not just oil - wars have been waged, governments overthrown, over fruit, sugar, tin, copper... all kinds of business interests.

I completely agree that social change has to be brought about by the people who will live it. That includes democracy. It has to rise up, not be brought in.

I agree with you there.

Some practical issues that I would like to see consideration of: How do we know that "Afghan women" want to liberate themselves against oppressive regimes?

We don't. That's why it sickens me to hear Canadians or USians talk about liberating women, as if it's our right or our job to do so.

My position may be too unsubtle for you, but the short version is: I think Canada has no place in Afghanistan. I might support a peacekeeping mission, but the way the mission stands now, it is a war, in support of US/corporate interests.

I do have many more thoughts on this, but I'm also getting some work done, and wasn't prepared to write a blog post in comments. Thanks for your thoughts, best of luck to you.

redsock said...

How would we feel if the US decided Canada wasn't doing a good enough job for Canadians, so it needed to "intervene" militarily, for our own good?

This is a key point.

And here are three decidedly unsubtle facts.

1. The Afghan army has no right to come into (or "invade") Canada, topple our government and force their views on us.

2. I have no right to burst into the house at the end of the street and start ordering the adults how to raise their children and run their home (or to bring in some different adults to care for the kids).

3. The Canadian forces have no right to go into another country and, with rifles pointed at the citizens, tell them how they should live.

There are obviously other ways to encourage countries to tilt towards greater human rights, as Lisa has done. However, what Canada is doing now is not one of those ways.

Lisa said...

Thanks for that, and for allowing my comments.

"I mean US government interests, which when it comes to foreign policy, are corporate interests."

US government interests are also complex, as are the interests of any governments with multiple power-players. There are people in the US government who actually are interested in principles that are not corporate, starting with Obama. Nations do take actions that are sometimes contradictory, as a result of these competing interests. That's what I was trying to say.

Just to be clear - my reference to "liberating Afghan women" was not something I was recommending. I was paraphrasing the intent that some writers (not you) and policy makers have - that we should go overseas and bring in our value systems to create better lives. That's an interesting subject - when is a value system being imposed, and when is it just being shared in the spirit of "Here's how we do it - see if this helps you in your transformation."

As an example of the sort of project that I would prefer to see, please see this: http://nameyourdreamassignment.com/the-ideas/BarakaPhotos/shooting-without-guns/

It's teaching photography to Afghan children so that they can give THEIR view of their lives to the world. That is what I believe in: helping people to acquire the skills and tools they need to communicate their perspective. I'd rather do this than depend on outside views to figure out what Afghans need, or want.

There are many other ideas in this competition that have similar intent.

And yes, this is a competition partly funded by Microsoft. The judges are supposed to be independent; check our their credentials.

It will be interesting to see which idea wins.

Sorry to go on so long. Thanks for listening. I'll stop now as I also have work to do!

redsock said...

There are people in the US government who actually are interested in principles that are not corporate, starting with Obama.

If you mean to say that Obama's principles are not 100% corporate, I'll agree.

But as a member of the American political establishment, his principles clearly lean far more towards corporations that regular citizens. He received more money from corporations during the campaign than McCain. You could argue the corporations were simply betting on the stronger horse, but Obama is comfortably and safely in many pockets. His ongoing support for taxpayer-funded bailouts corporate criminals should end that discussion forever.

Both parties are run by corporations. That's how American politics work. It will take a full-scale revolution to change it.

L-girl said...

US government interests are also complex,

I think a look at history shows the US govt's interests when it comes to foreign policy to be almost monolithic. It may not appear that way during any given intervention, but a broader view will show profit and empire behind all of it.

There are people in the US government who actually are interested in principles that are not corporate,

Absolutely, but those people don't set policy.

Nations do take actions that are sometimes contradictory, as a result of these competing interests.

Some do, and the US might, but I don't think that applies to US foreign policy overall.

Just to be clear - my reference to "liberating Afghan women" was not something I was recommending. I was paraphrasing the intent that some writers (not you) and policy makers have - that we should go overseas and bring in our value systems to create better lives. That's an interesting subject - when is a value system being imposed, and when is it just being shared in the spirit of "Here's how we do it - see if this helps you in your transformation."

Thanks for the clarification. I see the liberation/democracy angle as a smokescreen, something used to sell a war to the US public. It's been the primary smokescreen for more than a century of imperialism. I have no doubt that some of the minor players in these wars believe the rhetoric, but that has no bearing on the actual policy or its effects.

You are welcome to comment here without apology.

I know there are many programs, funded by whoever (that is no matter to me, funds have to come from somewhere), that do good in various places. None of them have any bearing on the subject of htis post, which is what the US and Canada's military are "defending" (i.e. invading) in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Lisa said...

You may be right - it may take a revolution.

In the meantime, I am taking whatever opportunities I can find to help with slower methods of change.
Even USAID grants.

L-girl said...

That's excellent. Personally, I think you may be confusing help with change. But people desperately need help, and you're giving of yourself, and that is a wonderful thing.

Cornelia said...

I tend to agree with you, John F. Lisa, thanks so much for all the great work you have been doing for Afghan women and I'm sure all reasonable democratic people who support women's rights and human rights over there appreciate it. The RAWA is against the military intervention and thinks also that liberation and democracy needs to come from within, from Afghan people themselves, like you do, Laura and redsock, but they will be happy about donations, too. The point behind humanitarin intervention and liberation from outside is that people are in bondage and under extreme terror and need help and I would say it has worked out for example for Germany (in addition to the rest of the world, I mean liberation from Hitler) and Kosova but it has obviously not worked out in Afghanistan.

Cornelia said...

Of course, corporate interest has still too strong an influence in politics even under Obama, unfortunately. Yeah, the bailout thing is horrid, Allan. But of course, I'm happy whenever more positive interests (like Afghan Women's Act and USAID) are fortunately part of US government foreign policy and it's still way too rare, I fear.

Cornelia said...

Re: liberation, of course I am strongly against ever forcing anybody to do anything they don't want to do - just like re: other issues. Duress is wrong and abusive, I think. I always say I am grateful to America for liberation from Hitler and proud of the people who passed the German democratic constitution after, of Elisabeth Selbert for ensuring the ERA and of former chancellor Willy Brandt for having been in the resistance against Nazis.

Cornelia said...

But that does not mean that I'm not knowledgeable about some horrid mistakes that have also been made by America before liberation in the very name of it and I deeply regret it and I'm very sorry and I can only say we can and need to learn from the past. The thing that freaks me out the most was what was done to poor Ed Slovik. It freaks me out that something as awful and murderous as that was committed in the very name of America. Why on earth did they not get the guy a medical health certificate and assign him to a non-combat position after arresting him or something??? It's awful to even think of it!!! I am so sorry that such a crime was committed in the name of America and...

Cornelia said...

Sorry I hope it's no problem that I disagree on some issues, Laura and Allen? Hope you are not angry because there are many things we do agree on, for example how important letting war resisters stay in Canada is, and I always make sure to keep my comments civil, particularly when I know it's somehow controversial!

Cornelia said...

Re: Kosova, of course I know that there have still been very severe deficits as regards constitutional state (and welfare, too) up to the present days with the usual bad repercussions and I hope that gets better. And I know alas, some criminal Albanians did seek out violent revenge instead of reporting people they suspected of being complice to Milosevic's crimes to authorities for criminal investigation and I do denounce it and I know that was awful. Just for clarification.

Cornelia said...

I need to forward the info on the still ongoing atrocities under the Karzai Government to TERRE DE FEMMES because they are relevant for pointing that the situation has hardly improved so that women (and other people from over there) still need protection from deportation.

Lisa said...

"Personally, I think you may be confusing help with change."

I believe that one can *help* others in their efforts to bring about change. Is that confusing?

L-girl said...

Cornelia, everyone here is welcome to express different opinions, unless (a) they insult me or others (which you would never do) or (b) their opinions are deeply offensive to me (which you are extremely unlikely to do). So no worries.

I may not always want to debate, or have the time to, but you're welcome to express yourself in comments here all you like.

L-girl said...

"Personally, I think you may be confusing help with change."

I believe that one can *help* others in their efforts to bring about change. Is that confusing?


No, it makes perfect sense, and I agree. That's especially important in international or inter-cultural efforts.

And really, who can say how change comes about? It takes millions of small actions to add up to a great change, and - as Gandhi said - we may never know the results of any action we take. So when we help people, we may be making change, too.

Perhaps it's a false construct to set up change vs help.

I was thinking of charity work contrasted with system work, work that gets at the root of problems. But often the two intertwine.

In fact, my two greatest experiences with activism - the Haven Coalition in NYC and the Resisters Campaign here in Canada - involve both helping people and creating change.

So never mind! :)

Cornelia said...

Great, Laura, thanks so much for your reassurance!

Cornelia said...

I got this email from the Feminist Majority Foundation on the issue:

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1400/t/900/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4280

Of course, I signed up right away.