Saturday, September 09, 2006

The War For Women's Rights

I was going to entitled this the Feminist War in Afghanistan but there are no real feminists fighting nor is this fight really about feminism, rather this is a patriarchcial war using womens rights as an excuse. By definition war is the domain of men in particular patriarchical societies based on caste; priests, warrior, farmers.

Canada and the US make a big deal out of women and girls in Afghanistan. How the war there is for liberate them from the horrors of the Taliban, in particular the Burka, yet here is a photo comment from the Government of Canada's own Foreign Affairs web site on Afghanistan....uh hey they are still wearing Burka's....
A woman casts her ballot © Joint Electoral Management Body Secretariat/Marie Frechon
A woman casts her ballot in Afghanistan’s
September 18, 2005, election, for which
Canada provided support.
Afghan voters elected the members
of the Wolesi Jirga (lower chamber
of the National Assembly) and
representatives of 34 provincial councils.

The government likes to talk about numbers too, in order to explain why we are at war in Afghanistan...

4.8 million
Number of Afghan children - one-third of them girls - that are back in school.

Number of recipients (78% women) of loans totaling US$12 million. Canada is a lead donor of microfinance to Afghans.

Microfinance in a region that has no banks.


RAY SUAREZ: You are trying to run a business in a place that's also one of the most heavy opium cultivation belts in the world.


RAY SUAREZ: What does all that money coming in do to the legitimate side of the -- of the ledger, whether you're a civil servant or a farmer or someone trying to run a business?

SARAH CHAYES: Well, one thing it does is raise property values. We would love to buy a piece of land and build a facility, a production facility, but it's totally out of reach. I mean, it would cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars to buy a decent -- I mean, we're talking an acre, less than an acre, in Kandahar, you know?

SARAH CHAYES: I mean, this is not New York City. And, so, that's one problem. I...

RAY SUAREZ: Because there's so much money in opium?

SARAH CHAYES: That's right.

There's so much money in -- washing around the economy in Kandahar that it -- I mean, the supply of money is greater than the supply of goods. And that means that the prices of goods go up. It's -- land is also a way to, you know, kind of salt your money away.

But I find that, actually, Afghan farmers are very interested in diversifying what they're growing. There are all sorts of reasons why they grow opium. One is that there's, you know, not such an efficient market for some of their other very valuable products, like pomegranates, that, you know, we have all been reading about recently, or almonds, or apricots.

They grow really valuable crops. But the issue is, how do you get them out of Afghanistan to places that can spend more money on them?

Also, imagine a place where there's no banking system. So, no one can take out a loan from a -- from an institution. They take out a loan from a -- from a trafficker. And they have to pay it back in opium. So, that's some of the ways that it -- that it really disturbs, you know, regular economic transactions.

The reason we are at war is to liberate the women and girls of Afghanistan. That was the rhetoric used by the Bush regime when they launched their war on the Taliban government in Afghanistan. At first it was a simple act of reprisal for 9/11.

But of course revenge is never an adequate excuse to start a war, once tempers cool down. Reason demands more. So the U.S. Government decided that the other reason to attack the Taliban government, besides their failure to hand over Usama bin Laden (which they were actually willing to do) was to free the countries women from oppression.

A very laudable goal. A very gentlemanly thing to do...Like Sir Walter Raliegh andthrowing his cloak down for Queen Elizabeth, the US would lay down carpet bombing of Afghanistan for the women and girls of the country oppressed by the Taliban.

But of course it has failed. The right likes to talk about girls going to school, women not wearing the Burka but as the photo above shows the patriarchs rule in Afghanistan still. And women wear Burka's and girls schools are burned down. Not by the Taliban but by the Afghani village mullahs.

"When the entire nation is living under the shadow of the gun and warlordism, how can its women enjoy very basic freedoms?" asked Joya. "Contrary to the propaganda in certain Western media, Afghan women and men are not 'liberated' at all."Malalai Joya, the youngest member of the Afghan National Assembly, today appeared at the NDP Federal Convention in Quebec City supporting Jack Layton and the NDP's criticism of the NATO led mission in southern Afghanistan.Afghan politician says NATO mission has not brought more peace to the region

Right on sister. Ironically it is the right whing who proclaim all this tripe about our need to liberate women in Afghanistan, the same right whing that attacks womens rights at home. Ironic that. But typical of patriarchical thinking. Women need to be protected. Not much different thinking from the Taliban or other patriarchs who see women as needing protection. And who are they being protected from? Other men.

Women historically oppose war. Just look at the current polling in Canada and the U.S.

As mothers, wives, sisters and daughters women have opposed mens war. It is they who have to tend the wounded, sick and dying. It is women who take care of the victims of war, including the wounded veterans.

When prairie tribes of Cree and others decided to go to war, they had to convince not the male elders but the women of the tribe. A telling story is the case of Poundmaker. Confronted by the RCMP at Batoche he told them the decision had to be made by the women of the tribe. The RCMP officer laughed at warriors taking direction from a squaw. Poundmaker replied; You take orders from the Great White Mother. Point made.

When women mobilize the do so because their very lives and their families depend upon it. Historically women become revolutionized when they see famine, starvation, deprivation. The bread riots in Europe and America were led by women. The Russian Revolution was ignited by mass womens protests against the war and its ensuing famine. The revolution in Iran began with masses of women protesting in the streets, and the ensuing oppression led to a general strike.

No one has asked the women of Afghanistan what they want. Despite having elected more women politicians than are currently in Ottawa. One cannot ask them anything since under Muslim law they have little access to public space.

I am tired of hearing patriarchical war mongers, left and right, speak in the name of women and girls to justify this war in Afghanistan. It is an opium war. It is an extension of the American Cold War Against the Soviet Union.

Women have not asked for you to fight. No one has asked the women of Afghanistan what they want, the very first step of empowerment. Our troops have done nothing to free women in Afghanistan to be public persons. That remains the domain of men.

The slogan of the anti-war movement appropriately applies to the women of Afghanistan in relation to those who claim this war is for them.

Not In My Name.

Also See:




Whose Family Values?

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Anonymous said...

Great post, Eugene!

Why are we so easily conned?


Because we wanted to beleive it was the right thing to do. After all revenge for 9/11 while an emotional response was not one that could sustain an armed invasion and war. So the issue of liberating the women of Afghanistan, even more than capturing Osama bin Laden became the rallying cry for the war. But you knew that already.;)

Red Jenny said...

I know this is a little late, but this is one of the best posts you've written on the topic. I am so saddened and angry at what we are doing in Afghanistan, and the paternalistic tone that is used to justify it... "it's for their own good"

Nick Manley said...

I never thought of the contradiction inherent in right-wing opponents of equality at home talking about freeing women abroad.