There is a direct association between countries’ levels of development and the importance they attach to women’s rights. It is impossible to speak of civilization in a society in which women are not valued. A country in which women are not free has literally been ruined. Crimes against humanity are committed wherever women are oppressed and the collapse of such a country is inevitable.
With its recent past and present-day position, Afghanistan is a clear example of this generalization. The country is literally now equated with poverty, fanaticism, backwardness and repression of women.
The Taliban Period
The 1990s were the darkest period in Afghanistan’s history in terms of women’s rights. The Taliban seizure of power in 1996 ushered in a time of unbelievable oppression of women. Almost everything was prohibited for women; being well-groomed, laughing, having fun, going to school, working, being examined by a male doctor, expressing their opinions, talking to men, etc. etc. It was also forbidden for a woman to leave home without the permission of her husband or to appear in the street without her husband or a male relative alongside her. Windows of houses had to be completely closed or else painted over. Under this fanatical mindset, it was unlawful to keep birds in a cage, but the law demanded that women be kept literally in confinement in their homes.
Women who broke the prohibitions were ruthlessly punished, being beaten in public, flogged or stoned to death. The penalty for using nail polish was the loss of the finger. The whole world witnessed the cost to women of the radical Taliban ideology. Reports are still fresh in the memory; like the 12-year-old Bibi Aisha, who was forced into marriage with a Taliban fighter and was beaten since the first day of that marriage, and whose husband cut off her ears and nose when she wanted to divorce him.
Afghan Women’s Never-ending Ordeals
One of the grounds for the NATO invasion under U.S. leadership in 2001 was to ‘liberate women.’ Yet that great aim was ultimately shelved. A brief look at contemporary reports by respected international bodies will once again reveal how hard it is to be a woman in Afghanistan:
Statistics show that Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in which to be a woman or a mother.
Nine out of every ten women are exposed to physical or sexual abuse.
Eighty-five percent of women are illiterate, without even basic education.
Average number of children given birth by a woman is six.
50% of Afghan girls are married off by the time they are 12 years old.
Sometimes families marry off their daughters to pay off their debts.
Mean life expectancy for women is 51 years.
The country has the highest numbers in the world for deaths during pregnancy and birth.
There has been a slight improvement in these appalling figures in recent years; however, there has been no change in the living conditions of Afghan women who are exposed to violence, psychological pressure, inequality, discrimination and inequality. Their plight, which may be described quite frankly as captivity, continues. There are two main reasons for this.
First and foremost, the Taliban have recovered their strength in rural areas in particular and are frequently challenging the government through terror attacks. Violence towards – and repression of – women continues in the areas they dominate. They burn down schools to prevent girls being educated, they attack students and their teachers, they kill women’s rights advocates and intimidate women in the most ruthless fashion.
Another reason is false and distorted concept of women’s rights institutionalized in a large part of Afghan society. To put it another way, false religious, traditional and cultural values that have no place in Islam and the Qur’an rule the day; there are still a great many people among the Afghan government, parliament and leaders of opinion who are against basic rights and freedoms for women. Some of these are openly opposed, while others adopt an insincere attitude because they are wary of the West.
For these reasons, innocent Muslim women in Afghanistan live deprived of social, economic and cultural rights. They are repressed and silenced by pressure from their families and tribes. When they seek to complain they frequently end up in legal trouble, despite being in the right, in Afghan institutions of state, well-known for their corruption.
The New Afghan Government
Enormous problems face the new Afghan head of state, Ashraf Ghani, and the newly founded government. The most urgent of these is the elimination of the harassment, violence, threats and difficulties of all kinds confronting women; it is impossible for Afghanistan to stand on its own feet unless the position of women is improved.
Although this may seem like a remote possibility in the near future, there is an issue of vital importance in any potential national reconciliation with the Taliban: it is wholly unacceptable for the government to make any concessions whatsoever on the subjects of women’s rights and freedoms for the sake of an agreement with the Taliban.
President Ghani explicitly states that women’s rights are a priority issue. Only time will tell whether this is mere political rhetoric or not. There are also hopes among the public that his wife, Rula Ghani, who is of Lebanese origin, will become actively involved. However the efforts of the president, his wife and the government alone will not be enough.
The Solution to Despair
The reason for the repression suffered by Afghan women is false religious information dating back centuries and nonsense fabricated under the name of Islam: These are also the source of Muslim Afghan society’s false cultural and traditional values concerning women. The problem cannot therefore be resolved through condemnation, criticism, imposed policies or non-functional ‘Potemkin village’ changes.
In fact, there is no system involving the repression of women in the spirit Islam. According to Qur’anic moral values, woman are flowers, the adornments of the world, beautiful beings, great blessing as possessed of special and elevated value. That being the case, the false, fanatical ideas in people’s minds need to change if the problem is to be solved. Afghan communities need to be told of the value that God attaches to women in the Qur’an. With an incessant, comprehensive, serious and sincere effort, an educational campaign needs to be initiated at once. This is the only way to save Afghanistan from the despairing situation in which it finds itself now.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily