Malalai Joya – the youngest woman elected to the Afghanistan Parliament in 2004, who later faced death threats for criticizing tribal warlords – says the image of Afghan women is being unfairly used to justify foreign presence in the country, according to the Common Dreams.
“The tragic situation of women under the Taliban was a very good excuse for the US and NATO after the 9/11 tragedy to occupy the country,” Joya told Australian The Age. Joya said that despite the presence of Western troops, women continue to suffer.
“They replaced the Taliban with fundamentalist warlords, who are the same like the Taliban – they are misogynist and have committed many crimes against women and human rights,” she said.
According to the Foreign Policy in Focus, by October 2009 there were more than 100,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan – about 65,000 were American.
Time magazine recently featured a cover photo of a mutilated, 19-year-old Afghan woman, Aisha, after her nose and ears were hacked off by her husband. The photo carried the caption: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan.”
But did it happen because of the Taliban? Did it happen because of the women’s suppressed position in the society? Or was it just an awful case of domestic violence that could be seen not only in Afghanistan, but also in other parts of the world?
However, it is embarrassing, that even being in the country, US and NATO forces were not able to prevent such cases of atrocities from taking place.
Reuters reported that in 2009, the Taliban had a significant presence in almost every corner of Afghanistan. It controlled 80% of the country, up from 72% in November 2008, and was spreading its influence.
According to a UN report, after the Taliban’s rise to power, women and girls were systematically discriminated against and marginalized, and their human rights were violated. This resulted in the deteriorating economic and social conditions of women and girls in all areas of the country, particularly in areas under Taliban control. Women and girls continued to be severely restricted in their access to education, health care facilities and employment. During the Taliban’s rule, only about 3 per cent of girls received some form of primary education. The ban on women’s employment also affected boys’ education, as the majority of teachers had been women. Poor health conditions and malnutrition made pregnancy and childbirth exceptionally dangerous for Afghan women. The Taliban’s policies also severely limited women’s freedom of movement.
“Today, most of the women are wearing the burqa just to be alive because of security reasons,” Joya pointed out.
“Stop the massacres in my country. Withdraw your foreign troops so we can stop Talibanization,” Joya said.
The truth is that the people of Afghanistan are able to cope with the challenges inside the country on their own. They will be able to do it more successfully and at much lesser cost than with the foreign troops, who often do not know the specifics of the country. Moreover, with Afghanistan not occupied by the foreigners, less people will be willing to join the Taliban in order to defend their homeland from foreign “invasion”.
Joya said the only solution to the conflict in Afghanistan was the withdrawal of foreign troops and support for education and social networks.
“Today the Afghan people are tragically sandwiched between two enemies — the Taliban on one side and the US/NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other,” Joya opined in her recent book Raising My Voice. She urges Afghans to reject all three, and instead empower progressives.