What is the best exit strategy for Afghanistan? The author of this piece is highly skeptical that military might is going to change things for women under Shari'a Law. I have to agree.
The best policy for ANY society is education. Oh, and mandatory women's studies for ALL students so the revolutionary notion that women are people is a permanent meme.
Time's new cover of Aisha, an 18-year-old Afghan woman whose Taliban husband cut off her nose and ears because she ran away from his family's and his abuse, is horrifying, necessary — and a little misleading.
It's not the photo. That does appear to be the outcome of some serious thought by Time editor Richard Stengel, who writes,
First, I wanted to make sure of Aisha's safety and that she understood what it would mean to be on the cover. She knows that she will become a symbol of the price Afghan women have had to pay for the repressive ideology of the Taliban. We also confirmed that she is in a secret location in Kabul protected by armed guards and sponsored by the NGO Women for Afghan Women. Aisha will head to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery sponsored by the Grossman Burn Foundation, a humanitarian organization in California. We are supporting that effort.
In fact, Aisha's abuse and mutilation took place last year, with U.S. troops' presence in the country and alongside Afghan women's significant progress on certain fronts. Women For Women in Afghanistan has some more details on her tragic background:
She was sold at the age of 10 by her father to a married man, a Talib. He kept her in the stable with the animals until she was 12 (when she got her first menstrual period). At the age of 12 he married her. From the day that she arrived in his house, she was beaten regularly by this man and his family. Sometimes she was beaten so badly that she couldn't get up for days. Six months ago before she came to us, she was beaten so badly by her husband that she thought that she was going to die. She ran away and went to the neighbor's house. The neighbor took to her to the police.
Such stories are obscene, not at all uncommon, and need to be told. But there is an elision here between these women's oppression and what the U.S. military presence can and should do about it, which in turn simplifies the complexities of the debate and turns it into, "Well, do you want to help Aisha or not?"
There are, however, conflicting signals about how seriously committed U.S. officials are, in the context of an exist plan, to pushing back at the resurgence of the Taliban as it affects women in the country.
As The Nation's Greg Mitchell notes, the story leaves out many other things that might happen if we leave Afghanistan, as well as other "on the ground" realities. And he points to Nicholas Kristof — no slouch on the issue of women's rights — arguing in today's Times that framing our presence in Afghanistan as an either-or between military engagement or abandoning the human rights of the vulnerable is a false premise:
Aid groups show that it is quite possible to run schools so long as there is respectful consultation with tribal elders and buy-in from them... [Greg] Mortenson lamented to me that for the cost of just 246 soldiers posted for one year, America could pay for a higher education plan for all Afghanistan. That would help build an Afghan economy, civil society and future — all for one-quarter of 1 percent of our military spending in Afghanistan this year.Read more at jezebel.com