Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Happens if You(women) Leave Afghanistan.

First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose. The pain was unbearable that Aisha eventually passed out--but awoke soon after, choking on her own blood. The men had left her on the mountainside to die.
Caution: this entry contains graphic images which some readers may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

I meant to write to title earlier, but the sheer number of information I had to go through before writing this is overwhelming-- there are too many people out there condemning the Taliban, so reading them all takes enormous endeavor.

The cover image of the TIME magazine, August 9 2010 edition is both agitating and disturbing. It showcases the picture of Aisha, an 18-year-old Afghan girl who had her nose and ears sliced off after sentenced by the Taliban for escaping from her abusive in-laws. The story that follows take a deep look into the lives of many Afghan women, and their remarkable recovery upon the defeat of the Taliban-- and how they fear a Taliban revival. For Aisha's case, it didn't happen 1o years ago, when the Taliban ruled the war-torn country. It happened last year, 2009.

The history of Taliban is egregiously complicated--one without a definitive starting point. The most credible and often-repeated story of how Mullah Omar first mobilized his followers is that in the spring of 1994 Singesar neighbors told him that a warlord commander had abducted two teenage girls, shaved their heads and taken them to a camp where they were raped repeatedly. 30 Taliban freed the girls and hanged the commander from the barrel of a tank.

Later that year two warlord commanders killed civilians while fighting for the right to sodomize a young boy. The Taliban freed him.

After gaining popularity and acceptance from the community, the Taliban strode out their military campaign. The Taliban's first major military activity was in 1994 when they marched northward from Maiwand and captured Kandahar City and the surrounding provinces, losing only a few dozen men.

Then slowly they marched towards the capital and captured it. There were many side notes, however, but I guess none of you would be interested to know more about the political turmoil that hit Afghanistan at that time.

Ahmad Shah Massoud. Image:
There was a hero, though, and I truly am captivated by his personality. His name--Ahmad Shah Massoud, and he is perhaps the only person that could rival the purity and truthfulness of Mahatma Gandhi. Revered by many, and yet humble at heart, this guy was assassinated by the Taliban, on 9th September 2001. And two days later the Twin Towers in New York fell. Sure enough, if Taliban could get rid of Massoud, then Al Qaeda would have its path cleared for an attack on America.

Hundreds of thousands gathered for the funeral of Commander Massoud. Image:
Well-known journalist Sebastian Junger reports: "A lot of people who knew him felt that he was the best hope for that part of the world." Junger, who traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 to profile Massoud further states: "Afghanistan's government has been accused of being corrupt and weak. Massoud had a reputation for integrity and strength ... He would have been very hard for the insurgents to intimidate."

Shorish-Shamley, a women's rights activist, says: "If they (al Qaeda leaders) were hiding under a rock, he would have found them. He was that type of person. He would have found bin Laden."

Commander Massoud was the only man capable of holding off the threats of Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, for he knows the terrain well, the language, the norm, but he received no aide from the western world. He defeated the Soviet Red Army nine times in the Panjshir district of Afghanistan. He was so good in handling military tactics that he was nicknamed the Lion of Panjshir. And before he was attacked he gave a speech at the European Parliament warning them of the prospect of a terrorist attack. Darn I should stop with all these politics. Commander Massoud, I salute you~

"The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from her husband's house. They dragged her to a mountain clearing near her village in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, ignoring her protests that her in-laws had been abusive, that she had no choice but to escape. Shivering in the cold air and blinded by the flashlights trained on her by her husband's family, she faced her spouse and accuser. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, Aisha pleaded. They beat her. If she hadn't run away, she would have died.

Her judge, a local Taliban commander, was unmoved. Later he would tell Aisha's uncle that she had to be made an example of lest other girls in the village try to do the same thing. The commander gave his verdict, and men moved in to deliver the punishment. Aisha's brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose. The pain was unbearable that Aisha eventually passed out--but awoke soon after, choking on her own blood. The men had left her on the mountainside to die."
--TIME magazine

During the time of Taliban, women were forced to wear the burqa in public. They were not allowed to work, and education was limited for girls under the age of eight, after which they were permitted only to study the Qur'an. They were not allowed to be treated by male doctors unless accompanied by a male chaperon, which led to illnesses remaining untreated. They faced public flogging in the street, and public execution for violations of the Taliban's laws.

The situation in Afghanistan wasn't like this before the Taliban. In the past, Kabul was considered the playground of Central Asia. The female inhabitants of the city wore jeans to the university and fashionable women went to parties sporting Chanel miniskirts. Now, after the collapse of the Taliban-run government, the streets of Kabul once again echo with the joyful laughs of girls on their way back to school. Women have rejoined workforce and can sign up for the police and the army. 25% of parliament seats go to females.

 Taliban soldier executes a woman. Image:
The Taliban despise women. Women accused of adultery were stoned to death; those who flashed a bare ankle from under the shroud of a burqa were whipped. A woman was punished on the street for forgetting to remove the polish from the nails after her wedding. Women's voices were banned from the radio, and TV was forbidden-- how many of us here in Malaysia can live without television?

Three months ago(July 2010) a female anchor interviewed a former Taliban leader on a national broadcast-- that's a huge slap on the face for the Taliban, they tried everything they could to suppress women from working and contributing to the society. Now that they are gone, with remnants of fighters scattered all across Afghanistan, the government of Hamid Karzai still listens to their protests, via the channel they hate the most: female interviewers.

Under the Taliban, Robina Muqimyar Jalalai, one of Afghanistan's first two female Olympic athletes, spent her girlhood locked behind the walls of her family compound. Now she is running for parliament and wants a sports ministry created, which she wishes to lead.
"We have women boxers and footballers," she says. "I go running in the stadium where the Taliban used to play football with women's heads."

But Muqimyar says she will never take these changes for granted. "If the Taliban come back, I will lose everything that I have gained over the past nine years."

Any insurgency of the Taliban should be carefully monitored. The government is currently trying to negotiate with their "angry brothers" to settle the problem once and for all. The women, however, aren't supportive of the idea. An Afghan refugee who grew up in Canada, Mozhdah Jamalzadah recently returned home to launch an Oprah-style talk show, whose motive is to educate both men and women. She says her audience is increasingly receptive to her message, but she knows that in a deeply traditional society, it will take time to percolate. If the government becomes any more conservative because of an accommodation with the Taliban, "my program will be the first to go." she says.

Aisha on the cover of TIME magazine before her surgery, left, and, right, after her prosthetic nose was fitted. Image: TIME/FILMMAGIC
But there are more to consider than those that meets the eye. The Taliban fighters are scattered all across Afghanistan, making reconciliation difficult; the Inter-Services Intelligence in Pakistan allegedly plays a part in the Taliban hierarchy; corruption within government officials, and many more. Solving all these problems may not be a part of our lives, for we have our own country to care for. But I think that knowing their problem and sharing their burden, or at least blog about them and share it with our friends, could let the Afghans know that we, though separated by distance, care about them. =)


info: TIME magazine, VOL 176, NO. 6, August 9 2010.


  1. It's truly and sickeningly sadening how horribly women were and sometimes are still treated in Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East. I truly hope that the Taliban NEVER comes back into power and that these women can have beautiful lives! Bless these women♥ .

  2. Very good information, thanks alot Malcolm Tang for the post. People should be treated equally, whether they are men or women. May god help Afghanistan to develop further to a become a better and free country



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