With the world in a deep recession, some people might be more interested in domestic financial news and less with international affairs. But if thousands of your tax dollars are going to a faraway country, you have good grounds to want to see how that country is doing. News on Afghanistan usually arouses a lot of interest in Canada.
A law recently proposed in Afghanistan for the minority Shiite community would forbid women from refusing to have sex with their husbands, among other laws such as women requiring permission from a male relative to leave the house. The so-called “rape” law became a headline overnight. The Canadian government sounded its concern, president Obama intervened, and finally Afghan President Hamid Karzai apologized and revoked the legislation. Foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon spoke to the Canadian people with a smile, assuring them that “contentious clauses” will be eliminated.
To those who are only slightly aware of the Afghan political climate and balance of forces, this narrative of events seems like a peculiar caricature at best.
It surely fits the picture that we have of a democracy: a law is proposed, people protest, it is then revoked. Done. Afghan women can take a deep breath, and we can be sure again that our army is doing its job: protecting democracy and women’s rights.
It fits because many Canadians believe our military forces, together with other nations under a NATO umbrella, are there to “protect” a democracy that is already in place but struggling. As far as we know, we are there to protect women’s rights and that is what Karzai’s government is doing. After all he got his education not in a Madrassah but at Harvard. He wouldn’t agree to a “rape” law, would he?
I hate to wreck the party, but let me put to you some rather inconvenient facts.
The United States went into Afghanistan less than a month after 9/11 with the stated purpose of capturing bin Laden, destroying Al-Qaeda, and removing the Taliban regime. Canada later joined for the same reason. Six years after, we all know how the first two priorities went: Osama is not captured and Al-Qaeda (thanks to a new, rich training and recruiting ground called post-Saddam Iraq) is even stronger with fresh attacks from Istanbul to Mumbai to Bali. But the third one surely didn’t go that badly. The Taliban regime was quickly removed from government and women put aside those terrible burkas.
Not quite. Not anymore, anyway. The Taliban, initially removed, is back.
The American war effort erased the Taliban as a serious political force for only five years. Since 2006, the Taliban have regained strength. Outside of Kabul, they could claim as much power as the Afghan government and International Security Assistance Force (which includes Canada). Look at the Taliban’s track record in the last couple of years: they attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul killing more than 50 people, freed hundreds of prisoners in the battle of Arghandab, and even made an attempt on Karzai’s life on the anniversary of his government.
That government is not necessarily much better. From day one it has been a corrupt, reactionary force made up of ex-Taliban, Mujahideen, war lords, and drug smugglers. The idea of the Karzai government standing up for women’s rights is a sick joke to many Afghans like Malalai Joya, a female Afghan MP, who declared in 2003 that these are the “most misogynist people in the society.” She has since been banished from parliament.
Obama has recognized the growing power of the Taliban in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) and is more than ready to accommodate some of their wishes so he can have “stability” in the region. Just two months ago, he talked about “making alliances with more moderate Taliban elements.”
Lets face it: Canada didn’t go to Afghanistan to support women’s rights, but to have a military presence as a NATO ally of the United States, and inevitably followed the latter’s policies.
With such priorities as Canada’s, Afghan women will continue to suffer under the draconian, misogynist Sharia law. We should expect nothing else from Karzai or the “moderate” Taliban.