Afghanistan: Stone the Occupation

April 15, 2009

Protesters in Kabul, Reuters

Protesters in Kabul, Reuters

This is rich.

The Guardian reports today on a heroic protest mounted by 200 Afghan women outside the mosque of a cleric who had spearheaded a law that basically legalizes marital rape and criminalizes women leaving the home without a male escort.

The women “chanted slogans and carried banners outside the imposing Khatam Al Nabi mosque and seminary run by Mohammad Asif Mohseni” and were “pelted with stones” by a crowd of men who gathered to oppose them.

So the stand of the women protesters was incredibly admirable and brave.

But, the Guardian also reports that “today’s demonstration shows at least some Afghan women are as angered by the law as leading international critics,” critics which include “Gordon Brown, Hillary Clinton and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Nato secretary general” along with Barack Obama, who apparently finds the law “abhorrent.”

This is the height of hypocrisy. Both Obama and Brown (and for all we know Clinton) back the puppet government of Hamid Karzai which passed the law and could have exerted pressure to stall or prevent it. They certainly don’t qualify as “leading international critics.”

More accurately, they represent the facilitators of the disgusting law, which has found support in conditions of extreme poverty, political chaos and insecurity that have resulted from seven years of incompetent and brutal occupation.

But the paper does get it right, albeit slyly, by noting that “Ayatollah Mohseni is a leading figure among Afghanistan’s Shias, who represent about 15% of the population and are seen as an important voting block in this year’s presidential elections.”

Or, as female Afghan MP Shinkai Zahine Karokhail puts it, “There were lots of things that we wanted to change, but they didn’t want to discuss it because Karzai wants to please the Shia before the election.”

And that’s the crux here. Afghan women are facing a dismal prospect due to the political considerations of a man who is simply a puppet of the U.S. led NATO occupation.

The occupation has caused the condition of Afghan women to regress beyond that experienced even under the Taliban. That’s the message that the Guardian should be reporting. The occupying powers are trying to buy leverage in the territory that they control by pandering to right-wing forces, signalling the demise of whatever “nation building” or “democracy promotion” the Afghan disaster ever entailed.

In other matters, if you haven’t checked out my (now slightly dated) look at the Ian Tomlinson case over at ZNet, please do. The storm of criticism that the police have unleashe through their bungling brutality just gets worse and worse, taking the IPCC down with it.

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