Afghan Women = Strong Women

Malalai Kakar was a policewoman in Afghanistan and was very well known for her work to protect women. She joined the police in 1982 after being the first woman to graduate from the Kandahar Police Academy. She was also the first woman to become an investigator with the Kandahar Police Department. Only 1% of women are police officers in Afghanistan. Many families disapprove of female members of their family joint the police force. Many will face sexual harassment and assault by male colleagues. More women police officers would help women and girls who feel uncomfortable or afraid reporting crimes to male police. Unfortunately, Kakar was killed in 2008 by the Taliban. 

I can imagine to many of you this seems impossible. It is so far from our minds that a woman would die simply because she wanted to help other women, and especially that she would be targeted because she is a woman, but you and I were born into a country where we take for granted the simple privilege of learning and dreaming.  And yet, there are some of you reading this that understand what Kakar lived through and why she chose the path she did. This post is dedicated to you, but it is also for the girls like myself from the privileged place because we NEED to know what these women are living through. We need to know, learn and acknowledge so we can help be the change. 

The story of Afghanistan is complicated. 🙄 Each day we hear more about terror and muslims. Often it is simply in that order and in the minds of people in the US terror and muslim become linked. BUT the truth is it is NOT TRUE!!! I am not from Afghanistan, I am not Muslim. Full disclosure I am a white American woman and have a very limited knowledge of foreign policy or most religion.

My information pieced together research. I can not write to you with expert knowledge of a country I have never been to, but I can say that every person I have ever met from Afghanistan has been compassionate and beautiful inside and out. I have only ever seen the good and the graciousness and this is why it is so important that I try to piece together what I can and I hope that from this small attempt you are inspired to learn more. 

First let me begin with September 11. This day was a terrible day in NYC and the world. It serves as a line in the sand from which we can discuss life before 9/11 and life after. Before 9/11 when a person said they were Muslim we understood that in the same way we understood being Jewish or Christian. It is a religion. It is not a territory.

After 9/11 most Americans began to associate Muslim with terror because this was the language used in the news. Unfortunately most people did not look beyond the news. Most people still do not understand that Muslim is a religion and not a territory. 9/11 was devastating for the world BUT it is so important to understand it was also beyond devastating to Muslim people. After that day most Muslims were not safe in our country. The world changed. It is so important that we address this and learn about it. I highly suggest Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh to read more about this from a personal account of a girl growing up Muslim in America.

So back to Afghanistan. 

1919 - women gained the right to vote (like the US and UK)

Women slowly embrace their new independence. Like women in the US they go to school, join the work force and where the newest fashions including mini skirts.  

1979 - Russia invades Afghanistan

This is where things get complicated. American history books do not go into depth on the history of Afghanistan or Russia. Again I encourage you to read and research because this is a condensed summary and It’s COMPLICATED! Basically Russia wanted to take over Afghanistan but as you can imagine Afghanistan was not giving in. Russia did not count on the fight they would receive from small bands of resistance fighters in the countryside called Mujahidin. These fighters saw Russia as invading Islam and their traditional culture. The US (and other western countries) gave this group money and weapons hoping they could force Russia out. But let’s be honest here, the US was doing this for their own reasons. Russia is like a big bully cousin and the US wanted to try any way possible to keep their growth in power at bay. The Mujahidin were successful and in 1989 Russia was forced to leave Afghanistan. 

1989 - Russia leaves. Mujahidin takes over 🙄 As this new group takes on more power in Afghanistan they begin to create laws against women. At first the laws are women must be veiled and no alcohol is allowed, but as their power grows so do their laws. 

1990-1992 - Afghanistan became less of an interest to western countries (including the US) after Russia left even though every day more rights were taken from women. 

1994 - The Taliban emerges as a militant group. At first they are seen as a positive force because they seem better than the Mujahadeen, but the truth will soon be exposed. 

The Taliban believes in Islamic Sharia Law which has strict ideas about a woman and her role in society. Girls are now banned from the following: Going to school, studying, working, leaving the house without a male chaperone, showing skin in public, public speaking or receiving healthcare from a male doctor (but women can't work so they do not receive healthcare). 

2001 - The US and other western countries get involved

After September 11th the citizens and the government in the US realized they could no longer ignore Afghanistan. The Us claimed its involvement in Afghanistan had to do with fighting for women's rights, but I believe the truth is a bit more complicated (isn’t it always). Whatever the true reasons for intervening, by the end of 2001 the Taliban was pushed out of power (but they did not disappear). Women were allowed back to work and girls were allowed back to school. BUT it still was not as it was and it was not safe.

2003 - Afghanistan creates a new constitution that includes women

2009 - Afghanistan adopts the Elimination of Violence Against Women law (EVAW)

There continue to be some groups and Taliban that control areas of Afghanistan and the violence against women and girls continues. 

2011 - Afghanistan is listed as the most dangerous country for women

2012 -Taliban agree to open office in Dubai as a move towards peace talks with the US and the Afghan government.

2017- A rise in public awareness campaigns is largely due to the active participation of youth graduates over the past 16 years—The movement is spreading, even if it is struggling to survive amidst war, gender-based discrimination and violence nationwide. (*Ms. Magazine)

2018 - UN events across Afghanistan call for increased protection of women’s rights and the inclusion of women in decision-making

RESOURCES

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban Paperback by Malala Yousafzai A memoir. When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
 

Muslim Girl by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder of MuslimGirl.com shares her harrowing and candid account of what it’s like to be a young Muslim woman in the wake of 9/11, during the never-ending war on terror, and through the Trump era of casual racism.

At nine years old, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh watched from her home in New Jersey as two planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. That same year, she heard her first racial slur. At thirteen, her family took a trip to her father’s native homeland of Jordan, and Amani experienced firsthand a culture built on the true peaceful nature of Islam in its purest form, not the Islamic stereotypes she heard on the news.

The Breadwinner: Parvana is an 11-year-old girl who lives under Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 2001. She embarks on an epic quest to find her father and reunite her family.