Burqas Are Back
September 12, 2006 - 11:57am ET
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Remember how the Bush administration almost sounded feminist when lamenting Afghan women’s rights after its invasion of Afghanistan? By 2002, all Americans knew what a burqa was—as it became the worldwide symbol for women’s oppression in fundamentalist Islamic society. Even the First Lady worked to publicize the persecution of women under the Taliban. Then about late 2002 or so, Bush’s campaign to swaddle Afghan women in the cloak of freedom was derailed by a campaign to liberate some other people—Iraqis.
After the White House’s attention turned to toppling Saddam Hussein, the plight of Afghan women returned to its usual status—a cause championed only by women’s rights groups. But now, with the Global War On Terror failing and the White House desperate to show success, the oppression of women is again a trotted out as a measure of progress or a rationale to continue the ambiguous fight.
Commemorating 9/11 in Canada yesterday, Condoleezza Rice touted the advances made in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion, specifically citing the fact that women can now pursue education. What she didn’t announce is how difficult the resurgence of the Taliban there has made that pursuit. According to an article in today’s Independent :
...there is a concerted—armed—campaign to keep such children away from school. Education— particularly that of girls—is associated with the often-hated government and the occupying Western forces.
In last night’s speech, Bush deplored the treatment of women under what he calls radical Islam, saying: “…we have learned that their goal is to build a radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes.”
As the midterm elections grow nearer and the administration turns up the volume on its war against freedom haters in the Middle East, expect the status of women in Islamic societies, and Afghanistan in particular, to be used more frequently as a prop meant to show the administration's deep concern. And keep in mind the reality: that the Bush administration never gave Afghanistan the attention or the resources to rebuild after the invasion that would deliver the security and economic opportunities Afghan women—indeed, all Afghanis—need.
Recently, the United Nations called the situation of women in Afghanistan a "crisis." Just yesterday, the Feminist Majority Foundation issued an action alert calling on Congress to focus on the security of Afghan women, including passing a bill to help Afghan women and girls. Giving the lie to the Bush administration's hand-wringing over the status of Afghan women, the alert notes that the bill has yet to sign up a single Republican sponsor.
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