Women and warlords When the Taliban were bombed from power in Afghanistan five years ago, the United States government replaced these good-times, misogynistic, fundamentalist warlords with… a whole new bunch of misogynistic, fundamentalist warlords.
This brilliant strategy has been disastrous for the women of Afghanistan. While Prime Minister Stephen Harper defends Canada’s battle against the Taliban as a fight to protect women’s rights, Canada’s partnership with warlords, in government and the battlefield, has actually led to an increase in the raping, kidnapping and killing of women.
“The situation is getting worse and worse, day by day [for women] because the parliament belongs to all those fundamentalists and warlords who were in power from 1992 to 1996,” says Sohaila, a member of the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan (RAWA), in a phone interview from Islamabad. “In that time, they committed so many crimes. That’s why with the presence of these warlords in the parliament, nothing can be changed.”
RAWA is a human rights organization that has been operating in Afghanistan since 1977 and has faced down the Soviets, the warlords, the Taliban, and now, in cruel irony, the warlords again. The group runs educational, health, and financial programs for women in Afghanistan, but has to do so under an alias or they will get bombed. When Sohaila goes into warlord-run territories in Afghanistan, she has to be accompanied by a male escort from her family, wears a burqa (remember when those were in style?), and must conceal her identity or she will be killed.
According to Human Rights Watch, 60 per cent of Afghanistan’s parliament has ties with the warlords. Many of them come directly from the Northern Alliance, a brutal militia full of war criminals that was used by the US to oust the Taliban. The Alliance’s leader during the invasion was the notorious Mohammed Qasim Fahim — a vicious asshole who was the country’s Defence Minister from 2001 to 2004 and even made nice with Canada’s former Defence Minister John “Another drink, stewardess” McCullum.
Sohaila calls these warlords “brothers” of the Taliban because they both treat women as sub-humans. While Sohaila says there was a great deal of hope after the invasion and things did improve for women in some of the cities, they have remained the same in the rural areas and have even now regressed in the cities because a rejuvenated Taliban are fucking shit up.
Aside from destroying any real power the central government can pretend to have, the warlords control the provincial governments and run them as their own fiefdoms with their own set of laws. According to various new reports (Globe and Mail, London’s Guardian) NATO has become increasingly reliant on using warlord-backed militias in the fight against the Taliban, despite their brutal treatment of women.
In the north, far away from the southern Taliban strongholds, an 11-year-old girl was abducted, raped, and then traded for a dog earlier this month by the district chief and a powerful warlord. Neither have been charged. All throughout Afghanistan women are still being stoned to death for adultery, raped by police, sold for an average of US$1,000, and murdered by their family in “honour killings” (67 reported in the last two years). If the men do go to prison, it’s usually for just a few months.
“There’s no justice here. There’s no law,” says Malalai Joya, a 27-year-old Afghani MP, in a phone interview from Kabul. “These people who are in power are against women. They understand we don’t have democratic government, we don’t have real justice.”
Joya says many women have become so despondent that they are committing suicide at a higher rate than when the Taliban were in power (especially in western Afghanistan). For speaking out against the warlords in government, Joya, who returned to Afghanistan in 1998 during the Taliban’s regime to run a health clinic and orphanage, has received a number of death threats. Other women activists have been assassinated.
Joya says Canadian armed forces can play a productive role in Afghanistan by giving women the security they need, but unless Canada stops supporting the warlords and brings them to justice, Canada is doing more harm than good and the plight of Afghani women will only get worse.