The Afghan Women Tug of War

The Afghan Women Tug of War December 7, 2009

This was written by Frau Sally Benz and originally published at Feministe.

Earlier this week, GRITtv posted an interview with a woman from RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. I wanted to post the video for you all to watch and just say a few things that came to mind as I was watching.

For those who can’t watch the video, here’s a quick summary: Zoya (that’s not her real name) talks about how RAWA predicted that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan would fail. They believed there were “less bloody alternatives,” starting by not working with the Northern Alliance terrorist group. She stresses that what is touted as success in the U.S. (opening schools, banning the burka), does not have a significant impact in Afghanistan. She says that this all goes back to the 1980s when the U.S. first supported these groups and that the mistakes are being repeated. The situation for women in particular (rape, domestic violence, child marriage, etc.) has gotten worse under U.S. control. RAWA is in favor of U.S. withdrawal, but Zoya says that we can help their society by urging our officials to get out. She ends by saying, “if you cannot help us, leave us. But if you want to help us, […] take all these fundamentalist viruses that United States government created for Afghanistan.”

(If anybody has a transcript for this video or would like to draft one up, please let me know and I’ll link to it.)

The first thing you’ll notice is that Zoya uses a pseudonym and has her face blurred out. We don’t need to get into why that’s necessary, right? Speaking out as a woman in Afghanistan, I think it’s great that she’s even on a speaking tour.

What struck me after seeing this video is how different her message is compared to something I read earlier this week about women’s groups in Afghanistan wanting long-term U.S. presence. That article compared to this video paint two very different pictures about what life is like for women in Afghanistan.

I think some of it might be as simple as which women they are talking about. Zoya says in the video that we can’t just talk about one or two areas, but all of the provinces as a whole. If the situation improves drastically in a few areas but worsens just as drastically, if not more so, in several others, then can it really be viewed as a success?

But what I really want to focus on is how either way, it all comes back to women. One group says the U.S. must stay in order to help women. Another group says the U.S. must leave in order to help women and the country as a whole. No matter what, Afghan women are being used as a political bargaining chip.

I don’t know about you, but the loudest voice I often hear is the one saying that the U.S. has to stay in order to help these women. So what message is that sending? Think of the ammunition that is giving those who are against the war. Now they get to be against the war and resentful towards Afghan women since these women are being portrayed as a primary reason for the troops to stay.

We all know how this ends, though: Women lose either way.

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