They say in Africa that when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. To this Julius Nyerere had once added that when elephants make love, the grass still suffers. Nyerere had made this witty remark at a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in the 1970’s. The organisation had been formed to extricate as much of the world from suffering the same fate as the grass in this African proverb, during the Cold War. Yet, it failed Afghanistan as most of NAM’s members were anything but non-aligned. Unfortunately, this included its leading lights.
The US decided to give the USSR a bloody nose in Afghanistan. It seemed no one cared for the poor country caught in the crossfire. Washington found Gen Zia ul Haq’s Pakistan to be a more than willing partner. For the Pakistani dictator, this was an unbelievably lucky opportunity to gain international ‘legitimacy’, even recognition. But for Afghanistan and her people this superpower showdown meant the worst misfortune, misery, death and destruction in the country’s history. The misery continues even two decades after one of the superpowers is no more.
The following article is a short trip down memory lane by an Afghan expat, Muhammad Qayoumi, for Foreign Policy (May 27, 2010). It is one glimpse, through a particular little window, of how three decades of war can push a country six centuries back in time. It is not claimed that Afghanistan did not have large areas which were, as it were, centuries behind parts of Kabul, Herat and Mazar e Sharif, even 30 years ago. But what is most saddening about this little window on the past is the realisation of the damage that has been done to the psyche of the Afghan people, regardless of who they were, where they lived and in which ‘century’. To regain self-confidence, and to let go of anxieties of more than one sort, would perhaps be the most difficult task faced by the Afghans in their efforts to try and rebuild their country. They will have to relearn to be Afghans, rediscover their own history and not only find hope and security, but once again get used to feeling hopeful and secure. They will have to learn to smile again. (bciv)
Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…
Record stores, Mad Men furniture, and pencil skirts — when Kabul had rock ‘n’ roll, not rockets
On a recent trip to Afghanistan, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox drew fire for calling it “a broken 13th-century country.” The most common objection was not that he was wrong, but that he was overly blunt. He’s hardly the first Westerner to label Afghanistan as medieval. Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince recently described the country as inhabited by “barbarians” with “a 1200 A.D. mentality.” Many assume that’s all Afghanistan has ever been — an ungovernable land where chaos is carved into the hills. Given the images people see on TV and the headlines written about Afghanistan over the past three decades of war, many conclude the country never made it out of the Middle Ages. Continue reading
Over the next few days, we will run various articles that debate the arguments for and against the niqab legislation that is underway in European countries. Niqab, or full face and body covering introduces a conundrum in Western societies, and we suspect this issue will not be limited to only the Western societies in the near future. While religious considerations must be respected in secular democracies, there come instances when the religious argument runs afoul of the society safety and welfare of its members. We must remember that the argument is between extreme interpretations of religion that runs against the law of the land. There have been reports of Jehovah’s Witness members refusing modern medical treatment. The Western Governments took clear stand against the fact that extremely sick people were not treated in the name of religion. Canada has seen observant Sikhs demanding their religious and symbolic right to carry ceremonial sword, yet the state stood against this extreme interpretation of Sikh tenets.
Does the Niqab symbolize extreme Islamic values, or is it a cultural issue. Does it keep women sequestered in urban ghettos in societies that encourage women to participate? Do women that don burqa day in and out suffer from serious medical conditions due to the absence of Vitamin D? Is a sight of completely faceless person covered from head to toe a security concern for the hundreds of people walking in the same enclosed space with that same person? Niqab is indeed a complicated yet fascinating issue as an increasingly secular world seeks to accommodate free practice of religion in its diverse and multi-religious societies.
Beyond the Veil
Monday, April 5th, 2010
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
– American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald
By Fitzgerald’s standards, the wave of anti-veil rhetoric sweeping across Europe has probably catapulted the continent’s politicians into the intellectual equivalent of the Andromeda galaxy.
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
“If political consciousness is awakened amongst our women, remember, your children will not have much to worry about.” Founding Father of Pakistan, Mr. Mahomed Ali Jinnah, Lahore, March 22, 1940
The title? No I don’t post such things out of spite or because I am a horribly mean and terrible person. I might be all those things but I am posting this question because I am sick of the hypocrisy shown by Pushtun Nationalists, who try and monopolize the terms “secular” and “progressive” for their narrow tribal agena. Continue reading
This is a quick blog about an urgent issue which for some reason has gone unreported in the media and especially the blogosphere. Continue reading
An Article by the Asian Human Rights Commission
Physical and sexual violence, honor killings, forced marriages and structural inequalities within the society are constant violations of women’s fundamental rights. The cases in this article were provided by Mister Mohammed Nafees from Karachi, based on news from Daily Dawn.
By Julia Lemétayer
2009 has been another tragic year for women rights in Pakistan. Many cases have been reported, in which women were abducted, assaulted, raped, murdered, forced to marriage or traded to resolve disputes. According to Aurat Foundation, a non-governmental organization working for women empowerment in Pakistan, between January and June last year, a total of 4,514 incidents of violence against women were reported. Victims, if they dare reporting these facts, have to face police obstruction and societal pressure. If some of these facts can be imputed to feudal societies and tribal traditions, the most worrying aspect of women rights violations is that some practices and ideas are simply entrenched in the mindsets. Continue reading
Filed under human rights, Justice, Pakistan, poverty, Religion, Rights, Rural, Society, state, violence, Women
by Dr. Fouzia Saeed
I would like to congratulate all the women in Pakistan on the passage of two significant pieces of legislation. The issue of sexual harassment had pained us for just too long. I learnt from my mother and other elders, and I am sure all the other Pakistani women learnt it from their mothers that, Ghar se bahir niklo gi to aiesa to ho ga” (If you will go out of the home you are bound to face it). Sexual harassment, every time we went out anywhere, was taken as a given phenomenon, a constant in our lives. The burden was always on us to devise ways to handle it. Of course, these ways only restricted our own lives. No one in my life ever said that it was wrong and should not happen. The focus was how I can dress properly, not go out alone, not go out in the dark, take my brother along or even better not go out at all. Thus, the bottom line being that this teasing, intimidation and humiliation is there to stay. It was not until later in my life that I started to wonder if there could be a possibility that men could be prevented from harassing me. I am sure many other women have thought about this and, at least on some occasions, have challenged this humiliation.
Religion and Women
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: January 9, 2010
All rights reserved with New York Times Company
Religions derive their power and popularity in part from the ethical compass they offer. So why do so many faiths help perpetuate something that most of us regard as profoundly unethical: the oppression of women?
It is not that warlords in Congo cite Scripture to justify their mass rapes (although the last warlord I met there called himself a pastor and wore a button reading “rebels for Christ”). It’s not that brides are burned in India as part of a Hindu ritual. And there’s no verse in the Koran that instructs Afghan thugs to throw acid in the faces of girls who dare to go to school.