May 29, 2001
8:50 AM   Subscribe

How to get $43 millions dollars from the United States
  1. Strip all your female citizens of their human rights
  2. Single out religious minorities (for their "protection")
  3. Agree to crack down on opium farming without any real monitoring
The War on Drugs finds a new ally in The Taliban.
posted by alana (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hmmmm.... Looks to me like they have been a dubiously effective ally for quite some time now.
posted by revbrian at 10:01 AM on May 29, 2001

Errr, Women's ENews? That's one serious news source... Wouldn't this normally be all over the news?

This CNN story makes me think that someone is manufacturing sensationalistic news to further their own cause....
posted by fooljay at 10:18 AM on May 29, 2001

Well, this CNN story makes me think otherwise.

And if what Powell says is true, that the money will bypass the Taliban and go directly to the people, why can't we do the same thing in Iraq?
posted by alana at 10:32 AM on May 29, 2001

fooljay --

The NY Times (via Yahoo News) confirms the story. Quote:

Last week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced a $43 million grant for drought relief in Afghanistan. His statement mentioned "those farmers who have felt the ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the Taliban that we welcome."
posted by jameschandler at 10:41 AM on May 29, 2001

Well, the Taliban have been tyrannically good at fighting their War On Drugs.
posted by holgate at 10:42 AM on May 29, 2001

Let the faith-based initiatives begin...
posted by chino at 12:17 PM on May 29, 2001

Hmmm, I wonder why my CNN search didn't turn that article up... Previous comment retracted happily.

However, as alan points out, it says exactly the opposite of what the initial post in this thread says. Powell says the money completely bypasses the Taleban.

My guess on the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan is that the Afghan resistance is legendarily healthy with or without assistance. The Iraqi resistance not so much even with our help. Furthermore, the article says that the money/aid is doled out by the U.N. humanitarian groups. Last time I heard, they are persona non grata in a Saddam controlled Iraq.
posted by fooljay at 12:29 PM on May 29, 2001

Any truth to the rumor that part of the funds will be used to carve a relief of Ashcroft on the mountain where the Buddhas used to be? :)
Good old fundamentalism at work with the newest faith based initiative! Hooray!
posted by nofundy at 1:08 PM on May 29, 2001

Better to go ahead and starve those mistreated women and religious minorities than to offer them a bite to fucking eat, eh?
posted by techgnollogic at 1:54 PM on May 29, 2001

[I apologize for a long post. Seeing that most people don't read the links anymore but rush to comment on the comments, I am quoting from a New York Times article and the Amnesty International reports on Afghanistan.]

First of all, there is not much I can say about Afghani insistence on labeling Hindus in Afghanistan (No.2). I do not think Mullah Omar is planning any genocide of the Hindus. People in the Indian Sub-continent have a cultural habit of insisting that everyone wear some sort of religious/class identification. These practices have been going on there since time immemorial. In one of the more ironic religious spot checks, in 1971 Pakistanis did spot checks of "Muslims" by making the men in what was then East Pakistan strip naked and show proof of being Muslim. Muslim men are circumcised. Pakistan killed 3,000,000 in East Pakistan in 9 months between March and December of 1971 at a rate that would've shamed Hitler. Over 90% of the 3,000,000 were religiously Muslims, but ethnically non-Pakistani. This deep rooted ethnic, religious, class tension in that region of the world literally makes every person an island onto themselves. It is cultural and just comes with the territory.

I have my personal doubts about if the women in Afghanistan are worse of now than they were before the Taliban came to power in 1996 (No.1). I was surprised to learn that women generally feel safer now as reported in this article that was posted some time back here at MeFi. So I dragged myself to the New York office of the Amnesty International to pick up their reports on Afghanistan and judge for myself.

Women in Afghanistan never really had any "human rights," so to speak. The Taliban mostly maintained the status quo put in practice by the previous governments, instead of imposing anything new.
"The Supreme Court of the Islamic State of Afghanistan was reported in 1994 to have issued an "Ordinance on Women's Veil" which ordains that women must wear a veil that covers the whole body. It also forbids women from leaving their homes or being looked at "not because they are women, but for fear of sedition"." (P2)[1]
The only stark difference is that women are rarely, if ever raped or abducted under the Taliban rule. Personally I would consider wearing a Hijab/Jilbab/Niquab/Burqa/Chador/Blanket a very small price to pay for personal safety. (It is of course debatable if covering up a woman ever eradicated the social vices. There are whores and Johns in all Arab/Muslim countries. And rape and sexual abuse in those countries, while not as high as Europe or America, is not non-existent. My guess is a lot of these are swept under the rug by the brutal practice of honor killing.) The harshest words the Amnesty International could say about the freedom of women in Taliban Afghanistan were:
"The rigid social code imposed by the Taleban includes severe restrictions on women's freedom of movement, expression, and association." (P4)[2]
The various Mujahideen groups routinely abducted and raped women of the conquered tribes. The 1995 Amnesty International report, Women in Afghanistan a Human Rights Catastrophe, details this pre-Taliban atrocities against women.
"Thousands have been killed in artillery attacks apparently aimed deliberately at residential areas by the various political factions who have been fighting for territory since April 1992.
Armed groups have massacred defenseless women in their homes, or have brutally beaten and raped them. Scores of young women have been abducted and then raped, taken as wives by the commanders or sold into prostitution. Some have committed suicide to avoid such a fate." (P1)[1]
"The perpetrators are members of the main Mujahideen groups and warlords ..." (P1)[1]
"As territory changes hands after long battles, an entire local population can be subjected to violent retaliatory punishments by the victorious forces. The conquerors often celebrate by killing and raping women and looting property.
Alongside these appalling abuses, women have been prevented from exercising some of their fundamental rights -- including the rights to association, freedom of expression and employment -- by Mujahideen groups who consider such activism to be un-Islamic for women." (P2)[1]
Here is a collage of the situation of women based on the interviews conducted by Amnesty International with the Afghanis at the various refugee camps in Pakistan.
"In March 1994 a 15-year-old girl was repeatedly raped in her house in Kabul's Chel Sotoon district after armed guards entered the house and killed her father." (P6)[1]
[A quote from a young woman in January 1994]
"One day when my father was walking past a building complex, he heard screams of women coming from an apartment block which had just been captured by the forces of General Dostum." (P6)[1]
[Another quote from a teacher who fled Afghanistan]
"... My neighbor was a middle aged lady and had young sons. This woman was in the nearby shop when Dostum guards raided the shop. ... They locked this woman in the shop for about one and a half hours. They then let her go. She came to us and told us ... she had been dishonored by the guards." (P6)[1]
[From the testimony of a 40 year old woman]
"Some armed guards target women from ethnic minorities they regard as enemies. ... "forces of General Dostum came to the city. ... These guards were only looking for Poshtun people, and would not actually kill non-Poshtuns." (P6)[1]
"Several Afghan women have reportedly committed suicide to avoid being raped. In at least one case, a father who saw Mujahideen guards coming for his daughter reportedly killed her before she could be taken away." (P6)[1]
[This story was narrated by several sources]
"Nahid was a 16 year old high school student living with her family in Microrayan. In mid 1992 her house was raided by the armed Mujahideen guards who had come to take her. The father and the family resisted. Nahid ran to the fifth floor of the apartment block and threw herself off the balcony. She died instantly." (P6)[1]
Another girl named Nafisa, 25, also jumped off of the roof in June 1993 when armed men from Shura-e Nezar came to take her.
"A woman told her 13 year old niece was abducted by the armed guards of a Hezb-e Islami commander in late 1993." (P7)[1]
[This is the story of a family that had previously fled to Iran and lived there for five years before returning to their home in Farah province in April 1992 after the Mujahideen took power. The Jamiat-e Islami guards came to take their daughter away in early 1994.]
"We were a farming family. There were 10 of us in the family. One Jamiat-e Islami commander who had three wives came with his armed guards to our house asking to marry my sister who was 15 years old. My brother objected and told him that as a white-bearded man he should not seek to marry such a young girl. But the commander's guards beat my brother. One of the guards pointed his Kalashnikov at my brother's arm and fired a shot. His shirt was covered with blood. We were forced to give my sister away." (P7)[1]
[Another story from May, 1994]
"One late night our houses were cordoned off by armed Mujahideen guards. ... There were about 20 armed guards. They said they were looking for young women to take with them. Our men objected to this. They killed my husband and three other men in our house. They tied the hands of our two old men together. There were two young women in our housel they took one of them. In the morning we buried the dead." (P8)[1]
[From 1993]
"...guards had taken away dozens of Poshtun speaking women from their locality. The area was reportedly captured again by a rival faction and the women were found in a house. All of them were naked. Some women reportedly asked the guards to kill them because they were dishonored, but the guards reportedly let them go." (P8)[1]
"Scores of women have been reportedly been forcibly taken from their families in exchange for money. Some have been taken as wives -- Mujahideen commanders have been known to marry several young women in one night. Others have been sold to prostitution. ... frequently in Pakistan and other countries." (P8)[1]

The 1999 Afghanistan: The Legacy of Human Suffering in a Forgotten War, report by Amnesty International does not mention of any rapes or abduction during the Taliban regime. The only grievance, it seems, the report has, is that the women now lack access to health care and education.
"Taleban have barred women from employment outside the home except in health sector." (P4)[2]
"... Although female health professionals were given special dispensation to continue working under strict guidelines." (P4)[2]
The female doctors can only work in female only sections of the hospitals and women can only see a female doctor. This has caused an already inadequate health system for women to be weakened further. This is not anything new. While the Taleban tried in 1997 to centralize all women's healthcare into the Women's Hospital in Kabul, they backed off of that following international appeal. (P4/5)[2]

Barring women from working as teachers is genuinely affecting Afghanistan's primary education (K-12) system. This is indeed a major set back for the future generations of Afghanis, one that the Western media keeps ignoring.
"... it is not only girls' education which has been affected: due to the fact that around 40 percent of the teachers were female, the ban on female employment has also affected the education of boys. The Taleban has responded at various times saying schooling for girls would be reinstated when peace and security is achieved ... or when they have sufficient funds to implement segregated education." (P5)[2]
In the southwest of the country where there is an undisputed control by the Taleban for the past few years, there still is a ban on women's education, but many families have implemented home-schooling for girls. In Kabul, the capital, there is no movement for home-schooling for girls (P5)[2]. The women in Kabul are mostly elite-liberal-progressive-educated, while the southwestern provinces have women who adhere to traditional values. It seems to me that the women in Kabul are fighting for the sake of fighting.

The report also complains of women's strict dress code and occasional harassment by the Taliban enforcers of such codes.
"Women have been lashed on the back of the legs by young Taleban guards for not being properly clothed -- for showing their ankle or wearing the wrong color shoes." (P5)[2]

Based on New York Times articles, I would disagree that there is any lack of monitoring on the part of Talibans against the opium farming or it is just empty words (No. 3).

According to this article:
"... American narcotics officials who visited the country confirmed earlier United Nations reports that the Taliban had, in one growing season, managed a rare triumph in the long and losing war on drugs. And they did it without the usual multimillion- dollar aid packages that finance police raids, aerial surveillance and crop subsidies"
Afghanistan has been under a drought for the past four years. The $43 million promised by Secretary Powell would go a long way in solving their food shortage.
"The country is in the fourth year of a calamitous drought. More than one million people face an "unbridgeable" shortage of food and water before summer's end, according to the United Nations. The relatively drought-resistant poppy would have provided some of them with vital income. Instead they have parched and stunted wheat."
These people have nothing to eat.
"[Many] are found eating roots and grass. In some villages, flour is considered too precious to be used in bread; it lasts longer if mixed with water and cooked as a soup."
At some point I think the focus of Western media (and general populace) should shift to feeding the hungry and educating the youth than to continue debating the lack of liberal clothing of women.

[1] Women in Afghanistan A Human Rights Catastrophe
by: Amnesty International
AI Index: ASA 11/03/95
Amnesty International, May 1995

[2] Afghanistan: The Legacy of Human Suffering in a Forgotten War
Compilation Document
by: Amnesty International
AI Index: ASA 11/11-16/99
Amnesty International, November 1999
posted by tamim at 2:35 PM on May 29, 2001

Well said, tanim. (And reminds me that I ought to have posted on Amnesty's 40th birthday.) Afghanistan has suffered both repression and instability for at least 25 years.
posted by holgate at 3:39 PM on May 29, 2001

Thank you for the info Tamim. But I must post one big REGARDLESS.

Regardless of pre-Taliban treatment of women, (so many cliches go great here) you don't necessarily need to cut off the nose despite the face as it were. As you rightly bring up, the accounts of "enlightened" conditions for women in pre-Taliban Afghanistan are dubious at best, if not ridiculously trumped up in comparison to countries like Sweden say. Yet, I do buy that conditions in relation to general freedom for women were perhaps superior than that of adjacent countries. But as we all do know, there remains the age old question of what a sentient being desires the most; safety or freedom. In which a case could be made that pre-Taliban women would have had the ability to network and assemble better before than they do now.

True, from all accounts Afghanistan is undergoing a withering drought and the people require food, water and medicine. 43m is going for that, if that is where it will indeed end up. Like most tyrannies, I will be amazed if we see any proof in the next year that the Afghanis received the bounty of that sum. Furthermore, as alan states above;

And if what Powell says is true, that the money will bypass the Taliban and go directly to the people, why can't we do the same thing in Iraq?

Sending money to Afghanistan smacks of ultimate hypocrisy while leaving the Iraqi's out.

We sit around and speculate on current events and foreign policy of the various nations that we live, but isn't it at all interesting that there exists no sweeping rule that applies to all countries when they endure droughts, wars, uprisings, typhoons, floods etc.? But instead we have this news of 45m going to Afghanistan as relief, when we know that they know because Jesus, we know that these disasters are happening all over Earth, except nary is ever done about any of it. But hell, thanks for decimating your poppy crops!
posted by crasspastor at 4:14 PM on May 29, 2001

Very nice to see all that gathered together. Thanks, tamim. I do have a couple questions:

religiously Muslims, but ethnically non-Pakistani

What does this mean, exactly? What is an "ethnic Pakistani"?

Second, I read today (in a letter to the Times) that the US givernment has estimated that the poppies used to make all the heroin used in the US in a year could be grown in 25 square miles. Given that, is the eradication of the poppy trade in Afghanistan really likely to have any impact on actual drug availability? The right patch of ground in Kazakhstan or Burma or Ethiopia will be able to take up the slack almost overnight.
posted by rodii at 4:15 PM on May 29, 2001

What is an "ethnic Pakistani"?

A misnomer, especially dealing with the war that ultimately led to the creation of Bangladesh.

Though without doubt, the religious persecution in Afghanistan or in 1971 still pales into comparison with the two million casualties of Indian partition in 1947, a product not so much of sectarianism as of bureacratic myopia.
posted by holgate at 5:21 PM on May 29, 2001

In the first two articles I found on the subject (both used in the mefi post), the implication was that the money was going directly to the Taliban. That appears not to be the case, and I apologize for it. However, it still raises the question of Iraq. If we can send humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan, why has the US been so opposed (through Bush Sr., Clinton, and so far Bush Jr.), to doing the same thing for the citizens of Iraq.

In the same vein, I didn't mean to imply the US was blindly assuming the Taliban has put an end to opium farming, just that there didn't appear to a framework set up to make sure it stays that way. Whenever there's any talk of lessening sanctions on Iraq, there's always mention of a gigantic monitoring program to ensure the money doesn't go directly into Saddam's pocket.

Moving beyond this specific issue for a second, I don't doubt that things were bad in a post-soviet (and possibly during the soviet occupation and before that . . . I don't know the history) Afghanistan prior to the predominance of the Taliban, as Tamim lengthily pointed out. The Taliban did manage to end much of the chaos, by creating a religious tyranny. No doubt forcible rape rates are down, but is that worth the virtual enslavement of every woman in Afghanistan? Going further, since a woman has little, if any, choice as to whom she marries and can't get a divorce, her marriage becomes a de facto rape.

Yes, the economic and infrastructure issues in Afghanistan are severe. That doesn't mean we should ignore what the Taliban is doing to the people of Afghanistan, both male and female.
posted by alana at 5:28 PM on May 29, 2001

crasspastor: "In which a case could be made that pre-Taliban women would have had the ability to network and assemble better before than they do now."

Just to repeat from my above post:

"women have been prevented from exercising some of their fundamental rights -- including the rights to association, freedom of expression and employment -- by Mujahideen groups who consider such activism to be un-Islamic for women." (P2)[1]"

"The rigid social code imposed by the Taleban includes severe restrictions on women's freedom of movement, expression, and association." (P4)[2]

Not only the situation of the women have not changed, neither has the choice of words in the two reports.

Rural women in Afghanistan historically have rarely traveled anywhere alone. They have always had family members escourt them. Besides religious reasons, it is also safer is a war zone to travel in groups. Standard issue Islamic laws require women not travel without a Mahram (husband; father; brother; someone who is religiously forbidden to marry the woman, hence assuming a guardian role). Islamic laws also restricts women's free mixing with Non-Mahrams (someone whom the women can marry). Village women in Afghanistan are usually more religious and follower of such Islamic laws.

rodii: "What does this mean, exactly? What is an "ethnic Pakistani"?"

The major difference between the people of East and West Pakistan was their language. People in East Pakistan spoke Bengali and the people in the West spoke Urdu. There are other minor differences in social and cultural practices. The two people also have varied local histories and folklores, magnified by the language differences. I think I was trying to define an "ethnic Pakistani" as someone who speaks Urdu and assocites himself with customs and folklores of the Urdu speaking people. [It should be noted that Urdu is phonetically the same language as Hindi, spoken in India, except that it is written with Arabic alphabets.]

I think the point I was trying to make is that people who want to kill, would find a way to kill even if the victim is of the same faith.

alan: "Going further, since a woman has little, if any, choice as to whom she marries and can't get a divorce, her marriage becomes a de facto rape. "

In Islam women have rights to divorce. Women also gets custody of children under the age of seven. In strict Islamic practices, the women also have a right to refuse whom they are married to. The daughters of the Prophet Mohammed willingly married their husbands. The best example of women's right to refuse marriage remains when a woman refused to marry Prophet Mohammed complaining that he, as a poor man, would not be able to furnish her with luxuries she was accustomed to as the daughter of a rich tribal leader. Mohammed had his men safely return her to her family. Surely no Muslim can be above the Prophet and deny a woman her free will.

On the other hand, I am not sure to what extent these laws are followed in Afghanistan. I am sure there is a Mullah in some village with enough skills in Arabic to make up fatwas on the fly.

My readings of feminist essays on rape-within-marriage still keeps me confused. I have no coherent opinion on this.
posted by tamim at 7:05 PM on May 29, 2001

We could debate the finer points of the Koran until the cows came home. Some interpretations allow for a woman to get a divorce without the husband's consent, others don't. Divorce laws vary from Islamic country to Islamic country.

Last January Egypt passed legislation making it easier for a woman to get a divorce, and was blasted for it by Taliban leaders. (quick search for it turned up this). After hearing that, I assumed the Taliban wasn't all that hot on letting women have divorces.

I just did some scouring online for the Taliban's official position on divorce, and couldn't find anything one way or the other. Let's, for a moment, assume that the Taliban does allow a woman to divorce her husband without his consent. Once divorced, how is a woman supposed to support herself? She can't leave the house without a male escort, and even if she found a male relative who was willing to help her, the Taliban (last I heard) doesn't let a woman work. At best she falls back under the dominion of her father and/or brothers. At worst, death by starvation. So even if the Taliban does legally allow divorces, their other 'restrictions' make it an infeasible option.

Regarding rape within marriage, all I was getting at is, if a women is being forced into or forced to stay in a marriage she doesn't want and was expected to perform sexually, how could it be anything other than rape?

This is a complete aside, but while I was searching for the Taliban's position on divorce, I found this background information on the Afghanistan Civil War.
posted by alana at 9:08 PM on May 29, 2001

On the question of the difference between Iran and Iraq. A regime can be a repressive theocracy and also be honest enough that a good percentage of aid for starving people will get to it's intended target. I don't know if this is the case in Afghanistan and I would appreciate it if someone who knows more about the Taliban would enlighten me. On the other hand I doubt much direct aid given to Iraq would reach the needy without extremely intrusive monitoring. Afghanistan sounds like a hellish place for a woman to live and only slightly less hellish for a man. If we can stop starvation, then we should do it whatever the political situation is. I dislike the whole war on drugs tie in but if that's what it takes to get food to hungry people, then so be it.
posted by rdr at 9:43 PM on May 29, 2001

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