FaithWorld

European push to ban burqas appalls Afghan women

burqas 1

Afghan widows line up during a cash for work project in Kabul January 6, 2010/Ahmad Masood

A firm believer in women’s rights, the only thing Afghan lawmaker Shinkai Karokhail finds as appalling as being forced to wear a burqa is a law banning it.

Karokhail is one of many Afghan women who see a double standard in efforts by some European nations to outlaw face veils and burqas — a move they say restricts a Muslim woman’s choice in countries that otherwise make a fuss about personal rights.

“Democratic countries should not become dictatorships and Muslim women should not be deprived from all kinds of opportunities. It should be their choice,” said Karokhail.  “Otherwise, what is the difference between forcing women to wear a burqa and forcing them not to? It is discrimination.”

France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, as well as Italy and Belgium are considering proposals to ban all-enveloping burqas and face veils called niqabs. Many in the West see them as a symbol of the subjugation of women.

from Afghan Journal:

Engaging the Afghan Taliban: a short history

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

For those pushing for high-level political negotiations with the Afghan Taliban to bring to an end to the eight-year war,  two U.S. scholars  in separate pieces are suggesting a walk through recent history  The United States has gone down the path of dialogue with the group before and suffered for it, believing against its own better judgement in the Taliban's promises until it ended up with the September 11, 2001 attacks, says  Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute in this article in Commentary.

Rubin, who is completing a history of U.S. engagement with rogue regimes, says unclassified U.S. State Department documents show that America opened talks with the Taliban soon after the group  emerged as a powerful force in Kandahar in 1994 and well over a year before they took over Kabul. From then on it was a story of   diplomats doing everything possible to remain engaged with the Taliban in the hope it would modify their  behaviour, and that they would be persuaded to expel Osama bin Laden who had  by then relocated from Sudan.  The Taliban, on the other hand, in their meetings with U.S. diplomats, would stonewall on terrorism  but would also dangle just enough hope to keep the officials calling and forestall punitive strategies.

Over a five year period of engagement, the United States gained little while the Taliban grew even more radicalised and the threat from al Qaeda more serious. Rubin details how State Department officials were repeatedly misled by Taliban officials harbouring bin Laden even after two U.S. embassies were attacked in Africa in  1998.  They even told them they would protect the Buddha statues in Bamiyan which were subsequently destroyed.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

“My Life with the Taliban” – on study and Islamic values

zaeefIn  "My Life with the Taliban",  Abdul Salam Zaeef -- who fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan and later served in the Taliban government before it was ousted in 2001 -- writes of how he longed to escape the trappings of office and instead follow in the footsteps of his father as the Imam of a mosque, learning and teaching the Koran.

"It is work that has no connection with the world's affairs. It is a calling of intellectual dignity away from the dangers and temptations of power. All my life, even as a boy, I was always happiest when studying and learning things. To work in government positions means a life surrounded by corruption and injustice, and therein is found the misery of mankind," he writes in his memoirs, newly translated and edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn.

Zaeef became best known as the Taliban ambassador to Islamabad at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks -- he was then arrested and sent to Guantanamo -- and his memoirs provide a unique insight into the developments which led to the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan.  That alone makes it a must-read, providing an alternative and very personal account to set alongside Western concepts of the Taliban -- more closely associated with their human rights record, their treatment of women, and their refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States after 9/11.

from Afghan Journal:

Buying off Afghanistan’s “$10 fighters”

AFGHANISTAN/

If you can't beat the Taliban, buy them out. At last week's conference in London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's Western backers endorsed his latest attempt to lure away low level Taliban fighters with money and jobs,  committing themselves to a $500 million fund to finance the re-integration plan. The logic is that a majority of the Taliban , 70 percent actually according to some estimates, are the so-called "$10 fighters" who do not share the leaders' intense ideological  motivation. They are driven to the Islamists because they are the only source of livelihood in a war-ravaged nation. So if you offered them an alternative, these rent-a-day foot soldiers can easily be broken.

Quite part from the fact that several such attempts have failed in the past, the whole idea that members of the Taliban are up for sale  just when the  insurgency is at its deadliest is not only unrealistic but also smacks of arrogance, Newsweek magazine notes in an well-argued article.  It quotes Sami Yousoufsai a local journalist "who understands the Taliban as few others do"  as laughing at the idea that the Taliban could be bought over.

"If the leadership, commanders, and sub commanders wanted comfortable lives,  they would have made their deals long ago. Instead they stayed committed to their cause even when they were on the run, with barely a hope of survival," the article says quoting the journalist.  Now the Taliban are back in action across much of the south, east, and west, the provinces surrounding Kabul, and chunks of the north."They used to hope they might reach this point in 15 or 20 years. They've done it in eight. Many of them see this as proof that God is indeed on their side."  Indeed one Taliban member reacted angrily to the idea of a buy-out. "You can't buy my ideology, my religion. It's an insult,"he said.

from Afghan Journal:

Reintegrating the Taliban: where does it leave Afghan women?

At Thursday's London conference on Afghanistan, some 60 countries will to try flesh out the details for a plan to gradually hand security to Afghans, which involves strengthening and expanding Afghan security forces, improving the way donor aid to Afghanistan is spent and reintegrating Taliban fighters. But where do women fit into these plans, especially if the Taliban are to be involved?

The plan, which has been tried in the past without much success, would involve luring low-level Taliban from the insurgency using jobs and money to re-join Afghan society. There has also been much talk, particularly in the media, about the possibility of dialogue or negotiations with the Taliban.

But many Afghan women, who remember very clearly what life was like under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001, are outraged by the idea.

from Afghan Journal:

Afghanistan: the Gods of war

[CROSSPOST blog: 27 post: 4308]

Original Post Text:
peshawar twoIn openDemocracy, Paul Rogers writes that one of the great mistakes of the media is that it tends to assume the only actors in the campaign against Islamist militants are governments, with al Qaeda and the Taliban merely passive players.

"Beyond the details of what the Taliban and its allies decide, it is important to note that most analysis of Barack Obama’s strategy published in the western media is severely constrained by its selective perspective. There is a pervasive assumption - even now, after eight years of war - that the insurgents are mere “recipients” of external policy changes: reactive but not themselves proactive," he writes.  

"This is nonsense - and dangerous nonsense. It would be far wiser to assume that these militias have people who are every bit as intelligent and professional in their thinking and planning as their western counterparts. They have had three months to think through the Obama leadership’s policy-development process; and much of this thinking will be about how the US changes affect their own plans - not how they will respond to the United States. Thus they may have very clear intentions for the next three to five years that are embedded in detailed military planning; and what is now happening on their side will involve adjustment of these plans in the light of the great rethink across the Atlantic."

Shots fired to disperse Afghan Koran protest in Kabul

afghan-koran-protest (Photo: Afghans protest at parliament building in Kabul, 25 Oct 2009/Ahmad Masood)

Afghan police fired into the air on Sunday to break up a protest by thousands of people who had gathered in the capital, Kabul, to protest against what they said was the desecration of a copy of the Koran by foreign troops.

Protesters, claiming foreign forces had burned a copy of Islam’s holiest book during a raid in Maidan Wardak province last week, blocked traffic in Kabul for more than an hour. A spokeswoman for U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan said none of their troops were involved in the incident and blamed the Taliban for spreading a false rumor that a copy of the Koran had been burned.

Thick plumes of smoke rose above the crowd as protesters set fire to a large effigy of what they said was U.S. President Barack Obama. “Death to America. Down with Israel,” chanted one man at the rally, which was organized mainly by university students. Others threw stones and clashed with police but no casualties were reported.

from Jeffrey Jones:

Dalai Lama: Afghan war a failure

    The Dalai Lama believes the war in Afghanistan has so far been a failure, saying military intervention creates additional complications for the country.
    The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, making his first visit to the Western Canadian city of Calgary in 30 years, said foreign military intervention against Taliban insurgents has only served to make the fundamentalist group more determined.  
    The war has been "so far, I think, a failure," he told reporters, adding that he could not yet judge its outcome. "Using military forces, the other hard-liners become even more hard ... and due to civilian casualties the other side also sometimes is getting more sympathy from local people." 
    U.S. President Barack Obama is weighing calls to boost troop levels and alter strategy to reverse what officials have said is a deteriorating military situation. But the Dalai Lama said it would all have been unnecessary had the United States and the European Union spent more on aid to the region.
    "Instead of spending billions and billions of dollars for killing they should have spent billions .... on education and health in rural areas and underdeveloped areas. (If they had) I think the picture would be different."

-- Written by Scott Haggett

(Photo: The Dalai Lama speaks at a conference in Calgary, Alberta, on October 1, 2009. REUTERS/Todd Korol)

from Global News Journal:

Who is funding the Afghan Taliban? You don’t want to know

U.S. soldiers (L) and an Afghan policeman keep watch near a building which is held by the Taliban in Logar, south of Kabul August 10, 2009. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

The article by Jean MacKenzie originally appeared in GlobalPost. This is part of a special series by GlobalPost called Life, Death and The Taliban. Click here for a related article Funding the Pakistani Taliban.

KABUL — It is the open secret no one wants to talk about, the unwelcome truth that most prefer to hide. In Afghanistan, one of the richest sources of Taliban funding is the foreign assistance coming into the country.

Burqa losing favour as Afghan women opt for chador

burqa-black (Photo:A burqa-clad woman in Kabul’s old bazaar, 4 March 2009/Ahmad Masood)

Here’s some news for Nicolas Sarkozy. While the French president has begun a battle against the burqa in France, the famous blue garment that covers women from head to toe is losing favour back in its stronghold Afghanistan. In Herat, burqa seller Nehmatullah Yusefy says sales have dropped 50 percent since the Talibanchador1 were toppled in 2001 and he says he will soon need to start stocking other styles of Islamic dress to make up for lost profits. (Photo right: Baghdad woman in chador, 12 Nov 2008/Mahmoud Raouf)

“I think, God willing, the sales of burqas will decrease, then I will sell chador namaz and even maybe mantau chalvar,” Yusefy said, standing behind the counter of his small outlet on a strip of burqa shops in the western city’s main market.

Read my feature here.

chalwar1The chador namaz is a long, billowing dress in black or sombre-patterned fabric which is widely worn in Iran. It exposes the woman’s face but covers the rest of her head and body until her ankles.