With the fall of Afghanistan, will we recognize who suffers the most?
As Afghanistan fell with astonishing speed, I couldn’t help but feel despair for Afghan women and girls. They will suffer the most under Taliban rule. I say this after reading three powerful books depicting life under Taliban rule.
The first two were written by Khaled Hosseini. Born in Kabul, Hosseini moved to the United States in 1980. His 2003 novel, The Kite Runner, tells the story of Amir, a man who lives in the West but grew up in Afghanistan before war tore the country apart. First it was the Soviets, then the Taliban.
Both rule by violence, but Taliban rule is especially fierce against women and girls. They’re barred from leaving home. They are essentially prisoners inside their own homes. Women (and girls) can’t leave home without a male companion. Women can’t hold a job. They’re not able to get educated. They can’t represent the country in the government.
Hosseini’s 2008 novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, depicts the obstacles and dangers faced by the book’s two female protagonists when the Taliban took over. Like his first book, everyday life in Afghanistan becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, rape, forced marriage, sexual slavery, terror. It’s beyond grim for women and girls.
Last but not least is Reading Lolita in Tehran. Although set in Iran (not Afghanistan), it tells the same tale of Islamic terror against women. It’s a true story, told by Azar Nafisi, an educator, who secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics every Thursday morning.
These women came from all sorts of backgrounds—religious (or not), progressive, conservative, and so on. The attraction was how their life stories meaningfully intertwined with the novels they were reading by Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. Much more meaningful than the Islamic books they were forced to read.
I share all this because the past four US administrations have talked a lot about Islamic women having equal rights and making Afghanistan a modern democratic country. But all four administrations seem to been clueless as to what gave rise to these rights. They’re in the Western classics that Nafsi’s female students secretly read every Thursday morning.
But they’re AWOL from what Kabul University offered. That’s because Congress and private advocacy groups got into the act. Under their aegis, Kabul University opened a master’s degree program in gender studies. Gay Pride flags floated in the Afghan skies. Now everyone associated with these movements is fleeing for their lives. Thanks, Washington.
Speaking of Washington, I’m sure Nancy Pelosi’s stern warning comforted those fleeing for their lives. “We are deeply concerned about reports regarding the Taliban’s brutal treatment of all Afghans, especially women and girls,” she said. “Any political settlement that the Afghans pursue to avert bloodshed must include having women at the table. The fate of women and girls in Afghanistan is critical to the future of Afghanistan. “We must recognize that their voices are important, and all must listen to them for solutions, respectful of their culture,” Pelosi stated.
How quaint. How DC-like. I’m sure Pelosi made the Taliban quake in its boots.
My hunch is Pelosi is betting that most Americans will forget who most likely suffers with the fall of Afghanistan. It sure won’t be us. It’ll be women and girls. But our forgetfulness makes a mockery of all our western babble about women’s rights worldwide.