Wall Street Journal writer Maria Abi-Habib’s recent article in that newspaper on the rights of Afghan women in the present, and the direction their rights are heading towards as the US withdraws from Afghanistan, is compelling and urgent. Although 11 years have passed since the ousting of the Taliban regime by U.S. troops, citing “Afghanistan’s abuses against women as part of the reason for the invasion,” the U.S. backing of President Hamid Karzai has returned the domestic situation to where wives fleeing domestic abuse are routinely imprisoned, as are raped women.
At the same time, let us not forget some of the progress Afghan women have made in recent years, due partly to international pressures from organizations such as the European Union and United Nations: they now can hold office, walk in cities without a traditional burqa covering, and study at university.
However, this progress is overshadowed by the vast amount of systemic misogyny. Abi-Habib does a great job exemplifying some of these happenings with not one, but multiple cases of Afghan women imprisoned for adultery, despite the aforementioned progress. She tells powerful stories of three Afghan women victims: Rokhshana, a woman who was forced to smoke opium and was raped by her cousin multiple times; Sharifa, married off in exchange for money to a man who beat her and raped her as well; and Golnaz, a victim who was raped by her cousin and later interviewed and was made into a documentary which was later blocked for release in fear of conservative Afghans. Although the last two women ended up safely in women shelters in Afghanistan, their stories still portray their native land as a terribly negative place for Afghan women. If this is the status quo today, before the full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, what more evils will Afghan women have to face?
Perhaps international pressures as mentioned in the article, if not internal modernization, will continue to move Afghanistan towards a more progressive country in regards to women’s rights.