Aug 11, 2003
The following article is translated from the August 8 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers' Struggle), a French Trotskyist weekly.
It is almost two years now since the U.S. army bombarded Afghanistan under the pretext that the Taliban government was protecting Islamic terrorists like bin Laden. That religious regime, fit for the Middle Ages, fell apart and was replaced by a government supported by the U.S., which exercises control only in the capital city of Kabul. Outside of there, the old reactionary warlords still dominate.
The Human Rights Watch organization just released its evaluation of the situation. It denounces the impunity of the warlords and the powerlessness – in fact, the complicity – of the government of Hamid Karzai.
Both inside and out of Kabul, journalists are threatened, arrested and harassed making it almost impossible for them to criticize leaders of the government, or the local warlords, military leaders and fundamentalist groups.
The Human Rights Watch also denounced cases of political intimidation and the arbitrary arrests of opponents, who have been tortured in the private prisons run by some political leaders. The military is accused of widespread participation in theft and extortion. And the new Afghan police force doesn't dare intervene against these military leaders – even if it wanted to.
As was the case under the Taliban regime, the police and the soldiers battle and arrest musicians who play for weddings, those who watch videos or those who dance.
Of course, in a society that allows such arbitrariness and such violence, women are its first victims. It may be true that legally there is nothing now that prevents them from studying or from working or from going out without wearing a veil or without a male member of their family. Yet few do these things, because men, reinforced by the fundamentalist groups, threaten them.
This reclusive life has consequences on women's health. They have little access to health care, often giving birth at home. UNICEF estimates that one out of every six women is expected to die in childbirth.
Life for women is most dangerous outside of Kabul. These regions are under the control of the warlords whose behavior toward women is not much different than that of the Taliban; at times, the authorities are the very same people who were in place under the Taliban regime. Women, especially those who come from ethnic minorities, can always be raped – including in their own homes at the point of a gun.
On top of this, there is the catastrophic economic situation and the perpetual conflicts between armed groups, creating a misery that pushes some families to marry off their daughters at a very young age in the hope of obtaining a dowry.
Bush not only pretends to fight against terrorism, but also claims to give the men and above all the women of Afghanistan freedom from oppression by the Taliban.