Thursday, November 16, 2006

The plight of Afghani women

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What horror:

Increasing numbers of Afghan women are committing suicide by setting fire to themselves to escape difficult lives, according to NGOs based in the country.

They say women forced into marriage or suffering chronic abuse are killing themselves out of desperation.

Although estimates are difficult to make, one group says cases of self-immolation in the capital have doubled since last year.

Cases are said to be reported every day in the western city of Herat.

In Kabul, some 36 cases of self-immolation have been recorded this year.

If there's another reason to hate the war in Iraq, this is it. No, I'm not blaming Bush. And no, I'm not saying that this wasn't going on under the Taliban or other past regimes, or, more generally, that Afghani women have ever had it easy -- they surely haven't. But -- and I know this is an old argument now, but it bears repeating -- wouldn't it have been better to rebuild one country before going off and invading and occupying another? Shouldn't the job have been finished in Afghanistan? And by that I mean both building some sort of stable government for the sake of a lasting peace and continuing to fight the terrorists on their own turf?

Oh, I forgot, Saddam had those WMDs. And Iraq was where the war on terror was at. So forget Afghanistan. Ignore it. Bush has. (Yes, I just blamed him. Pardon me.) Once upon a time, I made the argument to some friends in Amnesty International that the war in Afghanistan would benefit the people of that desperate land, and particularly the women. Well, the Taliban is out but still there, Karzai is nothing more than the figurehead mayor of Kabul, the countryside is ruled by warlords and poppy growers, the drug trade is thriving, terrorists plotting America's demise still roam freely, undermanned Canadians and others are dying on the battlefield of a war without end, as are local civilians, and women are setting themselves on fire to escape a life that evidently isn't worth living anymore.

Oh, what a lovely war this has been.

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