Friday, July 8, 2011

Interview on PBS newshour : Afghan Women and Peace Talks

Amid Push for Talks With Taliban, Where Do Rights of Afghan Women Fit In?


Three Afghan women, influential figures in politics, business and non-governmental organizations, were in Washington last week meeting with senior members of the Obama administration and Congress on the topic of negotiating peace with the Taliban. Margaret Warner gets their views on the situation in their country.

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Who Should Define Afghanistan's National Security?- ToloNews

The key to lasting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan is not in encouraging the culture of rewarding the insurgency through political deals, but in providing justice to the common Afghan and so winning public support.

Gone are the days that government's strength was manifested in its political and military powers. Today the concept of ‘national security' is not about world wars or invasions alone, how are the common people being treated in their communities by their local governments, is the reality that is shaping the national security of any country or can cause national havoc, as we witness in the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Afghanistan is no more an exception. The common Afghans living circumstances are the most important indicators of the country's security, if the Kabul-based government can understand and realize.

While suicide attacks in the hospital, military bases, bazaars, highways make their ways into the national and international headlines about Afghanistan, the monstrous culture of impunity creating human miseries go unnoticed.

Mina, 12- year old girl child was brutally gang raped in Taloqan, Takhar early last month. While recalling that nightmare, Mina's mother claims that 6 of the 8 men who were alleged in the gang rape were in the national army uniform and the other 2 were the locals. Mina was raped one by one by the 8 men who had broken into their home at 1 am late night, and they were successful in escaping afterwards.

For many, who heard the story as a piece of news, expressed their regret and continued with their lives. The first reaction is oh, another case of child rape in Afghanistan and the story vanishes into the more demanding news and events around transition, withdrawal, politics of Afghan government, Washington's reactions and now Bonn2.

I would not even get into the debates around our own political hypocrisy. How can any Afghan, any Muslim can be this cruel to a child? Would not even argue that it was indeed us Afghan Muslims who killed ourselves in the riots against the burning of the holy Quran by Florida pastor. Nor would mention that it was the same Takhar'is that killed 12 and injured as many as 70 in apost Nato raid riot that had allegedly killed 4 civilians, two of them women.

According to one of the family's neighbors, the men who are accused of breaking into Mina's home had been seen in another robbery incident in the city of Taloqan. There are reports that the 8 armed men belonged to one of the experimental projects of ‘self-defense' orchestrated through arming local militias and arming local warlords against the Taleb militants. Local armed militias and local police forces are also accused of similar crimes in other provinces of Afghanistan.

While exploring the story further, a female teacher who teaches in girls high school in Taloqan told me: "Whenever the men in my family started remembering the times of the Taleban government, I was the one who was fighting against because I had lost all my rights under that regime. But today after having seen a corrupt, shameless authority that is supposed to bring rule of law but only deals with rule of dollars, I am the one who supports the Taleb government". If such an incident had happened during that time, she says, " They wouldn't even let this happen, nor would allow the perpetrators to escape because they were very strong in implementing strict laws".

Media reports, local radio accounts that only in the first two months of the year 1390, they had almost 5 unreported incidents of child rapes in Takhar province with the youngest victim as one year old, and there has been several gang rape incident of children in Takhar so far. Many of the perpetrators escaped and while responding to media, the local governor's office and Police Chief has a by default response: Cases are under investigation.

And no one knows when and how these investigations will be completed and how will the perpetrators be brought to justice.

I don't want this piece to contribute towards the ongoing propaganda machinery for the Taleban era government popularity, but it is important to highlight that its not only the regional geopolitics and ‘external infiltration by Pakistan' that insurgency is expanding its geographic coverage, but IT IS the local dissent, social multiplication of fear and revenge that drives thousands of Afghans to join militants and fight against the Kabul regime.

No political settlements aimed at peace can unite Afghans against their enemies, but real action on rule of law and justice for the common Afghan can give them some hopes that the Kabul government doesn't only send corrupt governors and Police Chiefs but fulfils its responsibility towards the ones who have risked their lives voting for the current leadership.

Women groups were lobbying for police effectiveness at one of the parliamentary Commissions that had called in the Deputy Minister of Interior and head of MOI Intelligence, some of the women activists demanded the removal of Police Chief to set an example for other incompetent officers in other provinces. The Deputy Minister smiled in sarcasm, nodded his head and left the room in silence.