Afghanistan is experiencing a spate of assassinations and kidnappings of women in a context of spiralling violence. So-called “honour killings” hardly make the news, nor do the countless deaths of child brides, teenage mothers in labour, or young girls who set themselves alight to escape marital brutality. But now a specific category is being targeted: women who have achieved a high level of education, respectability and recognition and whose fate will be commented in the media. Policewomen, social and medical workers, civil servants, parlementarians,  journalists even a prominent Indian writer.  Certainly this is not new, but what was (relatively) exceptional has turned into a deliberate tactic designed to terrorize ambitious girls and their families throughout the country. These are truly political assassinations.

The killers are generally called ‘Taliban’ by Western media, an umbrella term designating political Islamists who support a peculiarly biased reading of Muslim holy texts that specifically excludes women from any form of visibility and participation in society. These don’t just include the stereotypical bearded and beturbaned militants, but zealots of a modern kind, in Armani suits or slicked back hair and tight jeans fiddling with their smartphones. Whilst not sharing an identical agenda concerning Afghanistan’s future, these ideologues agree about the place (or rather lack thereof) women should occupy in their social project.

Let us imagine a society where such ideologies triumph (which is not excluded in view of the West’s negotiations with Taliban and their look-alike), a society without women, one that is deprived of 50% of its brains, capacities and potential. Gone would be the primary school teachers, nurses, police officers, provincial civil servants, – not to be replaced by male counterparts who neither have the qualifications nor the desire to work in these fields.

So public health, education- for boys as well as girls, not to mention unborn children- will plummet as it had in Mollah Omar’s day. Safety, security, the daily running of  administration would flounder.

Furthermore, with the expanding economy of the last decade, new needs and standards have developed. Who in Afghanistan is still willing to be without a mobile phone or a TV, access to electricity? Much of these new-found material comforts have been contributed by income generated by women for their households. Apart from the traditional jobs linked to health and education, the many openings  available for educated young women especially if they are fluent in English, are well-paid and indeed sought after. With all the young men rushing to Kabul to find work, there are many employment possibilities in the administration of the provinces open to women who tend to stay close to home base.

In short in a society where one half of the population could be excluded from the public sphere, the result can only be abysmal failure, misery and war. Let’s hope that the younger generation of Afghans realize that equal rights benefit men as much as women. The alternative would be disastrous.

One Response to “Is Afghanistan heading towards a society without women ?”

  1. on 15 Sep 2013 at 6:57 Rinchin

    It is a ripple effect. In hindi, there is a proverb which says – ‘If you educate a women, you educate the entire village,’ but I realize the converse is not only true but also dangerous. ‘If you un-educate a women, you are heading towards a barbaric society where generations will continue to be atrocious to women and lead to a complete collapse.’