Thursday, June 15, 2006


Remember how the US of A was liberating the people of Iraq and Afghanistan? Remember how concerned Mr. and Mrs. Bush were with the women of Afghanistan (well, at least after September of 2001)? Remember how you thought that was a crock?

You were right, of course.

The first article is from IRIN. The second is from OnLine News (Pakistan)

IRAQ: Local NGO warns of rising cases of sexual abuse

BAGHDAD, 14 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - There has been a massive increase in reported cases of sexual abuse in Iraq since the days of Saddam Hussein's regime, according to the Women's Rights Association (WRA), a
local NGO.

The WRA recently conducted an in-depth study into the sexual abuse of women after receiving continued allegations of such maltreatment since December 2005. While fewer than five cases were reported per year in the Hussein's era, nearly 60 women have been raped in Baghdad since February, while another 80 were abused in other ways, according to the NGO.

"We've observed an increase in the number of women being sexually abused and raped in the past four months, especially in the capital," said Mayada Zuhair, spokeswoman for the WRA, adding that this is causing panic among women who have to walk alone.

Activists say the main reasons for the increase is the marginalisation of the population, lack of security and the negative psychological effects associated with war. According to Zuhair, women of all ages face abuse, while there are also cases of men and boys being raped by unidentified gangs. "Given the current insecurity, these incidents could increase if the government doesn't take urgent measures to stop these gangs," she said.

The Ministry of Interior has issued notices warning women not to go out alone. "This is a Muslim county and any attack on a woman's modesty is also an attack on our religious beliefs," said senior ministry official Salah Ali. "These gangs will pay for the pain they've caused." Ali added that several rape cases were currently being investigated and urged women to report any abuse.

In mosques, both Sunni and Shi'ite leaders have used their weekly sermons to spread awareness of this issue and have advised their largely male congregations to keep women safe at home rather than allowing them go out to work.

“These incidents of abuse just prove what we have been saying for so long," said Sheikh Salah Muzidin, an imam at a central mosque in Baghdad. "That it is the Islamic duty of women to stay in their homes, looking after their children and husbands rather than searching for work – especially with the current lack of security in the country.”

Bush fails women in Afghanistan

Kabul: The Taliban are back. Less than five years after British and U.S. troops drove them out of Afghanistan, they are launching increasingly audacious attacks, including an ambush of British troops in Helmand province last weekend.

British soldiers were jumping from helicopters when they came under fire, beginning a battle in which 21 Taliban fighters were killed. One observer warned that British troops must regain control of Helmand or "the whole of southern Afghanistan will be lost to the Taliban insurgents." I could make a sarcastic remark about another great success in President Bush’s war on terror, but the situation in Afghanistan is too horrifying.

At the same time, I can’t help recalling the lunatic optimism of the president’s wife a few weeks into the Afghan campaign in 2001. "Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes," Laura Bush declared. "The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women."

Well, we’ve seen what nonsense that is in Iraq, where women dare not venture outdoors unless they are covered and the government is turning out to have a worse record than Saddam Hussein in some respects, repealing legislation giving inheritance rights to women. In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s status as public enemy number one persuaded many foreigners that their defeat was all that was needed to free women from tyranny, an assumption that doesn’t stand up to five minutes’ scrutiny.

The return of the Taliban is undoubtedly bad news, but more than three decades of war have left Afghan women vulnerable to a dire combination of warlords, jihadists and patriarchal attitudes. To this day, most continue to wear the burqa, fearing reprisals from extremists whose leaders sit in President Hamid Karzai’s government. It isn’t just the Taliban who want to enforce sharia; in April last year, a 29-year-old woman was stoned to death for adultery following the decision of a court in the northern province of Badakhshan.

Rape, forced marriage and domestic violence are at horrific levels, leading to the almost unimaginable practice of self-immolation: 154 cases were reported in the western zone last year, according to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, and 34 in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Five years ago, an underground women’s rights group estimated that 25,000 women were working as prostitutes in Afghanistan, but extreme poverty is forcing many more into the sex trade, putting them at grave risk.

The resurgent Taliban have resorted to their old tactic of targeting schools, trying to put an end to girls’ education; in December, a suspected Taliban fighter dragged a headmaster from his classroom in Helmand province and shot him in the head when he ignored warnings to stop teaching mixed classes. This time, though, they seem to be trying to destroy education for all Afghan children. The United Nations has recorded 30 serious attacks on schools in recent months.

With impeccable timing, the Bush administration has chosen this moment to wind down its operations in Afghanistan, leaving NATO troops to struggle with the Taliban. If the president and his advisers ever stop to wonder why so many people hate them, they need look no further: They talk about exporting democracy and freedom but what does any of it mean to women in Helmand province? Much as I dislike the Bush administration, this is one occasion when I wish it kept its promises.

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