Recent legislation permitting the sexual abuse of women in Afghanistan raises the question of the continuing presence of British military forces in Afghanistan. If that legislation is not thrown out, it will be the signal for them to leave.
I was a supporter of the participation of British armed forces in the invasion of Afghanistan which followed the 9/11 attacks. I also supported the continuing of military operations in that country, including the recent Helmland offensive, on the basis that I believed it was possible to help Afghanistan to create the strong and stable political and military structures it would need to withstand future rebellion from remnants of the Taliban’s fighting forces.
Earlier this year I was confident that that goal could be reached, particularly in the light of coalition efforts in Iraq which had finally, and at great cost to both themselves and Iraqis, managed to help create, protect and encourage what has now become a relatively stable political situation as well as a major downturn in sectarian violence. Most of the violence that subsists is attributed to al Qaida in Iraq, an organisation that is on the run and condemned by most Iraqis.
In April, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced proposals to permit the restoration of several extremist Sharia laws that the coalition was fighting against, most notably laws permitting the sexual abuse, legalised rape, and starving of women and young girls who would not obey their husbands’ sexual demands.
Those proposals were instantly and justifiably met with resounding international horror and condemnation by almost the whole of the international community. Gordon Brown, Stephen Harper and Barack Obama, the leaders of the three countries who contribute the most to the fight against the Taliban, were outraged. So were the vast majority of American, Canadian and British citizens.
Kharzai had no choice but to withdraw his propositions, and the dust settled.
Everything looked more or less on track, despite the operational difficulties on the ground.
But all things must change, as the saying goes, and they changed for me two days ago when I read this article on Digital Journal.
The article reveals that Afghanistan’s legislators, with the support of Kharzai, have sneaked in through the back door what they couldn’t bring in through the front. Kharzai signed the Sharia law into effect on July 27.
Afghanistan has just voted an appalling, barbaric and obscurantist law that allows men to refuse food to their wives if they do not obey their sexual demands or if they leave home without permission. It also grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers, and women now need to get permission from their husbands if they want to work.
Another section of the law permits the payment of “blood money” to rape victims by their rapists, that which dispenses him from having to be charged and tried for rape.
Why did Kharzai vote this law? In order to garner the support of the more extremist elements of Afghan society in the upcoming elections, notably the extremely influential Shia clerics and their many followers.
Can it be overturned or repealed? Theoretically yes, but in practice highly unlikely. Kharzai is generally accepted as being the favourite to win the elections, even if they go to a run-off, and he would be extremely ill-advised to repeal the very legislation that got him voted in in the first place. Doing that would lead to all out war being declared against him by those who would see him as a traitor.
Moreover, even if he lost, his replacement would also no doubt be aware of the fate awaiting him if he tried to repeal.
My question though is; Where are Obama and Brown and Harper now?
Their silence on this development is difficult to understand, and it is reprehensible. Why aren’t they out there shouting from the rooftops as they did before? What has changed?
Their silence is shameful. Their silence is tantamount to complicity in this atrocious and apparently successful attempt to legalise cruelty to women, and it should be condemned.
Is that how Obama, Brown and Harper treat their wives? Of course not.
I cannot speak for America and Canada, but I am a British citizen and my message to the British government is that if they let this legislation stand, they will do so without my support and I shall campaign in the only way I can, by writing articles, for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan. I have already emailed the Embassy here in Paris to that effect.
I did not support the sending of British troops to Afghanistan to fight and die in order to protect a government that legalizes the rape and starvation of women. I supported the war for the exact opposite reason. To help Afghanis, men, women and children, to escape the vicious thug law of extremist Sharia lunatics.
Those who supported the pulling out of troops before will surely see this essay as saying they were right all along. They would be wrong. Don’t pop your champagne corks just yet. It’s much more complex than that.
If the British take their (second largest by far) contingent out of Afghanistan, the Americans and Canadians, for all their brave efforts, would lose the war against the Taliban in a few months at most. And in that event, all the feminists and other anti-war proponents would have to content themselves with the fact that their support for the pulling out of British troops from that country would automatically mean abandoning millions of women to a return to the barbaric and obscurantist domination of, and cruelty towards, women by men.
It’s a horrible choice, and I am fully aware of the consequences.
But if the British government does not succeed in changing Kharzai’s mind, in one way or another, and with or without the help of America or Canada, Britain should admit defeat.
The British army does not exist to fight and die in order to maintain in power those who legislate to abolish women’s and other human rights.
And if the British Government doesn’t have the courage to stand up and say so in Afghanistan, it should at least have the guts to instruct the troops to pack their gear and get out before even more lives are wasted.
(Thanks: KJ Mullins)
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com