Uncovering Afghanistan

April 22, 2010
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A woman trapped by her inability to receive a full education must suffer at the hands of her husband. A young boy kidnapped and forced into a frowned upon, yet still thriving sex slave business. A prison where officials can torture, rape, and sexually humiliate any detainee for any reason. A society where media is limited for the sole purpose of limiting the voice of citizens. These are the truths of Afghanistan, truths that must be uncovered for the world to see, motivation for change.

During the Taliban rule, Afghan women had virtually all their rights taken away. Now, according to reports, only about 30% of females in Afghanistan are currently in school. If this is about 100,000 girls, only one third of them will move on to continue their education. 87% of Afghan women are illiterate, unable to read or write. Every woman who wishes to receive an education must take an entering exam to prove they are worthy enough to get this education.

Boys are being kidnapped, being dressed in women’s clothing, being taught dances, and being forced to dance in front of crowds of men, subject to rape and molestation. Reports from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission depict the sad story of a pubescent boy who is forced to learn intricate steps in attempts to please his master and guests, who later rape and abuse him.

Results of research in prisons by the U.S. State Department include reports of beating, torture, and rape as methods against the prisoners. Citizens of the U.S. who have been transported to Afghanistan are no exception to these conditions.

“How can United States and NATO countries ensure or guarantee safe treatment or fair process when those transfers occur. ... Those are issues very much on our minds,” says Michael Posner, the U.S. undersecretary of state for human rights and democracy.

The people of Afghanistan only gained freedom of speech in 2004, and the media continues to be censored, and used for government purposes. 20 Afghan journalists have already been brutally killed for posting things on the web that the Afghan government did not agree with.

Just because Afghanistan is in a post-Taliban state does not mean that the problems created by the Taliban have disappeared. However, things have been done to alleviate Afghanistan of these problems.

The recently adopted constitution of Afghanistan states that “the citizens of Afghanistan- whether man or woman- have equal rights and duties before the law.” So far, women have been able to return to school, and have been given back many of their rights that had been taken away by the Taliban. Of the 265 members of the Ministry of Education, 45-50 are now women, which is a big step up from the previous number of members, zero. Sima Simar, a women previously kicked out of the cabinet, is now the head of the Afghan Human Rights Commission. This organization is trying to fights some of the violations of human rights taking place in Afghanistan.

Other than non-governmental organizations projects, only the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is working on prison improvements. The United Nations is currently spending $2 million over two years on very basic renovation of the detention center in Kabul and three cellblocks of the infamous Pul-e-Charki prison. The United Nations is also providing training to prison staff.

The use of boys as dancers, or Bacha Bazi, is being condoned and eliminated in Northern Afghanistan. There are efforts to free these boys, but it’s hard when the practice is such a taboo subject.

After the collapse of the Taliban, one thing President Hamid Karzai did was declare freedom of the media. A Media Law followed, ensuring that this declaration would be followed. Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission is working as well to create freedom of expression and of media.

Still, after all this, there are still many problems that go untouched. Numerous schools for girls have been burned down and little girls have been poisoned for daring to go to school. Bacha Bazi is still common in the south of Afghanistan as well as in the capital, Kabul. If thought about, $2 million on improving prison conditions does not nearly cover the amount needed to make drastic changes to all the prisons in Afghanistan. Also, though freedom of speech and media was declared, it was also stated in the Media Laws that no one has the right to write anything against “national interest”, a controversial statement that can be twisted to form loopholes.

Afghanistan can never be in the 21st century while these problems still exist. It’s clear to me that we are only scratching the surface, and many more action will need to be taken.

I think the biggest thing to improve upon is public awareness. If you can alert the world of what is going on, including the taboo things like Bacha Bazi, that brings Afghanistan one step closer to getting the help it needs. Within Afghanistan, I think these issues need to be addressed as well. These actions are only socially acceptable if the society accepts them. If it is known that these violations are not in the least bit okay, people will be willing to help speed up the process of change.

I think women should be offered self defense classes, equal job opportunities, and free education. I think Bacha Bazi should be ended, I think the prison conditions should be improved, and I think everyone deserves the right to free speech. However, these changes can only be brought around once the world can see that they are needed.





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