Me in Arabic for Elaph: honor, war, and women’s rights in Afghanistan: الثقافة ليست حجة للتنكيل (“Culture is no Excuse for Abuse”)

(Note: it was brought to my attention that the Arabic translation of this piece – which I did not do – is poor. If it is published in English I will provide that link, meanwhile I may have a corrected Arabic edition up soon.)

في خطابه أمام الكونغرس في العشرين من أيلول، 2001، أثار الرئيس جورج دبيلو بوش موضوع وضع النساء في أفغانستان كإحدى من أسباب كثيرة لدعم الأميركيين للاجتياح لتلك الدولة. في السنوات المتعاقبة ذكر سياسيون وخبراء موضوع “تحرير النساء في أفغانستان” كسبب للاستمرار في الحرب. مع ذلك، بعد 13 عاما تقريبا – تم خلالها تصفية حياة كثيرة وتبذير أموال كثيرة – لم يتغير كثيرا وضع النساء والفتيات الصغيرات. لأولئك الذين أثاروا الاهتمام حول جرائم طالبان ضد النساء قبل 9/11، هذه ليست مفاجأة أن الجمهوريين والديموقراطيين ما زالوا مخلصين للسياسات الفاشلة التي خلال عقود كلفت النساء بحقوقهن.

في الأسبوع الماضي، أقر البرلمان الأفغاني تنكيل النساء داخل العائلة، بواسطة ترسيخ الصمت والشرف في نهجه الإجرامي. في نطاق قانون أقره مجلسا البرلمان، لا يمكن للأقارب أن يشهدوا ضد الرجال المتهمين في الضرب، في الاغتصاب، وفي قتل أعضاء العائلة الأنثويات. حيث إن أغلبية هذه الجرائم تحدث داخل البيت، توقيع حامد كرزاي على القانون سيمنح للرجال تصديقا للاغتصاب، للضرب وللقتل بدون عقوبة.
يهتم هذا القانون بالقضية العامة للعنف المؤسس على الجنوسة داخل مجتمعات ذات أغلبية مسلمة. إعتبارا من العنف بدعوى الشرف والقتل بدعوى الشرف، حيث يقوم العائلة والمجتمع بتشويه أو بقتل النساء بسبب العادات الاجتماعية أو الجنسية، وانتهاءا بتشويه الأعضاء التناسلية الأنثوية، الزواج القسري وزواج الأطفال، الجرائم ضد النساء تستمر خاصة بسبب الصمت الظالم وتورط المجتمع.
هذا يحدث أيضا في الغرب. معنى الرفض للاعتراف أو للمواجهة مع القسوة أو الامتداد للعنف المؤسس على الجنوسة، هو أن حسب التقديرات المتواضعة بين200,000 -150,000 فتيات صغيرات في الولايات المتحدة، هن في خطر تشويه الأعضاء التناسلية الأنثوية. بالمقابل نعرف على الأقل 3,000 حالات من الزواج القسري. الجرائم المؤسسة على الشرف تحدث أيضا هنا في الولايات المتحدة، والجهود لتحديد كميتها جارية. كثير من هذه التنكيلات تحدث في الطوائف المسلمة، لكنها تحدث أيضا في طوائف إضافية مثل
الهندوسية، السيخية والمسيحية. لسوء الحظ، وجدت هذه الدعوات للتغيير قلة من الحلفاء في مراكز السلطة وداخل سلطات تطبيق القانون.
حين يجب على النشطاء أن يستمروا في العمل لتغيير أوسع، مثل تأييد الرئيس أوباما بحث الرئيس كرزاي ليعارض التشريع الخطير الذي أقر من قبل البرلمان الأفغاني، وتشجيع المشرعين الأميركيين ليقروا قانون العنف الدولي ضد المرأة، يجب علينا أن نجد منتديات جديدة، وأن نقيم شراكات جديدة وطرق جديدة لإحداث الوعي. لهذا السبب وافقتُ على أن أشترك في “يوميات الشرف”، فيلم جديد يكشف ويبحث فظائع العنف بدعوى الشرف. يعرض الفيلم تسع نساء يكرسن حياتهن لكفاح العنف المؤسس على الجنوسة. بواسطة ائتلاف “يوميات الشرف” نعمل لنقيم خط مساعدة قومي لضحايا العنف بدعوى الشرف وتنكيلات أخرى في الولايات المتحدة. لا يمكن أن نحصل على أهدافنا دون دعم حلفاء مسلمين وغير مسلمين لمساعدة النساء في الدفاع عن حقوقنا الأساسية في استقلال الجسم، حرية الحركة وحرية الضمير.
هذا الكلام لأودري لورد دائما أرشدني، وأومن أنني أمكن أن أتكلم مع حلفاء محتملين، فيهم رجال: “لست حرة عندما أي امرأة ليست حرة، حتى إذا كبولها مختلفة من كبولي”. لم نعد قادرين على تجاهل الفظائع التي تعاني منها النساء – سواء في الولايات المتحدة أو في أفغانستان. عندما هؤلاء من بيننا – لهم الحرية والقوة ليرفعوا صوتهم – يتخذون الإجراءات ويوحدون القوات، نعارض التورط وعندنا الإمكانية لنخلق ثورة تغيير حقيقي.
** راكيل ايفيتا ساراسواتي هي ناشطة وكاتبة أميركية مسلمة تركز اهتمامها على حقوق النساء في مجتمعات ذات أغلبية مسلمة وفي طوائف مسلمة في الغرب.

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Afghanistan: female students attacked with acid in Kandahar

AP Photo / CNN
AP Photo / CNN

 “Kandahar is not safe. But we can’t stay at home, we want an education.” -Atifa, 16, acid attack victim – Kandahar, Afghanistan

Kandahar: this morning, two men sprayed a group of female students with acid – blinding at least two of them. It is unclear how many of the students were injured. Government spokesman Parwaz Ayoubi called the attackers “enemies of education”, suggesting that the insurgents who attacked the pupils were objecting to the education of females.

According to Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the incident, Latefeh – one of the injured students – says that this attack will not prevent her from pursuing her education or stop her from learning. The Afghan government reinforces their commitment to education, saying that attacks like these, by “unIslamic enemies of the country” will not prevent six million children from attending school.

Unfortunately, though, schoolrooms today were largely empty. Parents have held their children home for fear that they may be attacked – and children are afraid for their safety.

See BBC coverage here. (Also, Spanish speakers: check out coverage of this very blog entry here.)

To help:

* Learn about and support the work of Barakat.

* Check out some of the positive work being done by female educators and UNICEF.

* RAWA was founded by Afghan women for Afghan women. Educate yourself about their efforts here.

* Afghan-Network has a list of NGOs needing your help to support their work in Afghanistan, including Islamic Relief. Please click here to see this list and offer your support.

* Acid attacks are a pervasive problem. Learn about how women in Pakistan are fighting acid attacks, keeping their faith, and restoring hope.

* These attacks also happen in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Colombia, the UK and the United States. Here is more coverage and some tips on what you can do to help.

Iranians protest honor killings after the death of another young woman

Iran Telegraf)
Iranians demonstrate against honor killings (photo: Iran Telegraf)

On August 14th, eighteen year-old Fereshteh Nejati was murdered by her father. Forced into marriage at 14, Fereshteh was seeking a divorce.

The details of her murder are gruesome. The response to the tragedy, however, shows signs of hope for Iran’s women.

Where am I finding this hope? Well, Fereshteh’s community decided that enough is enough. Some 2000 people – men and women – gathered in the streets to demand an end to honor killings, and to claim Fereshteh’s body for a respectful burial.

See photos of the demonstration here

As always, check out the International Campaign Against Honour Killings . There, you can join communities like Fereshteh’s in their efforts.

ACTION ITEMS:

* Please remember to keep taking action for Kobra Najjar, an Iranian woman facing imminent stoning.

* Sign the anti-honor killing petition I’ve told you about here.

* Send letters to the Pakistani government demanding that they take action against honor killings.

* Work against the epidemic of rape in Afghanistan.

* Help protect women threatened with acid attacks.

Afghanistan: another brutal series of reminders

In a previous post, I reminded readers that the situation in Afghanistan has far from resolved.

If there is still any doubt lingering in your mind that the people of Afghanistan are not free from being terrorized, brutalized and dehumanized – there’s plenty in the news to set you straight. If the news is this awful, imagine what is going unreported.

Read this story of a twelve-year old girl – a survivor of gang rape. Her family has said that they will commit suicide if justice is not served.

Before you jump to conclusions: the family is not talking about persecution of their daughter for “honor”. They’re talking about wanting real justice for their precious, traumatized child – and their family.

Rape is becoming more and more of a problem in Afghanistan. Only recently, a three year old girl was kidnapped and raped. The assailants of countless women, girls and boys are roaming the country without punishment.

The infrastructure necessary for effective implementation of the law simply isn’t there.
Human rights workers are calling this the result of the war that’s been ravaging Afghanistan. Ironically and disgustingly, one of the justifications for war has been to “save Afghanistan’s women.”

Nice work. Not. I didn’t buy it in 2001, and don’t begin to buy it now. Especially not now. Not when mass violation is par for the course and death is called an “accident”.

I could go on – for this story has had me unable to focus on much all day. However, once again the important thing is to take action. Here’s what you can do to help:

* Educate yourself: Human Rights Watch covers the situation in Afghanistan regularly. For example, see this letter, in which Human Rights Watch urges the international community to put human rights at the forefront of conversations with Afghanistan’s government. 

* See this list of non-governmental organizations needing your support. This page is asking you to donate to the organizations, but I’m urging you to do what YOU can, even if you simply read more to stay informed. You can also sign up for mailing lists and blog about the work these organizations are doing.

* I’ve posted this before, but it’s worth reposting regularly: Al-Azhar University’s paper on how women and children must be protected under Islam. For those who don’t know, Al-Azhar is one of the oldest operating universities in the world, and the epicenter of Islamic scholarship.

(Feel free to forward this paper to George W. Bush and Hamid Karzai. If you’re going to be an Islamic republic or you’re just prone to bombing them, consider the inherent rights you’re going to either uphold or brutally violate, eh?)

* Spend some time searching for information about and work being done in Afghanistan. You’ll find things like RAWA and the Afghan Women’s Mission.

“None but a noble man treats women in an honorable manner. And none but an ignoble treats women disgracefully.”

The Prophet Muhammad (At-Tirmithy)

Don’t forget their names

AP Photo /Adil al-Khazali
AP Photo /Adil al-Khazali

At least 57 people have been killed in Baghdad, following a series of bombings in the city. Three female suicide bombers and a roadside bomb are to blame for the attacks aimed at Shia Muslims.

This week, many Shia Muslims are making the Kadhimiya pilgrimage, one of the major events on the Shia Muslim calendar. The neighborhood surrounding the Kadhimiya mosque was once an epicenter of Shia learning. Over the years, it has been at the forefront of conflict in Iraq – and this week, the sacred site is once again marked by blood.

This pilgrimage was outlawed by Saddam Hussein, who was responsible for the brutalization of Shia Muslims during his reign. The ceremony has grown in size since his defeat and death. As evidenced by this latest outbreak in sectarian violence, any security force would have a long way to go before it can claim success in Baghdad.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with some colleagues about conflict, and the casualties that have been the result of violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza and beyond. We talked about how we are often (not always) able to put a face, name, and story behind American victims. Not so when it comes to others. We hear body counts. Injury counts. We may see a photo like the one above. “A man” and “a child”, they are called.

This isn’t good enough. It isn’t good enough to know a number that can rarely be confirmed. We – Muslims, non-Muslims, Americans and our fellow global citizens – must have something to put to those numbers. I want to know who we have lost.

As a Muslim, I am angry. I am angry that a Sunni would dare to kill in my name. I want to know the names of the dead so I may pray for them. I want to know their names to whisper apologies to their families. I want to know if “a man” and “a child” have lost a wife and mother.

As an American, I grieve the loss of our soldiers. I stop and watch their faces on the news. I listen to the mothers, the younger brothers, the grandparents and partners. I want to thank them. I want to say that yes, I believe this war is wrong but yes, I thank them still.

For both, I cry. For both, I love.

Afghanistan: the latest

                     

A friend recently wrote to me on the subject of Afghanistan. She wondered if, given all of the attention being given to other situations worldwide – Afghanistan has slipped many people’s radar screens. She elaborated: people are still suffering there. Civilians and military forces are still losing their lives. Yet, it seems that people are talking about the situation less and less. 

We can’t forget about Afghanistan. And we’ve just been issued a serious reminder.

Last week, Taliban insurgents (did you think Bush got ’em all? Sorry to disappoint) invaded the region just north of Kandahar – taking over 7 to 18 villages.

The Taliban may be making a comeback. That is, if you believe they were successfully suppressed to begin with.

See also: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the potential risk of conflict with Pakistan. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned.

More to come, but for now: let us not lose sight of this devastating situation. And let us not forget those who are still suffering.