Courage under fire
Right-wingnuts crack me up, especially in the US where they're fighting ''oppression'' against President Barack Obama's tax policy with teabags.
This has become a tremendous joke in liberal circles because -- unfortunately I can't link to a complete explanation here but you can always consult Professor Google -- right-wingnuts have no idea what they're talking about. Teabagging has a whole different meaning than they seem to think.
Their arguments don't resonate also because it's hardly ''oppressive'' to repatriate some $43 billion that the rich have sheltered offshore. I could go on but it's off-topic really.
They have no clue about oppression. And if they think that holding a tea party is a mark of bravery, why they're as crackers as the stuff they servewith their whine and cheese.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The young women stepped off the bus and moved toward the protest march just beginning on the other side of the street when they were spotted by a mob of men.
“Get out of here, you whores!” the men shouted. “Get out!”
The women scattered as the men moved in.
“We want our rights!” one of the women shouted, turning to face them. “We want equality!”
The women ran to the bus and dove inside as it rumbled away, with the men smashing the taillights and banging on the sides.
But the march continued anyway. About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.
It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning.
In a country where women are beaten, stoned, beheaded for defying the patriarchal restrictions against them, there may still be repercussions. They may yet be hunted down and punished.
A Taliban spokesperson, Qari Yousef Ahmedi, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Gunmen killed Sitara Achakzai outside her home in Kandahar city and then drove off, said Matiullah Khan Qateh, police chief of Kandahar province. He said the four men drove up on two motorcycles and shot Achakzai as she was getting out of her car.
Achakzai, a dual German-Afghan citizen, spent the years of Taliban rule in Germany and returned to her native country to fight for women's rights, said Shahida Bibi, a member of the Kandahar women's association who worked with Achakzai.
A member of Kandahar's provincial council, Achakzai was vocal in encouraging women to take jobs and fight for equal rights, Bibi said.
So today's protesters show real guts.
Or, real ''teabags,'' as it were.
(A little shout-out to my friend Mattt with three Ts.)
An IED, such as the one that Monday killed Trooper Karine Blais – 21 and just arrived in Afghanistan two weeks ago – takes no note of gender. But within the insurgency that plagues the nation, women have been most certainly targeted: Female police officers, aid workers, politicians, human rights advocates, teachers and schoolgirls.
Women suffer more in Afghanistan, both when they break gender boundaries – for which they are often punished – and when they live an utterly conventional existence as wife, daughter and sister. Even when segregated, it is upon their shoulders that the household usually relies.
With husbands and sons unemployed, women must make ends meet. In the countryside, a head wrap covering their faces, they work just as hard alongside men in tilling the fields. They and their young children carry jugs of water from distant wells while menfolk gather to drink tea or worship at mosques that women can't enter.
It is entirely correct, as Canadian-Afghan journalist Nelofer Pazira wrote in the Star last week, that there is a huge gap between women's rights as guaranteed in the new constitution and reality. It is indisputable, as she reminded, that females are held hostage to draconian practices, regardless of laws passed by parliamentarians. They are property, sometimes valued less than livestock.
But there are laws in Canada that criminalize domestic abuse and still women are pounded, killed, by their male partners. That doesn't mean we shrug off cruelty or stop trying to hold tormentors accountable.
It will be generations, if ever, before Afghanistan accepts in practice the very idea of equal rights for women.
It is an entirely different matter, however, to enshrine inequality in sharia-cleaving laws promulgated by religious scholars and endorsed – for political expedience – by a Western-backed president. Women's lives must not be bargained away so cheaply with backdoor re-Talibanization.
No less unacceptable is legislation such as the Shia Personal Status Law – now purportedly on hold, given global backlash – that applies only to one small segment of the population: Shiite females.
How can any country tolerate a different set of laws for a different branch of Islam faithful?
In the West, the outrage has arisen primarily over a section of this negotiated legislation that would make rape within marriage legal. Frankly, I do not understand the fixation among religious scholars – from all faiths – with sexual matters, intimacy and procreation.
But the hysteria in the West over the marital rape provision has been disingenuous. It was only 16 years ago that Oregon became the first U.S. state to make marital rape a crime – and just this year Oklahoma became the 50th state to follow suit. In Canada, the Criminal Code was amended in 1983.
Afghanistan is one of the most medieval societies on Earth. Disabusing Afghan men of the idea they can demand sex at least once every four days – as the law stipulated – will require a cultural shift of tectonic proportions.
They are not, in fact, so far behind the worldwide learning curve on this issue. It isn't, forgive me, a deal-breaker.
Far more worrisome is that part of the legislation that would return women once again to sequestered isolation, forbidding Shia females from venturing outside the home unless accompanied by a male relative.
This was a core commandment of the fanatical Taliban and must in no way gain a toehold again. Women all over Afghanistan today go out, alone and in groups. They walk their children to school. They shop. They work. They seek medical treatment. They do it in Kabul and they do it in Kandahar city.
NATO countries and donor nations have the right to draw a line, here.