Cupids Health

Sahar Gul, a 15-Year-Old Afghan Girl, Is America’s Pet Rock

From one of the alleged main objectives for the war in Afghanistan to a cumbersome pet rock weighing down our country’s mighty rucksack:

The Bush Administration

“Three years ago, women were viciously oppressed and forbidden to work outside the home, and even denied what little medical treatment was available. Today, women are going to school, and their rights are protected in Afghanistan’s constitution.”
President Bush’s remarks in a press conference with President Karzai of Afghanistan
The Rose Garden, Washington, D.C.
June 15, 2004

“Under the Taliban, women were oppressed, their potential was ignored. Under President Karzai’s leadership, that has changed dramatically. A number of innovative programs designed in collaboration with the Afghan government are increasing the role of women in the private sector.”
President Bush’s remarks in a press conference with President Karzai of Afghanistan
The Rose Garden, Washington, D.C.
June 15, 2004

“In January, Afghans approved a new constitution that protects the right of all Afghan citizens, including women. …they agreed upon a fundamental law that respects tradition and establishes a foundation of modern political rights, including free speech, due process, and a vote for every citizen.”
President Bush’s remarks on Development in Afghanistan
Washington Convention Center
May 18, 2004

“…the women and children in Afghanistan have a much brighter future because we removed a barbaric regime that refused to even educate young girls.”
President Bush’s remarks
Buffalo, New York
April 20, 2004

“Women were given no rights. Young girls did not go to school. It was a barbaric regime. … People are [now] free in that country.”
President Bush’s remarks on Freedom for the People of Afghanistan
Hershey, Pennsylvania
April 19, 2004

“Now the country is changing. There’s women’s rights. There’s equality under the law. Young girls now go to school, many for the first time ever, thanks to the United States and our coalition of liberators.”
President Bush’s remarks on the National Economy
Appleton, Wisconsin
March 30, 2004

“Today, the Taliban regime is gone, thank goodness. Girls are back in class. The amazing accomplishment, though, is that Afghanistan has a new constitution that guarantees full participation by women. The constitution is a milestone in Afghanistan.s history. It’s really a milestone in world history, when you think about it. All Afghan citizens, regardless of gender, now have equal rights before the law.”
President Bush’s remarks on efforts to globally promote women’s human rights
March 12, 2004

“The Afghan people, especially Afghan women, do not miss the bullying and the beatings and the public executions at the hands of the Taliban.”
President Bush’s remarks to the Australian Parliament
Canberra, Australia
October 23, 2003

“The Afghan people face continued struggles in rebuilding their government and the nation. But the days when women were beaten in the streets and executed on soccer fields are over.”
President Bush Presses for Peace in the Middle East
Remarks in Commencement Address at the University of South Carolina
May 9, 2003

Sahar Gul’s Reality

KABUL (Reuters) – A 15-year-old Afghan girl was brutally tortured, beaten and locked in a toilet by her husband’s family for months after she refused to become a prostitute, officials said Saturday.

Sahar Gul was in critical condition when she was rescued from a house in northern Baghlan province last week, after her neighbors reported hearing Gul crying and moaning in pain.

According to police in Baghlan, her in-laws pulled out her nails and hair, and locked her in a dark basement bathroom for about five months, with barely enough food and water to survive.

“She was married seven months ago, and was originally from Badakhshan province. Her in-laws tried to force her into prostitution to earn money,” Rahima Zarifi, head of women’s affairs in Baghlan told Reuters.

Despite progress in women’s rights and freedom since the fall of the Taliban 10 years ago, women throughout the country are still at risk of abduction, rape, forced marriage and being traded as commodity.

However it can be hard for women to escape violent situations at home, because of huge social and sometimes legal pressure to stay in marriages.

Running away from an abusive husband or a forced marriage are considered “moral crimes,” for which women are currently imprisoned in Afghanistan.

Some rape victims have also been imprisoned, because sex outside marriage, even when the woman is forced, is considered adultery, another “moral crime.”

The Obama Adminsitration

Yet while Clinton’s commitment to keeping women front and center is clear, the White House’s interest in deploying political capital on Afghan women’s behalf is far less certain. Women received no mention in Obama’s December 2009 West Point speech announcing the ‘surge’ of 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and the President referred to them only once in last month’s address regarding the withdrawal timeline for those same forces.

Around Washington human rights advocates and policy wags wonder whether Clinton and her State Department have any chance at winning their fight to help women gain a substantive role in the nascent reconciliation process. Does the United States really intend to veto a peace deal that leaves women out and puts the Taliban in, particularly given the eroding public support for the war and the growing desire for a swift Afghanistan exit?

Already there are signs that political realism may trump American ideals. Those familiar with Obama administration thinking say that the White House wants to be able to point to concrete achievements in the country in the run-up to 2012, while wrapping things up in Afghanistan “at any cost” — and that a far more narrow definition of American interests in the region is in the offing.

As one senior administration official told the Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekran, “Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities…There’s no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.”

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