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LAT: The War for Afghanistan's Women

Author: Malcolm Potts
August 23, 2009


In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Malcolm Potts argues that Afghanistan will turn into a failed state if Afghan women remain "enslaved" in the nation's patriarchal society.

There are two wars going on in Afghanistan. One is to defeat the Taliban, and that war is not going well. The other is to liberate women, and that war has hardly begun. If the first war is won but the second is lost, Afghanistan will turn into a failed state -- a caldron of violence and misery, home to extremism and totally outside the Western orbit of influence.

Last week's election, however imperfect, is welcome, but it means little as long as women remain enslaved in this patriarchal, tradition-bound culture. In most of the country, a woman needs her husband's permission to leave her home. Domestic violence is tragically common. Indeed, the government elected in 2004 passed, and President Hamid Karzai signed into law, legislation legalizing marital rape. Older men use their wealth and power to marry young women. In April, according to news reports, when a teenage Afghan girl called Gulsima eloped with a boy her own age instead of marrying an older man, she and the boyfriend were shot to death in front of the mosque in the southwest province of Nimrod.

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