Saturday, April 03, 2010

Taliban and the Rights of Women

The dispute between Gita Sahgal and the "Human Rights for All" campaign on one hand and Moazzam Begg and Amnesty International on the other hand is a red herring, which is the reason why it has been "taken up with relish by Britain's self-styled 'decent left' of journalists and commentators, whose superior moral compasses led them to support the invasion of Iraq." All parties directly involved in the dispute profess that they are in favor of women's rights, though they may differ here and there on what exactly the said rights consist of.

But the thing is that women's rights, or lack thereof, in Afghanistan cannot decide the most important questions that Westerners have to ask themselves: will the NATO quit Afghanistan, and, if yes, when?

Under NATO, women's rights will be protected only to the extent that they don't conflict with the military logics of the parties in combat. After NATO's withdrawal, women's rights will be protected only to the extent that the parties governing post-NATO Afghan territories respect them. That probably means that Afghan women will enjoy only such rights as granted by allies of Iran-Russia-India in one part of Afghanistan and Taliban-Pakistan in another part of Afghanistan -- for decades to come.

In either case, with or without NATO, it is not possible for Sahgals, Beggs, or human rights organizations of the West to make the level of women's rights higher than it is given the prevailing objective and subjective conditions of Afghan society. It would help speed up the NATO departure once Western activists admit their inability to make a difference for Afghan women for such a realistic admission would help the Western public concentrate on the only questions on which they have at least some say.

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