My heart was battered when I saw the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. I have an affinity for the country. In 2005 I joined the Board of Directors of The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women, founded by Paula Nirschel. During the ensuing years I saw 70 young Afghan women, many of who had spent time in refugee camps, secure their college degrees through the program. In many instances they were top students at the respective universities and graduated at the top quadrant of their class. At several meetings a year I heard their stories, the fear of retaliation against their families back home because they were being educated, and, as they returned each summer in service to their country, the cloaking of their skills and covert meetings as they taught other young girls. With some progress in later years, several of them got positions in the government and one became a sitting Afghan mayor. I worry about what will happen to her and them.
The Taliban takeover caused me to flashback to one call I took on WHJJ talk radio one afternoon. Rhode Island women were calling the program excoriating the Taliban and its treatment of women. The criticism extended to other Arab countries under Sharia law, including Saudi Arabia where women must have male guardians who control fundamental aspects of their lives. I saw on my call board that a Muslim woman was on the line who wanted to challenge the criticism of her culture.
She began by noting that she was married into a large Arab family and all the men respected women and protected them. She was angry at the callers whom she suggested were ignoring the objectification of women in this country. She argued that while she was being criticized for being cloaked up when she went out in public, why didn’t the callers understand that they were sexualized objects? “Do you really think that you are more free than I am when you have to parade around in bikinis to capture an American male’s attention? My husband doesn’t attend strip shows. While you ladies are calling about how I’m treated why don’t you take a ride down Eddy Street to see if your husband’s car is parked at one of the girlie spots. I know that my husband won’t be there.”
Touche! Query whether, as scripture says, we see the beam in everybody else’s eye but not in our own?
I wonder whether the United States pull-out is related to the fact that Washington, including President Joseph Biden, doesn’t care two shakes as to what will happen to women in Afghanistan because, well, they are only women. Whether in the Trump administration who bargained with the Taliban and this present D.C. crew, what provisions were negotiated to protect females and their right to basic civil liberties like an education?
There certainly is no herd immunity to misogyny in Afghanistan. Yet women everywhere are subject to violence against their person. The good old U.S. of A. stops them at our borders as they flee from genital mutilation or with their children from the catalog of horrors in their respective countries.
Inequities also abound in the U.S. Motherland or more accurately, Fatherland.
Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.