A front-page New York Times story Nov. 28, “Afghans Offer Jobs to Taliban If They Defect,” indicates that Hamid Karzai’s government—presumably with Washington’s support—is enlisting traditional tribal elders “to lure local fighters and commanders away from the Taliban by offering them jobs in development projects…” Note the “and commanders”—claims that the amnesty was just aimed at Taliban cannon fodder appear to have been the thin end of the wedge. The Canadian Press meanwhile reports that with the insurgency gaining ground—and a corrupt government unable to keep its promises—the amnesty effort is winning few former fighters. “The Taliban are getting stronger than they were before,” said Haji Agha Lalai, a prominent Panjwaii district elder and former director of Kandahar’s reconciliation program. “Also the government does not support us very well and we could not fulfill our promises to Taliban.”
Coming on the heels of revelations that US contractors are paying the Taliban protection money and that the Taliban fight with captured US weapons, as well as a popular conspiracy theory in Afghanistan that the US is actively collaborating with the Taliban, this news recalls Karzai’s 2007 amnesty for Mujahedeen fighters—including some of the bloodiest fundamentalist warlords. All these developments reveal the hypocrisy of US claims to be defending democracy, secularism and women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, too many anti-war voices are openly encouraged at this betrayal of Afghanistan’s women, ethnic minorities and other intended Taliban targets. For instance, the October issue of Jim Hightower’s Hightower Lowdown enthuses:
Let’s be clear. As a group, the Taliban is a nasty outfit—especially in its rigid and brutal subjugation of girls and women. But not every member or even every leader is barbaric thug, and the moderates are the ones we should be working with.
The typical song-and-dance: a lukewarm and perfunctory admission that the Taliban are a “nasty outfit” (how about “war criminals”?), followed by a call to “work with” their “moderates”—and not only foot-soldiers but “leaders.”
Authentic Afghan voices for democracy, secularism and women’s rights oppose the US/NATO occupation precisely because the US has connived with fundamentalist war criminals from the day it arrived in Afghanistan. Foremost among these voices is the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), who maintained clandestine schools for girls under Taliban rule at the ultimate personal risk. RAWA’s website has a page outlining Taliban restrictions and mistreatment of women under their 1996-2001 rule, including:
Complete ban on women’s activity outside the home unless accompanied by a mahram (close male relative such as a father, brother or husband).
Whipping of women in public for having non-covered ankles.
Public stoning of women accused of having sex outside marriage.
Ban on women talking or shaking hands with non-mahram males.
Ban on women laughing loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman’s voice).
This goes somewhat beyond “rigid.” RAWA’s representative Zoya toured the US earlier this fall, and voiced unequivocal opposition to the US occupation and fundamentalist warlords alike—whether they are in collaboration or insurgency. Speaking to the Daily News of Newburyport following a presentation at the Friend’s Meeting House in the Massachusetts town of Amesbury Oct. 19, Zoya had this to say when asked about the danger of a civil war should the US pull out:
“It will happen tomorrow or in 35 years,” she said. “I’d rather it happen sooner, than having our people die slowly under occupation. We must face our own problems and create our own democracy. You cannot make a democracy under gunpoint.”
See our last post on Afghanistan.