THE NEWS from Afghanistan has been nothing but bad, and every indication is of worse to come. By the end of 2014, the Afghan people will be on their own, as they were in 2001 before the arrival — at local invitation — of British and American forces. Recall that twelve years ago the Islamist dirtbags who constituted the Taliban held Kabul, where they supervised a fanatical program of demodernization and terror punctuated by regularly scheduled mass executions. Imagine trying to re-engineer a nation of the twenty-first century along bronze age specifications, and you’ve got the idea — or, rather, don’t imagine it: the experiment was there before the eyes of anyone who cared to look. Now that the war-weary West has thrown its arms around the convenient fiction that the Taliban are ready for a negotiated re-entry (or is it entry?) to the twenty-first century, let’s review a sample of the bad tidings.
Some weeks ago, Kabul Islamists protested Afghanistan President Karzai’s “Elimination of Violence Against Women” decree, arguing that it was a violation of Sharia to forbid the forced marriage of thirteen year-old girls and the prosecution of rape victims for the crime of adultery (typically a death sentence). The religious protestors of this decree were quite angry that domestic violence against girls and women was to be designated a violation of law, and that the state would ban a traditional practice of exchanging women or girls in the settling of a debt. Even with such laws on the books, however, the jailing and murder of women and girls for offenses against modesty and chastity proceeds in those areas of the country where the warlords have an effective say. The brave Afghan women who stand firm on the principle and practice of women’s rights are often murdered, the killings of Najia Sediqi and Hanifa Safi being only two of many examples.
Also recently in the news was Sahar Gul, the thirteen year-old sold into marriage against her will. (A payment equivalent to $5,000 was made to her step-brother, only one of many bizarre and barbaric details in this thoroughly vile story.) When she refused to consummate the marriage with her thirty-something year-old ‘husband,’ three of her in-laws imprisoned her in a dark basement, where she was submitted over several months to brutal torture and deprivation. Her illegitimate in-laws were imprisoned, until the court overturned their conviction.
Then today came the news that Lt. Islam Bibi, one of Afghanistan’s relatively few female police officers, had been murdered in Helmand Province. Many of the reports noted that she had been physically threatened even by members of her own family for her decision to take a non-traditional role in Afghan society. Today there is one less strong, brave and successful woman in this country — and if the fanatics have their way, the executions will continue until Afghanistan is perfectly beggared. Ignorance, savagery, violence, barbarism, indignity, misery, hate and death are the principal offerings of the Taliban, as they are also of the related Islamic insurgencies across Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Just this week Rimsha Masih, a young girl and former resident of Islamabad, arrived here in Toronto. Charged by a bullying fanatic of desecration, under Pakistan’s score-settling blasphemy laws, she was alleged to have had in her backpack burned pages of the Quran. An eyewitness to the affair says it was a set-up, and the court seems to have agreed. Or perhaps it merely relented after a considerable application of local and international pressure. In either case, Rimsha Masih was released. Her safety required the fleeing of Pakistan, and now she has joined a growing cohort of expatriate girls and women which famously includes Malala Yousafzai — unsuccessfully targeted for murder by the Pakistani Taliban. (The list does not yet include Adela Mohseni, who is attempting to come to Canada after receiving credible death threats for working in Afghanistan with the former Montreal-based Rights and Democracy.)
Once could go on like this for some time, forever underscoring the same point: that religion, and especially the fanatical variants of one particular religion, constitutes the foremost moral, political and civilizational challenge of our age. The world appears to have yielded the battle in Afghanistan, but the war has not ended. It has barely even begun.