What does the future hold for Afghan women after the US withdraws?
After more than a decade in Afghanistan, the US is set to withdraw its military presence by the end of next year.
Despite emphasising the importance of the human rights and safety of all citizens in the country, President Obama has not prioritised women’s rights since the invasion in 2001.
The question, posed by Time Magazine in August 2010 with a cover story about a young woman whose nose was chopped off after running away from her abusive husband, was a good one: ”What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan”
It was September 2001 when President Bush declared the war on terror, but it was First Lady Laura Bush who promised in a radio address in November 2001 that: “the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women”.
A sentiment repeated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she declared earlier this year that: “insurgents who want to reconcile in the end must commit to abide by Afghanistan’s constitution and the rights enshrined in it, most particularly women’s rights”
There have been signs of progress recently, after the relatives of a young girl, Sahar Gul, who were found guilty of torturing her, were jailed for ten years.
Sadly, her story remains the exception, rather than the rule.
In March 2012 Human Rights Watch reported that more than 400 women had been imprisoned for “moral crimes”, including ”zina” which means having sex outside of marriage, after being raped or forced into prostitution.
For his part, President Karzai has hedged his bets, at times playing the western diplomatic game by supporting women’s rights; but at others playing to his domestic audience by endorsing an edict that women are secondary to men.
Security is the only issue on the agenda for NATO’s 60-country summit next month. There is no mention of women’s rights.
It does not augur well for the future of women in Afghanistan.