Published on Huffpost World, by Ida Lichter M.D., June 27, 2011.
Violent attacks by the Taliban have been increasing. Last month, the principal of a girls’ school near Kabul was assassinated. Yet some observers would have us believe the Taliban have changed their misogynist ideology and deserve another chance in negotiations and power sharing.
Last November, when US President Barack Obama tried to “reach out” to moderate voices among the Taliban, they replied, “We have no moderate voices.”
A leading representative, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, said freedoms won by women in the past few years were “corrupting” them, and men and women shouldn’t be in the same room.
Working women have been receiving death threats by letter and phone and one who refused to be intimidated was murdered.
The Taliban now profess they were never opposed to girls’ education, only co-education. This claim contradicts their systematic burning of girls’ schools, the beating and killing of teachers, and throwing acid in the faces of little girls going to school. Moreover, a harder line of Taliban fighters is emerging from the tribal areas, having been recruited as teenagers … //
… Afghanistan will remain a backward, failed state if half the population is prevented from contributing to the social, economic and political fabric of society. In their opposition to misogyny, a pillar of radical Islam, women also provide a challenge to extremism.
What can be done to safeguard women’s rights? Taliban guarantees to promote rights for women and girls should be considered worthless, due to lack of coalition leverage.
Women should be included in all talks with the Taliban and gender issues incorporated in documents for discussion.
US aid could be contingent on protecting the human rights of Afghan women, and the pace of withdrawal made dependent on the extent to which the Taliban keep to their word.
Women and children are the main casualties in the war zone, and security will not improve unless the Pakistani government is prepared to stop the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network and Hezb-e Islami from manufacturing improvised explosive devices on their soil.
Another requirement is a comprehensive settlement of reconciliation and de-radicalisation that goes beyond the Taliban to include other paramilitaries and power brokers. Rather than defend the Taliban, it would be more productive, and consistent with the democratic values of the Arab Spring, to support the victims of violence, the women’s movement and other reformers in Afghanistan, so that human rights and civil society can seed and grow.
Ida Lichter is the author of’ Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression,’ published by Prometheus Books, New York. Originally published in ‘The Australian’. (full long text).