I have been preoccupied with thinking about the current war in Afghanistan for a week or so. I started to really learn about the history of the region last term and then read a fascinating book, Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid. But it has been my Globalization and Theories of Justice class, its readings, and my contemplation of peace that has gotten me to thinking about possible peaceful solutions in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan seems to me to be a perfect case study for the fallout of colonialism and the difficulty in forcing sociopolitical structures on existing and incompatible frameworks. So much human suffering at the hand of pointless acts of imperialism. Not to mention the fact that the ill-conceived, ever-fruitless warring in and over Afghanistan on behalf of Britain, Russia and America created the perfect opportunity for the Taliban to take power in 1992. And frustratingly, the American solution has been to fix their mistake with more of the same: the “War on Terror”.
Much like many wars in recent history, the lives and experiences of women were used at the beginning of the current Afghan war as propaganda. The atrocities faced by the women of Afghanistan were bandied about to justify the war and further villanize the Taliban. Of course, what happened to women and girls under the extremist regime was barbaric and disgusting. But what has become clear is that the implanted Karzai regime is is no champion for women’s rights and nor are the women of Afghanistan safe from extremist violence; Afghani women have not been ‘rescued’ by this war. Imagine that!
I was first hipped to the ideological semi-congruency between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban when reading Descent into Chaos and then had this reinforced when I discovered the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan who describe the Karzai government as “brethren-in-creed” with the Taliban and Al-Qaida. Strong words from an inspiring group of women who I believe in part, hold the key to a peaceful Afghanistan.
Obviously the horrendously complicated problems that face the people of Afghanistan, and indeed those nations who have involved themselves in it through war require equally complicated solutions. However, while the CBC runs numerous stories about the work being done by NATO forces in turning Afghani men into police officers and the Canadian artist who is promoting the creation of a folk-art industry as a trade capital for the country, the media pays little attention to what I view to be one of the most important steps in reconstructing Afghanistan: the education of women.
As the constant disinherited of fundamentalist regimes, the women of Afghanistan stand as the perfect catalyst for peaceful revolution in their country. Afghani women, who have at times in history been highly educated and successful, have no apparent motivation to cling to extremist values or tactics. As such, they have the potential to shape Afghanistan for the benefit of all Afghani people and frankly, purposeful and permeative inclusion of Afghan women’s voices inpolitical reconciliation and restructuring may be the only hope for peaceful and effective solutions in the war scarred country. NATO’s Afghani project needs to include a strong commitment to women, through monitored opportunity, concentration on their experience and power, and safe, accessible education for women and girls.
Women of Afghanistan Unite!