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30 April 2009

the Asian Wars and women and girls / Karzai pledges about-face on the Shia Family Law's provisions about women

Afghani women -- almost certainly mostly from Kabul, the only part of Afghanistan the Karzai government can claim to effectively control -- held a public protest of the new Shia Family Law, and President Harmid Karzai met with them and promised to consider their objections. (Later a mob of men attacked the women protesters.)

But Karzai has far bigger complaints to worry about. He owes his job, and every day that he can cling to it, to military intervention and military operations from the United States and its NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies, including long and very fierce fighting by British troops against anti-government (Taleban) guerrillas in southern provinces.

Economically the Karzai government depends almost entirely on USA and European contributions and loans.

These donor and troop-supplying nations are parliamentary democracies that, in the 20th century, re-structured themselves from Men-Only rule and law to grant the vote and full legal rights to women.

So essentially, Harmid Karzai has to convince US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and US Secretary of State and former Senator Hillary Clinton, that the new Shia law is a necessary and good thing for American interests in supporting his government in Afghanistan.

If Pelosi and Clinton agree to support the new law's treatment of girls and women in Afghanistan, they must turn their backs on every historical gain which allowed them to achieve their jobs at the top tier of American government. (The USA gave women the vote in 1920.)

This could bite Pelosi like a rattlesnake at the ballot box in 2010 -- she must run for her seat in Congress (from San Francisco) every two years.

Clinton does not face re-election, but her boss, Barack Obama, does, and if the Shia law stands, Michelle Obama can expect to face angry American women at "town meeting"-style appearances asking her how the USA can support a regime that suppresses the rights and hopes of women and girls.

This is not a Hallmark Channel or Lifetime Channel or Oprah issue. For whatever historical reasons and blunders, the region from Iraq to Iran is in unusual flux and play. This is not like Kansas or Colorado, which will have the same governments and officials next year.

What a lot of this region of Asia will be a year from now is a big crapshoot. If anyone in the world were investing right now, they wouldn't be investing in these regions.

One of the early selling points to Americans for the Afghanistan invasion and war was our pledge to improve access to education for girls; this would be the West's universally acclaimed gift to the Afghani people.

That's what it seemed like in Kansas and Colorado, anyway.

In Afghanistan, at least 20 kliks beyond Kabul, a sudden jolt of education for females was not universally hailed or appreciated.

Many viewed it and still view it as the shape which a major Western/Christian assault on traditional Afghani society and social patterns has taken.

Meanwhile, in Iran, the government is apparently taking vigorous measures not to repel a military attack by the West, but to repel and block a Velvet Revolution, a revolution of talk and exchange over porous channels (i.e., the Internet) which could take hold and bring about the sudden regime change that took place in Czechoslovakia and other Warsaw Pact countries in 1989.

The winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, Shirin Ebadi, was Iran's first woman judge until women were forced off the bench after the 1979 revolution. The prize cited her advocacy for the rights of women and children.

The battle for the world's support of the USA's two wars in Asia depends critically on convincing people in Asia, Europe and North America that we -- the USA and NATO -- are building new societies that are substantively better for people than the nations and societies we displaced and "regime changed." If the USA and NATO and Iraqi Coalition troops and governments have things go their way for the next few years, it is still not clear whether the Iraq and Afghanistan we shall have constructed will be substantively better for Iraqis and Afghanis, or whether they will perceive the new society as better than the old.


In 1999, Hamid Karzai married Zeenat Quraishi, an obstetrician by profession who was working as a doctor with Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. They have a son born in 2007 and named Mirwais.


The Times (London UK)
Tuesday 28 April 2009

Karzai backs down
over ‘abhorrent’
marital rape law

President Karzai bowed to international pressure yesterday by promising to amend a new law condoning marital rape and child marriage that provoked violent clashes in the Afghan capital.

The Shia Family Law, signed by the Afghan President last month, appeared to reintroduce the draconian policies of the Taleban era, such as a ban on married women leaving their homes without their husbands’ permission. The law applies to the 15 per cent of Afghans who are Shia Muslims.

At a press conference in Kabul yesterday Mr Karzai said: “The law is under review and amendments will take place. I assure you that the laws of Afghanistan will be in complete harmony with the constitution of Afghanistan, and the human rights that we have adhered to in international treaties.”

His statement appeared to rebut widespread speculation that by signing the law he was pandering to conservatives before this summer’s delayed presidential election. Mr Karzai confirmed that he would stand in the elections, where he will be the front-runner.
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Afghanistan’s constitution guarantees equality of the sexes and the country is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. However, hardline theologians argue that all other provisions are overridden by Article Three of the Constitution, which guarantees that nothing contrary to the “beliefs and provisions of Islam” is permissible in Afghan law. Mr Karzai’s climbdown came a day after he said that he had been unaware of its content when he signed it. He made the claim when he met a group of women activists who organised a protest against the new law in Kabul last week. The protesters were attacked by a mob of male supporters of the law.

The controversial provisions were buried in the 239-page document, much of it written in dense theological jargon. Mr Karzai said that his aides had not briefed him properly about the details. Many opponents of the law have said that it did not pass through the normal channels, that would have included discussion of all the articles, because MPs were advised to let the Shia community determine the details of their own laws – a right granted by the constitution.

One article stipulates that the wife “is bound to preen for her husband as and when he desires”. Another passage sanctions marital rape. “As long as the husband is not travelling he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night . . . Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband.”

Article 133 reintroduces the Taleban restrictions on women’s movements outside their homes, stating: “A wife cannot leave the house without the permission of the husband” unless in a medical or other emergency.

Article 27 endorses child marriage, with girls legally able to marry once they begin to menstruate. The law also withholds from the woman the right to inherit her husband’s wealth.

When its contents were made public it was condemned widely by Western governments, with President Obama describing the new law as abhorrent.

The Afghan Government had insisted that criticism of the law was misplaced. “We understand the concerns of our allies,” Mr Karzai said on television earlier this month. “Those concerns may be out of inappropriate or not-so-good translation of the law or a misinterpretation of it.”

A poison attack on a girls’ school north of Kabul was suspected of making 45 pupils and staff fall sick. The teachers and pupils fell ill with severe headaches during a ceremony at the school in Sadiqi District of Parwan Province, north of the capital. “It seems to be airborne poisoning,” Dr Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, said.

- 30 -

* Have your say

This has got nothing to do with Islam, its caused by a lack of education caused by years of war and suffering in the region, people in Afghanistan have only seen violence for the past three decades.

anon, anon, anon

humanity, dignity and respect for a fellow human being should and must take precedence over politics, religion and customs.. it could be your daughter or your sister who is subjected to this - make a difference collectively- keep up the pressure, internationally and within each and every community

gowry retchakan , jeddah , saudi arabia

Anna london

And because sex with a circumcised man is so unpleasant. It really is time male circumcision was recognised as being responsible for so much harm

lucy, london,

Christianity went through all of this about 200 years ago.
The fact that we continue to hold onto our religious beliefs with such blatant disregard for common sense and equality makes me very despondent about the future.

gareth, brighton,

I wonder if the archbishop still supports the practice of sharia law some by some elements of British society?

Conrad Auten, Canterbury, England

The UK and US taking a high moral ground and lecturing the Afghans is a bit rich considering we in the UK only got rid of marital rape laws in 1991 and they still exist presently in some states in the USA.

Hamed, Glasgow,

Anthony, Spoken like a true man. Let's turn our backs on these helpless women and ignore their plight. It doesn't involve us, let's not interfere. Just because traditions are "long-entrenched", it doesn't make it right for them to continue. On that basis we'd still be endorsing apartheid and slavery

Karen, London,

The reason men have to force laws to have sex is that the sex in those regions are often rape-oriented in nature, so the women hate and shun sex. Afghanistan is a perfect example what happens in society when only male dominance and ideas rule. Never give men this much ruling power in Europe!

ann, london,

Anthony, there are ethical values that are apart from culture. This is a complete violation of all womens rights, we shoudl protect them. Just as people did when abolishing slavery.

Steven, Birmimgham, UK

To let any kind of violation of human rights happen is abominable! You cannot seriously say 'leave them in peace' when there is clearly no peace and plenty of unrest.

Lydia, Berlin, Germany

Robert: it's not hatred, but fear bordering on terror.

David Masu, Z├╝rich, Switzerland

Islamic interpretation of the Qur'an is as complex as Christian interpretation of the Bible. Within the division of the two largest groups (Sunni and Shia), there are different schools of theological thought and as many differences of opinion within those as there are amongst Christian theologians.

David, Hereford, UK

Let us be careful not to upset long-entrenched traditions with our ideas of ethical behavior. After all, what do we want from these people to begin with? We want them to leave us in peace. This situation does not concern us, and we should not intervere in their politics unless it involves security.

Anthony , Dallas, USA

"I assure you that the laws of Afghanistan will be in complete harmony with the constitution of Afghanistan, and the human rights that we have adhered to in international treaties.” Time will tell!

david brooks, Modewarre, Australia

I'm just starting to wonder where such hatred toward women comes from? I know about perceived power, disdain, hidden homosexuality even neurotic fear for women, but such deep rooted hatred is totally incomprehensible to me.

robert, richmond, bc

Question; Where are these rules found in the koran? chapter and verse please.

Gale Montgomery, Towanda, USA



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James said...

After the few remaining passengers got off the local bus, the driver shut off his engine. The sign on the bus indicated its final destination: NATO. A local Brussels bus that goes to the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the same organisation that was founded during the Cold War and which celebrated its 60th anniversary this past April. It made sense for local transportation to exist there, but I still found it quite interesting for some reason. Barbed wire surrounded what to me seemed to look like a boring building.

Vleeptron Dude said...

James, give me a day or two to reply to your thoughtful and very insightful Comment.

Yeah, I spent a week in Brussels one afternoon.

(That's an old joke about Philadelphia or Salt Lake City.)

While I got you on the line ... wow, your site just might be my guide to just the swellest hotels I dream about when I finally get to Asia.

What you got like the Ambassade in Amsterdam, or the Savoy in Berlin? Small, intimate, local, real ...


"We went to 'our' Hotel Savoy in the Fasanenstrasse. I don't know whether you are familiar with the Savoy but, although small, it is extremely friendly and comfortable."

(from an essay by Thomas Mann)