Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, from August 12 to August 18, was compiled by Valerie Wirtschafter, Dara Jackson-Garrett, and Ariella Rotenberg.
Two women make history as first-ever to graduate from Army Ranger School
In a history-defining moment, two women will be the first-ever to graduate from Army Ranger School. The women began Ranger School in April as part of a one-time, trial class of nineteen women and 381 men. Ninety-six will graduate and earn the coveted Ranger tab on Friday. Due to current combat restrictions, the two women will be the only ones in their class who are ineligible to try out for the 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite Special Operations force. However, by January 1, 2016, the Secretary of Defense will decide whether to open all combat positions to women or provide justification for seeking an exemption. The women graduating Ranger School—and others who served on the battlefield before it was even a national conversation—bolster the case for women in combat. As retiring Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno noted, “The women in Ranger School are another example of, if they can meet the standard, they should be able to go, and they should be able to earn their Ranger tab…and I think that’s how we want to operate as we move forward.”
Islamic State uses sexual slavery as a recruiting strategy
A little over a year ago the Islamic State kidnapped an estimated three thousand Yazidi women and girls in an attack on the villages of the Yazidi people, a small religious minority group in northern Iraq. A recent New York Times article details the harrowing experiences of these enslaved Yazidi women and girls. Sexual violence against kidnapped women and girls has become a brutal tactic of terror and an integral part of the infrastructure of the Islamic State. They are treated like goods, to be sold, traded, and bought, and are used to attract new recruits, generate revenue, weaken community structures, and consolidate power.
Afghan legal panel asks for a retrial in the Farkhunda death case
In March 2015, a mob of men in the streets of Kabul beat and lynched a young, female Islamic scholar named Farkhunda Malikzada. Falsely accused by the mob of defying Islam by burning pages of the Quran, the brutal murder was caught on film and her death sent shock waves throughout Afghanistan. Of the forty-nine men put on trial for her murder, eight were given a sixteen-year sentence and four were sentence to death – though most of these were commuted through a series of secret appeals. After a month of angry demonstrations, President Ashraf Ghani commissioned a panel to review the trial. The panel’s preliminary findings suggest that it will recommend a retrial for those who participated in her death, this time with a defense attorney present. Though Farkhunda has officially been declared a martyr, no legal changes have been introduced to protect women in Afghanistan.