Monday, April 14, 2008

RAWA was right

Waleed Aly is a young Australian Muslim lawyer and professor considered to be something of a voice for his generation. Last year he wrote a book, People Like Us: How arrogance is dividing Islam and the West, and writes frequently for The Age:

The Age (Australia)

War without freedom
By Waleed Aly

April 14 - Afghanistan used to be our feel-good war. ...

Perhaps we just assumed all was well.

But it isn't. ...

A recent report by British-based women's rights group Womankind has concluded that Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman.

We have no right to be surprised about this. Certainly, the Taliban's resurgence has not helped, but the truth is that if we had bothered to familiarise ourselves with the experiences of Afghan women before we championed their cause, this would have been sadly predictable.

Indeed, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) — the organisation bravely responsible for bringing horrific images of Taliban brutality to the world — opposed the US-led invasion because it understood that their suffering was too complex and deeply rooted to be sheeted home to a singular villainous organism called the Taliban. It is the product of a nation ravaged by decades of war, with all the feudal social structures, entrenched poverty, illiteracy and corrosive brutality that this nurtures. Such dynamics cannot simply be excised militarily. The Taliban was a symptom as much as a cause.

RAWA tried to tell us that Afghan women had already been "crushed and brutalised under the chains and atrocities of the Northern Alliance fundamentalists". That is probably an understatement. The Northern Alliance had killed 50,000 civilians during its rule in the 1990s, systematically raping thousands of women and girls and causing others to commit suicide.

Yet it was the Northern Alliance that would be our proxies in Afghanistan. These were the good guys; our fellow liberators of Afghan women. We should not have been surprised when, soon after the invasion, an international NGO worker told Amnesty International that "during the Taliban era, if a woman went to market and showed an inch of flesh she would have been flogged; now she's raped". ...

The unthinking construction of the Taliban as the singular source of Afghan misogyny was obviously misguided, but it was undoubtedly convenient. ...

Let us now admit the women of Afghanistan were used for their rhetorical potency. Now, their political utility is spent and so is our concern for them. ... Whatever the soaring rhetoric, we did not truly have liberation on our minds. ... (link)
For our coverage of the Womankind report Aly refers to, see here.

See here for a blog post on Women and peacebuilding in Afghanistan.

For some lesser-known reporting on women in Afghanistan, see here.

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