Saturday, October 24, 2009

Women in Afghanistan

In my 2 ½ weeks here I have just begun to learn about some of the many, complex, multi-layered issues that surround women in Afghanistan. I’ve heard stories, I’ve read accounts, I’ve had long conversations with my students. When I go out, I see women wearing a burqa and women wearing head scarves or at times I see no women out at all. Each has a story. I know that my students, with all their varied family experiences, want more than anything else, to get an education, to improve the situation for women in Afghanistan, and to push for the rights of all women. These young women represent the “Taliban generation” and they are determined to make Afghanistan a better place for the women who follow them. I am inspired by their tenacity.

There are heartwarming stories about fathers who would and continue to do anything to ensure their daughters as well as sons have an education. They risked cutting their daughter's hair, dressing them as boys, and sending them off to secret schools during the Taliban era. There are equally heartbreaking stories about families who sell their daughters off to marriage, eliminating any hope of further education or families with deceased fathers whose sons rule the roost and forbid the girls to even have a voice in the smallest of family decisions. Those girls become invisible and lose all sense of self.

There was recently an excellent article written by an Afghan woman, Wazhma Frogh, published in the Washington Post on Sun., Oct 18th that addresses many of these issues and challenges the international community to stay the course.

“I find unbearable the thought of what will happen to the women of my country if it once again falls under the control of the insurgents and militants who now threaten it. In 2001, when the war in Afghanistan began, the liberation of Afghan women was one of the most important justifications for military intervention. Has the world now changed its mind about Afghan women? Is it ready to let them once again be killed and tortured by militants? Does the world no longer believe in the principles it supported in 2001?”

She makes a strong case, I believe, by relaying what she heard from a group of taxi drivers sitting by the side of the road at the airport. They were mourning the loss of Italian soldiers in a recent suicide attack in Kabul. "Today, after eight years, if the foreign troops leave . . . we will go back to the same Afghanistan that seemed like a funeral every day," one of the drivers said. "This time, the loss will be huge, because during the past eight years we have made significant progress in becoming part of the rest of the world, so much so that our enemies despise us for it."
Despite that story coming from a male perspective, many women, most certainly the young women I’m working with, feel exactly the same. They have dipped their toes in the water, they know life can be better, they so want to move forward.

I share these thoughts with you as a way to begin to make sense of it all. It’s not simple. The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.
Again – thanks for following along…………………….
Oh...for those of you who might have read in the news (my daugthter did, of course)we did indeed had an earthquake here a couple of nights ago. I awoke to shaking and my good old S. Calif. upbringing kept me calm as I got out of bed and headed to a door jamb. The possibility of it being an explosion and not an earthquake did cross my mind but I decided not to dwell on that! It was not a big one. The houses built up on the hillsides in Kabul would come tumbling down and cause enormous destruction. Thankfully all is well here.

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