An Eloquent but Impractical Plea for Afghan Women

Posted on May 22, 2012


I am no fan of “Dubya” Bush, but Laura Bush makes an eloquent plea in the Washington Post for the US not to abandon Afghan women and all of the progress that they have made in the last ten years.  She correctly points out:

Despite these gains, however, Afghanistan’s progress remains tenuous. A March 2 fatwa from the Ulema Council, which advises the Afghan government on religious matters, actively encouraged a return to shades of Taliban-era female repression, including support for husbands beating their wives. It said that women should not travel without a male relative and also declared men to be “fundamental” and women “secondary.” In this climate, Afghan women understandably fear losing everything.

Afghan women have lived a nightmare under the Taliban.  This became widely recognized after 9/11, but those who pay attention to such matters have known much longer than that (Jay Leno’s wife Mavis has chaired the  Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan since 1997).  That nightmare is a long way from well and truly over, and all of the progress that has been made – shakily – over the last decade is directly attributable to foreign intervention in the country.

We are due to leave Afghanistan by 2014.  Laura Bush is correct that the cultural and political climate in that country may yet cast women back down, silenced behind their burkas and the walls of their homes.  It is a terrible thing to contemplate, and Mrs. Bush asks:  “Having already seen the terrible cost of denying the most basic of human freedoms, do we dare risk the consequences now of abandoning the women of Afghanistan?”  I ask in turn:  what does it look like for the US and the world to not abandon the women of Afghanistan?  I really can’t picture any solution without armed foreign troops enforcing foreign human-rights standards.  Maybe it’s the right thing to do morally, but is it feasible?

What do you think?  How can the US continue to support women’s progress and human rights, short of continuing a costly and draining war that damages our own country?