By Nada Khader
It has been heartbreaking to watch over the past few weeks scenes of desperation amongst ordinary Afghan civilians who are horrified to see the Taliban back in power in their beloved country. The younger generation in the capital city Kabul had grown up with freedom of movement, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of dress and the right to an education that are all now being rolled back in a regressive and hostile environment.
The founder of Prout, Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, explains how Afghanistan played an important role in the development of Tantra and the Indo Aryan civilization, the spread of the Sanskrit language and the contributions made by the historical figure Shiva to world culture.
Sarkar was adamant that women enjoy equal status in all societies. He spoke of a world constitution that protects the rights of all people and a world government that protects and enforces these rights so that no one would ever need to flee their hometown for fear of persecution or for fear that their rights would be snatched away by regressive forces. In the West, we need to recognize that we have these regressive forces, sometimes hidden in our midst and that the struggle for equality and self-determination requires our vigilance both at home and abroad.
Afghanistan has a long history of strong, powerful and spiritually elevated women. Afghan women were part of a dynamic process in their country in the 20th Century to wage a battle for the implementation of their full rights and equal status. Afghan women were able to vote a full year before women in the United States earned their suffrage rights in 1919. The king at that time, Amanullah Khan, was keen to modernize the nation. He also banned child marriage, allowed women to choose their own spouses and guaranteed secular education. The 1964 Afghan constitution went further to guarantee women the right to participate in political and public life. In 1977, under the leadership of Meena Kamal, the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) was created and remains very active today inside Afghanistan, albeit underground due to the oppressive and abusive policies of the Taliban. They cannot openly identify their leaders.
RAWA has made very clear in their communiqués that the presence of foreign troops in their nation, whether British, Soviet or American, is not a solution to their crises. The Taliban were previously a more fringe force in their society but rose to prominence after the American government decided that they would support them with Saudi money and Pakistani intelligence in the proxy war in Afghanistan in the 1980s against the Soviets during the “Cold War”.
RAWA also informs us that imposing international sanctions against the Taliban regime will also hurt the ordinary people of Afghanistan. Sanctions very often are used as a tool of war and can be defined as an act of war against another nation, especially if a world power such as the United States is levelling the sanctions against another state. Due to the banking crisis that has erupted in the past month, as well as the thousands of displaced people and also due to women being forced to stay home, there is an emerging humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. RAWA asks that we lobby to ensure that humanitarian corridors remain open to allow aid to reach desperate families.
These women state clearly that supporting the Northern Alliance or any of the competing warlords in Afghanistan is also not a solution. There has been far too much bloodshed in the past century and much of it lies at the hands of foreign intervention and meddling. These women are also clear that there can be no military response to global terror. Extremist ideologies need to be rooted out by replacing them with progressive universal values of tolerance, compassion and cooperation. RAWA also seeks to help implement an economic system that truly helps their country folk to become independent from outside powers and to lift Afghanis out of poverty.
So what are some concrete steps that we can take to help our sisters in Afghanistan? One step that I took last month was to reach out to a young female professional in Kabul who has never left her country. I invited her to present to my local social justice community in New York. She was delighted with the invitation of friendship and solidarity. We also helped to connect her with international resources. Keeping the lines of communication open is one concrete way of offering our solidarity, especially as we have so many global communication platforms available to us. Of course, we can also fundraise to help organizations like RAWA as well as share their announcements to our networks. In short, I have been thinking so much of our human family in Afghanistan. They have such a rich history and a very beautiful country. I hope we can visit them in the near future in a land that is liberated from all forms of oppression and exploitation.