Afghan women and public interest groups are opposing an effort of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to take over all of the shelters for abused and battered women. You may recall Karzai’s earlier feminist agenda when he initially support the legalization of rape. The new move is viewed as a way for the government to satisfy hardliners in blocking access to some women to shelters. The government is also expected to close some shelters entirely.
Not only are many shelters expected to be closed under Karzai’s plan but women will have to be subject to a medical review to be admitted to shelters and will be prevented from leaving the shelters. They will also be subject to periodic reviews with the possibility of being forced to leave the shelters.
Attacks on women have been increasing. One such case was shocking even by Afghan standards. Bibi Aisha, the young teenage Afghan girl who appeared on the cover of Time Magazine last summer, had her nose and ears cut off after she fled her abusive husband. The Taliban issued the Sharia-based sentence and her own relatives cut off her nose and ears after they found her trying to flee to one of the shelters. Karzai was clearly horrified by the story and now wants to close that and other shelters. He and his brothers also have a reputation for ripping off money from public programs.
Karzai has announced that following the takeover “[those shelters] who are found in violation of the established standards and the rules and regulations will be taken over by the Afghan government.” Some conservative government officials and a leading television presenter have accused the shelters of being little more than brothels — an accusation rejected by observers and international groups. Instead, these groups believe Karzai (who has repeatedly said that he wishes he had supported the Taliban and not the United States) is cracking down on shelters to appease the Taliban and eventually entice them to join his government.
While international groups are organizing an international campaign to try to protect these women, the Obama Administration has only been willing to publicly express “concern” over the move. I wonder if that weak expression of “concern” includes the fact that we have American women and men dying for a government that continue to treat when as chattel and defends those of mutilate little girls in the name of morality.
In the meantime, human rights groups have issued a report that the situation for women in Iraq is worse since the United States took over the country.