The Nightmare of Afghan Women

According to this, from TomDispatch, our mission in Afghanistan is not a lot different from the USian one in Iraq.  And, women are not better off as a result.

Tomgram: Ann Jones on the Nightmare of Afghan Women

This post can be found at http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=163092

Afghanistan remains the forgotten war and yet, in an eerie lockstep with Iraq, it seems to be following a distinctly Bush administration-style path toward “the gates of hell.” While almost all attention in Washington and the U.S. media has been focused on the President’s new “surge” plan in Iraq — is it for 21,000 or 50,000 American troops? Just how astronomical will the bills be? Just how strong will Congressional opposition prove? Just how bad, according to American intelligence, is the situation? — Afghanistan is experiencing its own quiet surge plan: more U.S. (and NATO) troops, more military aid, more reconstruction funds, more fighting, more casualties, heavier weaponry, more air power, more bad news, and predictions of worse to come.

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Proposal to get US out of Iraq

Forwarded to me by the Feminist Peace Network, a comprehensive proposal to get the US troops out of Iraq.  And isn’t it about time?  Will Afghanistan be next?  PMS, can you read my lips?

http://www.feministpeacenetwork.org/?p=65

Lynn Woolsey’s Plan for withdrawal from Iraq
Posted by admin on January 19th, 2007

Adapted from Sheroes:
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) has come up with a comprehensive proposal to withdraw our troops from Iraq. Her plan includes the following points:

a.. Withdraw all U.S. troops and military contractors from Iraq within six months from the date of enactment.
b.. Accelerate, during the six-month transition, training of a permanent Iraqi police force.
c.. Prohibit the continued funding, except for the redeployment of troops currently in Iraq, of combat troops to Iraq.
d.. Prohibit any permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. (Despite official denials, bases are under construction, including one that includes a miniature golf course and a Pizza Hut).
e.. Authorize, if requested by the Iraqi government, U.S. support for an international stabilization force, which would stay no longer than two years.
f.. Prohibit U.S. participation in any long-term Iraqi oil production sharing agreements before the enactment by the Iraqi government of new regulations governing the industry.
g.. Authorize an array of non-military assistance in Iraq, including reconstruction of a public-health system; destruction of land mines, recovery of ancient relics; and distribution of compensatory damages for civilian casualties.
h.. Honor the sacrifice of our servicemen and women by providing full funding for every health-care treatment, and benefit that they are entitled to under current law.

Co-sponsors of the bill include: Barbara Lee (CA), Maxine Waters (CA), Diane Watson (CA), James McGovern (MA), Barney Frank (MA), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Chaka Fattah (PA), Jerrold Nadler (NY), John Conyers Jr. (MI), Wm. Lacy Clay (MO), Steve Cohen (TN), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Bob Filner (CA), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Donald Payne (NJ) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX).Joshua Holland has an excellent blurb about this bill over at Alternet. He writes,

“The sad thing is that neither the AP, nor the New York Times bothered even to report it, and in the Washington Post it merited just a single, off-hand sentence in one of Dana Milbank’s typically snotty little columns. I wonder why that seems so familiar.”

Holland suggests that you write to your representatives and ask them to support the bill. Also, please write to your local media and tell them that this is important legislation and they should be covering the story. And please, forward this blog to your lists. Let’s make some noise about this issue!


Women and the Media

Another from the inbox, this, an excerpt from Jane Fonda’s speech to a conference on media reform: A Powerful Media Can Stop a War (What would the world look like if the female half of the population had an equal share in the media?) Edited to ad a link to her full speech at YouTube.

Media must be the defenders of democracy.

We need a media that strengthens democracy, not a media that strengthens the government. We need a media that enriches public discourse, not one that enriches corporations. There’s a big difference.

When we talk about reforming the media, what we’re really talking about is creating a media that is powerful, not a media that serves the interests of the powerful; a media that is so powerful that it can speak for the powerless, bear witness for those who are invisible in our world, and memorialize those who would be forgotten.

A truly powerful media is one that can stop a war, not start one.

As Bill Moyers said at this very conference last year, “the quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply entwined.” But when the media does not reflect the vibrant diversity of the people on this planet, both the quality of journalism and the quality of our democracy suffer.

At this National Conference on Media Reform, our shared goal of creating a truly progressive, democratic media — vital, fair, investigative, and truth-telling — is ultimately unreachable if we do not address the persistent, pervasive inequalities that exist in media. These inequalities exist even outside of mainstream media, even in the alternative and independent press.

The existence of independent media has been severely threatened. We’ve seen a new concentration of media ownership in conservative hands, and the erosion and elimination of federal regulations that promoted a diversity of viewpoints. This has weakened our country — morally, physically, and spiritually.

The Free Press has done a great deal to show how people of color have increasingly been marginalized as media monopolies grow. It’s shown how ownership of television and radio stations by people of color is at its lowest levels since the government began keeping track; how a scant 13 percent of newspapers in this nation employ people of color in the same percentage as their readership; and how issues affecting diverse communities have been underreported and ignored.

But the media environment that is overwhelmingly white is also overwhelmingly male. And a media that leaves women out is fundamentally, crucially flawed.

Why? Simply because you can’t tell the whole story when you leave out half the population.

Read the whole piece.

 

Afghan MPs Predict “Very Big War”

It seems that what NATO is stirring up with their show of force isn’t going to be good for the people of Afghanistan or for the overall situation in the Middle East.

Afghan MPs Predict “Very Big War”

Civilian deaths, corruption, occupying troops leading to “jihad” against foreigners, say leaders

by Chris Sands

Ahmad Shah Khan Achekzai, MP for Kandahar, where Canadian troops are operating, says foreign troops are “acting against Islam and they are attacking innocent people”. © 2006 Chris Sands

 

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN–As a former senior Taliban commander and associate of Osama bin Laden, Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi was a shining example of the warlords who seemed to be rejecting violence and embracing Afghanistan’s new democracy.But the MP for the southern province of Zabul now typifies the anger and despair raging through this blood-soaked country.

In a series of interviews with The Dominion, a number of Afghan politicians said a mass uprising against NATO-led forces will soon begin, driving out the foreign troops and igniting a civil war.

“When the Taliban came along I gave everything to them because I wanted the country to improve and the people to be safe,” said Rocketi. “Then when the current government came along I gave everything to them because I thought they would make the country better. But I regret that.

“Everything is gone now, we have nothing. I regret it not because I am no longer with the Taliban, but because this government does not have the power to improve our country.

“It’s getting worse and worse and worse. I don’t have any hope. But whatever is happening now, the people can’t complain. If they make a noise the local governor will say they are Taliban or Al-Qaeda and get them sent to Bagram.”

Rocketi – whose name derives from his famed ability with a Rocket-Propelled Grenade launcher – said pressure is building as his country slips backwards.

“I know, I am sure, that soon a very big war will start between the foreigners and the population,” he explained.

The parliamentary elections of September 18, 2005, were hailed as a key event in Afghanistan’s transition from a war-torn nation ruled by Islamic extremists to a peaceful and moderate democracy.

However, the Taliban-led insurgency has grown rapidly during the last year and MPs believe the rebellion is an accurate reflection of public anger.

While all militants are usually portrayed as isolated radicals, the reality is not so simple. Fierce anti-American and anti-NATO rhetoric can be heard almost everywhere in this country now. Even moderates who support the presence of foreign troops are predicting catastrophe.

With his well pressed suit and smart tie, Mohammad Hashem Watanwall, MP for the southern province of Uruzgan, would look perfectly at home in the House of Commons. But his vision of the future is bleak.

“When the current government came along I gave everything to them because I thought they would make the country better. But I regret that.” — Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi, MP for Zabul. © 2006 Chris Sands

“There is a big fire under the earth. It’s like a volcano and soon it will explode,” he warned. “It will explode if everything continues like now; the corruption, the bad security, the bombing of civilians by coalition forces. Soon it will explode and people will stand up in the name of jihad and martyrdom if there are no big changes.”Now in parliament the MPs are saying ‘Forget about Pakistan and the Taliban, why are the foreigners here?’

“They are saying a thousand headed dragon is here and it’s the foreign armies. Just imagine, if the MPs are saying that in an official place what will a simple person in a village be saying?”

He added: “Now in parliament they say if you kill a foreigner, a non Muslim, and then you yourself are killed you will become a martyr and go straight to paradise. They see no difference between the military or civilians.”

The insurgency that overpowered Soviet troops and Kabul’s puppet Communist regime began with small rebel movements. It developed into a nationwide struggle during which Mujahideen battled against the Russians, local government forces and each other.

That occupation ended in 1989, but peace remained elusive and between 1992 and 1996 a brutal civil war raged between Afghanistan’s different ethnic groups and political factions.

Watanwall predicted any new full-scale jihad would have the same result. “Of course some tribes will fight each other,” he said. “They will say you are Pashtun, I am Tajik, I am Tajik you are Hazara, you are Shia I am Pashtun. The civil war will start because of differences of skin, differences of language, differences of religion.”

“Hazaras say they don’t have enough positions in the government, Uzbeks say that, Tajiks say that, even Pashtuns say that and they have Karzai as president. Now it’s ideological and with words but soon it will turn to violence.

“I believe if the international forces and the government don’t take any strong steps then soon it will start and it could get as bad as Iraq.”

Ahmad Shah Khan Achekzai is MP for Kandahar, where Canadian troops are based. He joined Rocketi in demanding that Pashtuns – the ethnic group from which the Taliban draw their core support – be given more positions in government. He also launched into a tirade against the foreign troops.

“The population hates the government, hates the Americans and hates their friends because they are all liars,” he said.

“Soon the jihad will start, that’s right. The Americans and the coalition came to Afghanistan by way of the United Nations, but when they go into people’s houses and search them it’s unacceptable. They are acting against Islam and they are attacking innocent people.

“There will be jihad, I am 100 per cent sure. It’s against our culture, it’s against Islam – if they want to come to our houses they need permission.”

Then, almost as an afterthought, he added: “If the jihad starts, of course I will join it – it’s natural.”

Gang-rape in Afghanistan

Below is a report from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan’s website.  It makes me physically ill to read it, so do not take the link if you do not want to know about the gang-rape of a woman in Badakhshan and the treatment of her children, who were witnesses to the event.

Is it this vilification of women and children — this terrorism — that we are reconstructing in Afghanistan?  It seems to me that Canadian participation in this pseudo war on terror has made the situation for the women of that country even worse than before.

Bring our troops home!

Behind the burqas

Thanks to Louise Dulude for bringing this to my attention.  It's an excellent article.

Afghanistan: Behind the burqas

by Tamar Dressler

“I know what they tell you in the West about the situation here,” Sahar Saab sighs despairingly. Saab, an activist with the women’s movement RAWA which operates almost underground in Afghanistan, adds, “They tell you women’s circumstances have improved greatly, but in reality there is no improvement. In the capital, Kabul, and in a few more cities, women even work in government offices, but their numbers are very few, and many dangers still ambush women in the cities. And in the suburbs? For their own safety, women continue to wear burqas. Almost daily, we hear of kidnappings, rape, murder, suicide and disappearance in areas still ruled by the Taliban or the Northern Alliance, and we know there are many more incidents not reported.”

Thus, in fluent English and a businesslike tone, free of criticism or attempts to shake up her listener with horror stories of the type of incidents the movement is trying to eradicate, Saab tells of the lives of women for whom leaving the house is a luxury.

“Officially the situation is better since the international forces arrived, but most of the new laws have not been assimilated. The condition of civilians, especially women and children, has deteriorated. In areas ruled by religious extremists, most women feel only a change for the worse. In the past five years, for example, the number of female suicides has increased significantly. If our situation is so improved – why the increase? We pay the full price of war and poverty.”

Three decades of underground activity

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), founded in Afghanistan in 1977 by a group of educated women led by Meena Keshwar-Kamal, fights for women’s rights, for their assimilation into the political system and the establishment of a democratic regime based on secular principles.

To read the rest of this article, go to:

http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3332234,00.html


			

The Road to Peace

Nettie Wiebe has been in Regina this week, speaking at various events.  Today she was one of the guest speakers at Making Peace With Earth, a conference linking peace and environmental issues.  Nettie took an interesting approach, being a farmer.  She spoke about peace and ecology in terms of human security.  And she focused on food as a key component of that human security.  This woman is our new Tommy Douglas.  She gets it.  She gets social justice.  She gets environmental issues.  She gets women’s issues, agricultural issues, peace issues.  She just gets it all.

Notes from Nettie’s Speech 

Food is about human security; we cannot live without it.  Food is also about community.  Yet, we rarely hear a word about it in our news of war, devastation, and destruction.

Human Security 

To feel secure as a human we need to be able to go to bed at night knowing that when we rise in the morning our basic needs will be met.  We need also to feel safe in our environment.  And, we need to be able to participate, in a meaningful way, in the shaping of our future.

Palestine

In Palestine, however, people have been separated from not only the olive trees, but also from their water systems, by the building of the wall.  Trees have been uprooted, water systems have been destroyed, cisterns have been dug up.  This kind of destruction is just as lethal as property destruction.

Peace in the Middle East will not happen unless food, water and land are returned to proper production and people can return to it and live securely.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, many have always been poor.  The land doesn’t look farmable.  However, there are fertile river valleys.  In fact, pre-conflict (1970s) Afghanistan was the world’s major exporter of dried fruits and nuts.  And they also exported olives and dates and were near self-sufficiency in grains.

All that was destroyed by war.  When war came, poppy production grew in leaps and bounds until the Taliban took over, turning the land back to grains.

The huge anti-drug initiative spearheaded by the USA is supported by Canada.  However, the government in Afghanistan and Afghan soldiers ar actively supporting poppy growing.  And, there are now rumours that the Taliban are telling farmers to grow poppies in protest to the invasion.

Canadian Deaths

The area in which Canadian troops are active in Afghanistan is the area in which “reconstruction” is occurring.  Canadian soldiers are guarding the building of a 100 meter wide and 4 kilometer long stretch of road in a fertile valley.  Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from this farming area in the middle of the growing season!

When they came home, they returned to complete destruction.  Crops were devastated, animals were gone or dead and, worst of all, the road permanently cut off the water supply.  The road that Canadians are helping to reconstruct has devastated farming and the security of the people living their.  Some engineer gave no thought to human security when designing the road, focussed instead on how to move military equipment from point A to point B.

The Canadian government has promised grain to help the people of the region, but food aid is not a long-term solution.  And since when has the Canadian military become an expert on building roads?  Incidently, the area is full of roads.  But the roads are winding roads and not suitable for the transport of military equipment.

This is not the road to peace.

The Road to Peace

The new highway in the fertile Afghan valley is not the road to peace.  The road to peace is stopping the destruction, is negotiating, not handing out candy.  The road to peace is rebuilding imaginations so that dreams can live, grow and thrive.  The road to peace is in coming to sit at the table — not in a drive-by, fast food agenda.  The road to peace is a long, winding, and uncertain road that runs through all those Afghan villages.  It is not a road we can rebuild and run.

We have a responsibility in Afghanistan, but it’s not a military one.  We have a responsibility here, at our own tables, to remember that what we do in the world gathers around other tables; it reflects us.  As such, we should gather humbly, thoughtfully and ask for peace.