Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Step Forward?

As we try to figure out precisely what the endgame is in Afghanistan, it's sometimes hard to figure if things have gotten any better since our post-9/11 invasion.

Take, for example, this horrible story, from one of the areas where the Taliban has reasserted itself (via PZ):

The Taleban in Afghanistan have publicly killed a young couple who they said had tried to run away to get married, officials say.

The man, 21, and woman, 19, were shot dead on Monday in front of a mosque in the south-western province of Nimroz.

* * *

Governor Ghulam Dastageer Azad told the AFP news agency the killings followed a decree by local religious leaders and were an 'insult to Islam'.
All the couple wanted was to elope - their families did not approve of them marrying - and tried to escape to Iran. But they were intercepted by militants and brought to a mosque by a group of three mullahs, who pronounced that the couple must be killed. They were shot right outside.

A story like that is enough to make you throw up your hands and say, "fuck this." But there are signs of progress elsewhere.

As today's New York Times reports, the government recently passed a law that would, among other heinous things, legalize spousal rape. But in a marked contrast from how things worked years ago, the women of Afghanistan are speaking up:
About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.

It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning.

With the Afghan police keeping the mob at bay, the women walked two miles to Parliament, where they delivered a petition calling for the law’s repeal.
Not only is it important that these women feel they have a right to stand up for their own selves, but it's also heartening to see the police actually protect their right to do so.

It's a sign that, at least in some ways, things have gotten better there. Admittedly, it's a very small step. But it's a step in the right direction, out of the dark ages and, perhaps, towards the 21st Century (or the 20th, at least). We owe it to those women - and that murdered couple - not to throw up our hands and walk away.

No comments: