Please do not forget us. Again. Like You Did Last Time.

Lorraine Berry

In our determination to wipe out terrorist cells in Afghanistan, can we please make sure we do not destroy the lives of the Afghani women?

In today’s Guardian, we learn that Three Cups of Tea and The Kite Runner be damned, things are NOT better for women in Afghanistan.

Afghan Women Protest New Family Law

Afghan women protest at the proposed new family law Photograph: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

 

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(For more of my writing on this subject in the past, see When Will Women Matter; Faces; Will Women Pay for Peace in Afghanistan; and How Can I Bear It?.)

 

According to reporter Janine di Giovani:

Eight years later I returned, but the Afghanistan
I found was far from jubilant. Despite the money poured into
reconstruction and development, it is one of the five poorest countries
in the world. There is 40% unemployment – nearly 80% in some parts of
the country. A third of children under five are malnourished. Life
expectancy is 43 – and it is one of only three countries in the world
where women die earlier than men.

Did you read that statistic? LIFE EXPECTANCY IS 43 and women die earlier than men. 

You
would think, given those miserable statistics, that perhaps the United
States and the Afghan government would be looking at ways to improve
the lives of its people, especially its women. 

Yeah, right.
When things aren’t going right in a society, what’s the first thing
that gets blamed? Lax morality. And who is responsible for lax
morality? Yep. Us. Those daughters of Eve. 

 

I
arrived to meet women before the presidential elections next month and
to talk about a new law, which if brought in, could have drastic
repercussions for women. The Shia Family Planning law was signed last
March by President Hamid Karzai in an attempt, many believe, to appease
powerful mullahs. The Afghan constitution allows Shias to have a
separate family law from the Sunni majority based on traditional Shia
jurisprudence, and some think the law is linked to the August elections
and the Shia electorate who would have to abide by it (they could form
up to 20% of the electorate).

The proposed law led to
furious protests from women’s groups. It sanctioned marital rape and
brought back Taliban-era restrictions on women by outlining when a
woman could leave her house and the circumstances in which she has to
have sex with her husband; Shia woman would be allowed to leave home
alone "for a legitimate purpose" only which the law does not define,
and could refuse sex with their husbands only when ill or menstruating.

You
see? The best thing for a woman who is not going to live very long
anyway is to just have sex with her husband whether she wants to or
not; to stay in her house; and to keep her fucking pie-hole shut. 

Following
international outrage, Karzai backtracked and said the law would be
reviewed. This month it was amended and re-signed by the president, but
has not yet been ratified by parliament. Human rights groups say it is
unclear how much the amendments have done to improve the law. And the
law has already achieved its aim – instilling fear and insecurity among
an already traumatised female population.

Soraya
Sobhrang, a human rights activist I meet in her Kabul office, says,
"The law will affect all women if it goes through. It opens the door
for other repressive laws to be passed, for Sunni Muslims as well as
Shia." A young doctor friend, Najeeb Shawal, says he is seeing more
female patients who were depressed since news of the law emerged. "They
have the kind of hopelessness that comes with knowing your life is
incredibly repressed. And might become more so."

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(Safia Amajan murdered in Sep. 2006 for daring to educate girls.) 

Congratulations.
The law is already working. We love it when women are depressed. That
means we don’t need to worry about them going outside and making a
ruckus. Instead, they’ll just stay inside, and, if we’re really lucky,
they’ll stick their heads in gas ovens or set their burqas on fire.
Everybody wins!

By the way. Karzai’s original excuse for signing the law? He didn’t read it before he signed it. 

There are bright spots in Afghanistan:

Bamiyan
is the home of the Shia Hazara, the third largest ethnic group in
Afghanistan. I am surprised by the "city’s" remoteness because there
has been a huge outcry here from the women over the law:
demonstrations, protests on the radio, grass roots organisations very
quickly coming together. I meet one of the protest leaders in a small
restaurant overlooking the holes in the mountain left when the Taliban
blew up the ancient Buddha statues there in 2001. Batool Mohammadi is
27, black-robed, and heavily pregnant. "The law does not fit with
humanitarian law," she says. Batool, a Hazara, comes from the
generation of Afghan women born after the Soviet invasion and raised
during the Taliban era. She has only known war, conflict and
repression. The small window of triumph after the fall of the Taliban –
who brutally repressed the Hazaras – has given her a taste of freedom
and she is not ready to give it up. "In an area as traditional as
Bamiyan, one of the major problems with this law is that it will stop
the trend towards modernisation." As Batool leaves, she says that when
her baby is born in June, she wants him or her to enter a world moving
towards equality, not repression.

The governor, Habiba
Sarabi, is the former Minister of Women and as a Shia will have to obey
the law if it is passed. She meets us in her sparse office, a grim,
Soviet-style building set on a windswept plain. There are plates of
nuts and fruits and the governor, looking exhausted, nibbles dried
apricot. At 53, Sarabi is no-nonsense. She is a chemist by trade and
speaks good English. The daughter of an illiterate mother who
encouraged her daughter to read and write, she tells me when she was
young she was mocked as she walked to school alone. Having struggled so
hard it was particularly hard to see her own daughter, now 24, denied
education under the Taliban. The family escaped to Pakistan and Sarabi
worked on human rights and women’s projects.

On the new
law, she tries to be diplomatic, but I can tell she is concerned:
"Fortunately, women raised their voice." She is confident (perhaps
overly so) that the law will not go through. But later, at her
residence, when she curls her stockinged feet under her, she admits the
wider crisis. Bamiyan is one of the few success stories in Afghanistan:
it is poppy-free, the government functions well, and as she points out,
"It is the safest place in Afghanistan. The rule of law is important
here." She has improved the education and health services (instigating
midwife programmes, for example, in a province that has one major
hospital). But can this last? If, following elections, Karzai succumbs
to the mullahs (who exercise huge political power in Bamiyan and the
rest of the country), for how long will it be safe for women? Even
Sarabi finally admitted that if the law is ratified, it would affect
her too.

 

But those women who have been unaffected by these new laws are rare. And a lot of women are frightened: who wouldn’t be?

Women
who have managed to cross gender boundaries seem in a state of shock
over the law. Jamila Barekzai is a police officer whose female
colleague was killed by the Taliban last year in Kandahar for daring to
do a mans’ job. When I go to meet her at the Central Afghan Police
Headquarters on the edge of Kabul, next to one of the biggest Shia
mosques in the city, she is wearing her olive uniform and heavy black
eyeliner. She was transferred from Kandahar last year to Kabul when she
thought she would be killed too. She takes out her mobile phone and
plays a recording of an unnamed Taliban telling her to stop working,
"or you will be taught the lesson we taught your friend". She says she
was mainly frightened for her children and touches the gun at her hip.

President
Obama has committed more troops to Afghanistan, ostensibly for finding
that guy (what was his name? the one who blew up the towers?) and
gettting the increasing threat of terrorism from the Swot Valley in
Pakistan under control. 
But
are women on President Obama’s radar? Are we going to be willing to
trade stability in the area for the lives of millions of Afghani women
who will once again be confined to their homes, illiterate,
ill-considered, depressed, and basic sperm receptacles for their
husbands? Is this the legacy that Obama wants to leave in Afghanistan? 
Or
can we start, right from the beginning, by saying to Karzai that yes,
we know you have us by the gas hose right now because you have access
to that pipeline we want, but hey, women are people, too. 
Please, President Obama. If we are to go to war in Afghanistan, make it mean something.
I do not want to have to write in five years that we have subdued the
terrorists, but once again, we have paid for it with women’s lives. 
President
Obama, First Lady Obama, Secretary of State
Clinton–anyone–everyone–who will listen: do not turn your backs on
the women of Afghanistan. They are not collateral damage. We are not
collateral damage of war. We are human beings. We have feelings. And
bodies. And we hurt. And we ache. And we grieve. And if, once again, we
are told that it is more important that we are treated like pieces of
shit so that some problem may be solved, it may be that some of us may
not be able to take that anymore. 
So please. 
I beg you.
On my knees.
For the women of Afghanistan.
Don’t. Forget. Us.

When I leave, someone
tells me the Taliban spring offensive has begun, American troops are
pouring in, and President Karzai is beginning his political campaign. I
keep thinking of Batool, the pregnant activist in Bamiyan, and her
baby, and her life in 20 years’ time. If the law does not pass and
women continue rolling on, she has a chance. If not, she might still be
wearing a burka and never learn how to drive.

Bitter? Moi?

Mais, non! I
live in the greatest country in the world. Everything we touch turns to
gold! Why, just look at all the great things we’ve accomplished in
Afghanistan!

 

—–
Governor
David A. Paterson has directed that flags on New York State government
buildings be flown at half-staff on Thursday,  July 16, 2009,  in honor
of  a Fort Drum Soldier  killed in Afghanistan on July 9, 2009.  
Spec.
Joshua R. Farris of La Grange, Texas, died in Wardak Pronvince of
wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his
vehicle.  Spec. Farris was a member to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry
Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of 10th Mountain Division.
" I
speak for all New Yorkers when I say that we will forever honor the
service this young soldier gave to our nation, " said Governor
Paterson.  "He was not a native New Yorker, but we consider all
soldiers stationed at Fort Drum to be one of our own.  On behalf of the
people of the State, I extend our deepest sympathy to the family,
friends and fellow soldiers of Sepc. Farris."
Governor Paterson has
directed the flags on all State buildings to be lowered to half-staff
in honor and tribute to our State’s service members who are killed in
action.

And the beat goes on….

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?