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Afghan Women after 2014


VIEW : Afghan women after 2014 — Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in two girls who should go to school remain at home in Afghanistan 

The unwavering faith and intense struggle of Afghan women has continued since the civil war started in Afghanistan. As the only woman to this date ever to be crowned ‘Miss Afghanistan’ (Zuhra Yousaf) puts it, “War steals the very breath of life. Afghanistan stopped breathing and the little that was achieved by Afghan women came to a standstill.” The female gender in the land operating under the yoke of Taliban rule had always been striving to deny the gender role that was assigned to them. They had coveted the identity that was invaded by the feudal lords, bigots and warlords. An average Afghan woman, even today, in any part of the world, feels like a pendulum swinging between ‘Orientalist representations’ and ‘stereotypes of Islamic tradition’ imposed on her. All she is worried about is ‘what others think of her’. The promises of peace, security and egalitarianism for them seem to fade away. Even after a decade of bombing and NATO strikes, Afghan women are still searching for their lost identity.

The question arises: why?

After the twin bombing of the World Trade Center, which the world remembers as 9/11, the weakening of the Taliban and al Qaeda was being portrayed as the liberation of Afghan women. However, nothing ‘just’ seems to prevail in their homeland for them. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in two girls who should go to school remain at home in Afghanistan. One in five children do not survive long enough to make it to school. Women trafficking rose to unprecedented levels since 2001. Economic problems, enhanced poverty and problems such as forced marriages have resulted in the dramatic increase of ‘self-immolation’ among women. Although 25 percent of parliament comprises of women, honour killings are still executed at an expeditious rate. Despite tragedies and hopelessness, Afghan women are valiantly fighting for their rights. They clearly denied the gender roles being ascribed to them by the Taliban and now they are dissenting against the tags placed on them by the invading forces. Had the champions of ‘peace, equality and humanity’ kept their promises, the situation would have been a lot different. Now, even a baby girl born in Afghanistan would be a matter of concern for her mother who would be worried about her existence in a respectable way. In her own way and according to her culture, norms and religious beliefs, she tries to shield her from forced social control.

While directly relating the downfall of the Taliban with the emancipation and empowerment of women, the west has forgotten the state structure and laws in Afghanistan. It is evident that Afghans emphasise on state-imposed changes to women’s legal and social status. The reforms initiated from 1919-1929 were a consequence of constitutional amendments. During the reign of King Amanullah Khan, women were guaranteed equal rights under the constitution. Female students were sent to Turkey for higher education. Then in 1959, the policies of Muhammad Zahir Shah allowed women to unveil voluntarily and to find employment. By 1964, women even won their right to cast votes. All these changes were legitimised only through constitutional means.

Contrary to the above mentioned measures of the past, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the United States failed to devise any workable or long term strategy to ensure peace in the region. The devastation worsened due to drug cultivation, terrorist activities and the upward trajectory in crime rates. NATO forces made Afghanistan a battleground between themselves and the insurgents. The worst affected actors were the Afghan women. They were deprived of a conducive socio-political environment to institutionalise their legal rights such as education. This is the reason that women are still questioning their fate and future in Afghanistan, especially after the withdrawal of NATO forces from their country. Activist and author of A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice, Malalai Joya has faced attempts on her life after speaking out against the oppression of women under the Taliban, but she is explicit in counting the US and NATO too as enemies of Afghan women’s (and men’s) right to live and learn in peace.

Entrenched in the mesh of uncertainty and trepidation, Afghan women are now looking forward to an alliance with the clerics. They are requesting pro-female Friday sermons. For them it is a hope to defeat violence and ameliorate the pitiful state of their rights. This campaign is likely to start in Kabul and would be implemented in all the provinces. However, there are 160,000 mosques in the country of 30 million people and this campaign will remain restricted to 3,500 government-funded mosques. With the withdrawal of the foreign invaders looming, Afghan women are now retreating to seek the support of traditional men who have always been represented as their worst enemies. Had the western analogy of ‘de-Talibanisation’ and ‘peace for women’ been correct or fruitful, the Afghan women would not have been left pleading for their fundamental rights.

The writer is a student of Communication Studies at University of the Punjab. She blogs at http://www.fakihahassanrizvi.wordpress.com and tweets at @Fakiha_Rizvi

Originally published in Pakistan Daily Times http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C07%5C20%5Cstory_20-7-2013_pg3_6#.UeojaMpqcYI.twitter

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A US – led Syria and Beyond. . .



The Syrian massacre has flooded the news items all around the world. It’s been a year since Obama administration, for the first time, called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down and let Syrians have their right of self-determination. However, the obdurate dictator turned a deaf ear to this call. The clash between the ‘regime loyalists’ (supporters of Assad) and myriad rebel factions has claimed thousands of lives in Syria for almost seventeen months. The roots of this ongoing civil war can be traced to Benghazi, Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi refused to surrender in front of the rebels. His forces were ready to fight and what they couldn’t resist was the ‘overreached’ retaliation by NATO which had entered the conflict on behalf of the rebels. China and Russia allowed the resolution which gave NATO such sweeping powers to pass, but Russia along with South Africa criticized NATO’s role after the death of Qaddafi. This dispute in the UN Security Council created an unpleasant atmosphere as there was a disagreement between the members at a time when an agreed response to violence in Syria had to be chalked out. It was Russia which insisted on quelling the pressure from Assad’s regime and including the President while deciding any future political set up for Syria. This was the reason for the appointment of Kofi Annan (the U.N.-Arab League joint envoy to Syria) in February 2012 who worked on ”mission impossible” (as he himself quotes it). After failing to devise an ‘agreed’ plan, for a political transition that did not explicitly require Assad’s departure, Annan has now resigned. The persistent efforts of Washington to dislodge Assad through negotiations have failed utterly, especially after the resignation of Kofi Annan. The U.S blames Russia and publicly denounces it for purporting a dictatorial regime. On the other hand, Annan blames the Security Council giants (big western states) for name-calling Russia and China. Other than the obviously disgruntled, Moscow and Beijing, the U.S shouldn’t ignore Brazil, India and South Africa which are also in the list of dissenters this time. All four of them are established democracies.

From the Geneva recommendations to the six-point peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, nothing was endorsed with consensus. It is interesting to highlight that both the drafts had a common agenda which favoured a democratic transition at the cost of dismantling authoritarian rule. For this purpose, the notion of a government of ‘national unity’ (which allows the opposition and those already in the government to share power) was presented. This clearly indicates that the U.S isn’t ready to back a complete ‘regime change’ and wants to maintain some of the institutions in Syria which will have to abide by its standards of ‘human rights’. Moreover, there is an unattended question which inquires about the composition of Syrian opposition factions. The most ripe option is that of ‘rebels’ being fed by Washington’s Gulf allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. With the infiltration of Al-Qaeda jihadis, increased involvement of Turkey, influx of arms and intelligence support from the U.S, Assad is likely to depart especially after the defection of Syrian Prime Minister, Riad Hijab. There is nothing better for the U.S. other than deciding an abominable fate like that of Qaddafi for Assad or pushing him behind the bars like Hosni. However, the focus is now on the post-Assad Syria that is a more daunting task, orchestrated a decade ago.

U.S General Wesley Clerk, former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe, is on record informing US journalist Amy Goodman that within weeks of the terrorist atrocity on 11th September 2001, the then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld wrote a memo describing “how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran,” (after invading Afghanistan). This seems to be somewhat ‘real’, but delayed plan in the wake of all that is being done to carve out the fate of Syria. However, the failure in Iraq and the 2006 Israeli defeat in Lebanon has compelled the U.S to alter the old ‘core strategy’ of direct occupations. It has now embarked upon the mission of encouraging destabilisation, clandestine operations and feeding civil strife in the targeted regions.

Syria is the latest victim in the grip of a bitter conflict in which Al Qaeda-type terrorists have established a foothold similar to the one in neighbouring Iraq. It nurtures armed thugs and terrorists being indirectly supported by the U.S. The long Turkey-Syria border is one of the main routes for smuggling armed men and weapons into Syria. The Syrians represent the heart of what Jordan’s King Abdullah called the “Shia crescent”: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. It is the opposition of this crescent against Israel which irks Washington and the ‘advocates’ (Egypt and Jordan) of Israel in the Arab world. Lebanon was bombed and invaded in a US-backed Israeli invasion in 2006, but was repelled by Syrian-backed Lebanese resistance led by Hezbollah. Efforts are now also being made by Saudi Arabia to weaken Hezbollah, the Shi’ite organization that is being backed by Iran. Iraq is disintegrated and bleeding heavily, with daily sectarian terrorist atrocities. Iran is the target for which Israel and the U.S are bloodthirsty in order to ensure Israel’s hegemony in the region. The post- Assad Syria driven by ‘U.S aspirations’ will not only be worse than Iraq, but will also allow the accomplishment of anti-Iranian proxy war under the U.S, Saudi, Qatar leadership, with the easy consent of Britain, France and Israel.
Not to forget what the naïve rebels who initiated the peaceful uprising wanted- a democratic transition ‘without’ any foreign intervention no matter how well-intentioned it might be. A ceasefire and political adjustment can include the rebels into the process of negotiation, who are being deliberately turned into terrorists. The idea of militarisation is still strongly condemned, even by the democratic organizations in Syria. The Syrians must accept the fact that they are still not the decision-makers of their country. A glittery illusion from the U.S in the name of human-rights has turned their homeland into a battlefield tilting in favour of Israel.

The verbal content of this post was originally published in Jahangir’s World Times- September 2012

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in International Affairs

 

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One Nation, Two States, Antagonistic Economies


The proximity of the spiritually bonded states, often reckoned to be a single nation has continued for more than half a century now. Both, Pakistan and Turkey have engaged into amiable political relations for the past six decades. It is noteworthy that during the massive Earthquake of 2005 and the catastrophic floods of 2010, Turkey was the first country to extend a helping hand towards Pakistan. However, with the changing waves in the arena of global and regional politics, diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Turkey are devoid of an economically symbiotic relationship. The significant geo-political status of these two states also account for the criss- crosses that marked the diplomatic pathway which leads to the maintenance of regional balance of power rather than reinforcement of ties. Transition of governments has also led to major re-orientations in foreign policies of the two countries. Turkey’s geographic location designates the central position to it among the Balkans, the Caucus, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. Similarly, Pakistan is considered the gateway of Central Asia, West Asia and South Asia, holding ethnic affiliations with all kinds of nationalities leading Pakistan to be a strategically pivotal actor in the South Asian region.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) (AK) party might have felt a little less impressive victory in 2011 than that in the elections of 2007. On the other hand, a dictatorially mutilated Pakistan witnessed a faint wave of democratization in 2008 alongside a faltering economy. Pakistan encountered the open-ended foreign policy of the 11 year old centre-right conservative JDP. The Turkish leader in his second joint sitting of Pakistani parliament, was cognizant of the hostile political environment prevailing in Pakistan, the reason he stressed upon ‘political consensus’ and the role of ‘constructive opposition’. While linking both these politically mature traits with economic progress he ensured Turkey’s support for ‘fighting terrorism’. Pakistan and Turkey are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in order to curb terrorism, ties are strengthening, but Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product growth is decreasing along with this while Turkey is witnessing an increase in the GDP growth (+9%). The rise in inflation in Pakistan is followed by a decline in inflation in Turkey. Despite this the Turkish premier expressed his desire for a joint investment in a third country during his recent visit to Pakistan. It is often believed that the post 9/11 economic cooperation between both the countries was mainly due to Turkey’s interest in Pakistan’s unravelling economy which had a lot of potential and the inflow of financial aid was a key target for Turkish companies.

The recent agreements signed between the Government of Punjab and Turkish companies has opened a new channel for economic cooperation. Turkey’s ability to construct some of the finest dams in the world is not being considered in comparison to Pakistan’s hydro-electric potential. Focus is inclined towards projects like solid-waste management, transport and communications, which tend to benefit the investor. The BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System) seems to be an unsustainable gift by the Mayor of Istanbul (Kadir Topbass) – for whose drive in the bus with the Chief Minister, Punjab was brought to stand-still for a day. There is no assurance that these agreements would continue with the change in government in Punjab.

Being a Friend of Democratic Pakistan and at the same time enjoying membership of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Erdogan had supported the resumption of NATO supplies after the November 26 attack on Salalah check post, that is contrary to the aspirations of the masses and stance adopted by Pakistan’s foreign office after the attack which claimed the life of 24 Pakistani soldiers. His mention of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by 2014 called for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned Afghanistan without any allusion towards stability in the border regions of Pakistan. In a competitive international stage, the progress of countries is measured by their economic stability and prosperity. Bilateral ties that are governed by soft-power exchange may strengthen the bond between two states, but cut at the roots of symbiotic economic cooperation. In the case of Pakistan and Turkey, the ties have resulted in ‘one nation, two states, but antagonistic economies’.

The verbal content of this post was originally published in Jahangir World Times, July 2012.
http://www.jworldtimes.com/Article/72012_ONE_NATION_TWO_STATES

 
 

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