In the middle of oppression, there is hope. I have written before above the cultures behind the wearing of the shapeless body and face concealing clothing. I have lampooned Lauren Booth adopting Islam (a capitalist westerner; loves photo shoots of herself doing ‘good works’).
Just prior to the Russian occupation of Afghanistan (1979 to 1989), in the midst of growing oppression of women in Afghanistan, there rose up a young woman known as Meena. She was, by all accounts, a remarkable woman who, with other women intellectuals, ferried women and children out from Kabul to Pakistan and an uneasy safety. She set up refugee camps and classrooms to combat female illiteracy and teach children in Pakistan. Their efforts were always fraught with raids by Islamist men. The women knew that education was the only way to break gender repression. The irony was that in the 1960s, girls and women, including Meena, were educated and intellectually productive members of life in Kabul.
It didn’t last; it couldn’t last. Her head, once above the parapet after she addressed the Internationalist Socialist Conference in France in 1981 was in the sights of the then KGB and its Afghan agents, the Afghan Intelligence Service and the Islamist fundamentalists. She was eventually assassinated in February 1987 when she was only 30. Her activist husband had been murdered 3 months earlier. The whereabouts of their children is still unknown. Here is a link to Amazon where you can find her story written by Melody Ermachild Chavis.
Meena was the founder of an organisation that became dedicated to equality and education for women and give a voice to the silenced women of Afghanistan. That organisation has grown stronger and more vocal over the decades.
The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) is an extraordinary organisation that is more active today than ever before. Its struggle these days is against the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban, its repressive, anti-women and male-chauvinism orientation. It is highly scathing of the role played by the USA in Afghanistan.
Today in the BBC News online there is an article that, while worrying in its content, allows some hope to emerge notwithstanding President Hamid Karzai endorsing the further oppression. Karzai is widely perceived as a puppet of America.
‘After a council of Afghan clerics issued restrictive guidelines for women, later embraced by President Hamid Karzai, young Afghans streamed to social media sites to lampoon the rulings, reports BBC Afghan’s Tahir Qadiry.
“It’s outrageous,” wrote one young Afghan on his Facebook page.
“The next thing they’ll be saying is that Afghanistan needs to be divided up in two – one half for men and the other half for women.”’
What is heartening is that there are cartoons lampooning the mullahs and their edict. This would not have been possible earlier.
Here’s another article stating that:
‘Afghanistan’s top religious council has said women should not mix with men in school, work or other aspects of daily life. The Ulema Council has also said that women should not travel without a male relative.’
In a country where women can be jailed for being the victim of rape, this step by the Ulema Council is so retrograde that after 10 years of gender gains in Afghanistan, one can only hope that a modern backlash may finally have some political clout.