Afghanistan – WTF?

NATO member countries have today pledged more troops for operations in Afghanistan. Removal of the Taliban and a return to democratic civil society were the stated (if unrealistic) aims of intervention in Afghanistan, but now that an Afghan government has been elected, it doesn’t look like they’re much of an improvement.

President Karzai recently signed legislation that would prevent women from leaving home without their husband’s permission and oblige them to have sex with their husband, whether they liked it or not. Many people would refer to the latter as legislating for domestic rape.

NATO’s outgoing head, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer made an interesting point today – he said that he “could not justify foreign troops dying in defence of universal values in Afghanistan, if those values were violated by its laws.” (BBC) President Karzai’s response was, to put it bluntly, depressing.

Mr Karzai said he had ordered the justice ministry to review the law, which is intended to regulate family life inside Afghanistan’s minority Shia community.

“If anything in the legislation contravened the country’s constitution or Sharia law, he said, “measures will be taken”.

“We understand the concerns of our allies in the international community,” he said during a televised press conference in Kabul. Those concerns may be out of inappropriate or not-so-good translation of the law or a misinterpretation of it.”

You’ll notice that a promise to act on this is contingent on the legislation being found to be in contravention of the Afghan constitution or centuries old religious dogma.

Aides to President Karzai had earlier insisted the law provided more protection for women. Among its provisions are that

• wives are obliged to have sexual relations with their husbands at least once every four days

• women cannot leave home without their husband’s permission

Critics say the law limits the rights of women from the Shia minority and authorises rape within marriage.

I wonder how many of those troops from the UK, France, Spain, Germany etc who are going to be sent to Afghanistan would be happy that their lives are going to be put in danger to preserve a status quo that denegrates women and maintains an essentially medieval societal structure?

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