(WOMENSENEWS)–I have just returned from Afghanistan. This was my third trip. I write now because the situation is urgent. I would say this is the most fragile time in Afghanistan I have experienced.
Afghanistan today reminds me of a person who has been seriously ill. She is just beginning to recover. The fever has broken and there are those early moments where she suddenly feels alive.
We know this is the most dangerous time. The energy is still part of the fever itself, a kind of delirium. Now the patient, thrilled with the possibility of living, if not protected, can go wild with activity. This exertion can have deadly consequences. In the case of Afghanistan this somewhat frenzied, disorganized activity comes not just from a momentary recovery–a ceasing of bombs falling–but from a deep panic that the recovery is short lived and not guaranteed and so everything must be done now or it will disappear forever.
Women’s Minister Cannot Travel without Bodyguards
Under the Taliban, Afghanistan was a tortured, ruinously oppressed country, but women in particular knew what to prepare for. They knew how to defend themselves against the madness. They could identify their enemies. They were braced for violence. They had learned how to maneuver in clandestine ways. Now the situation is less clear. There is the pretense of liberation while the ongoing threat of violence can be felt.
For example, at our recent women’s leadership training conference, women who were visionary about the future, felt compelled to still wear burqas. On March 8, there were huge events celebrating International Women’s Day. One event at the Afghan Women’s Union unveiled a statue symbolizing women’s freedom and power. Hundreds attended. A day later the statue was stolen. The Women’s Minister, who in theory is the symbolic representative of Afghan women, cannot move anywhere in the country without bodyguards. Although women are now working to create new businesses, build schools, open hospitals, the majority of the people in Afghanistan still live without heat, electricity or running water.
Having spent time in recent months with Afghan women in Kabul–as well as women and men in Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; the West Bank town of Ramallah; Islamabad, Pakistan and Peshawar, Pakistan–I can say that the Muslim world is highly suspect of the intentions of the U.S. government. It is watching Afghanistan as a test case. If the U.S. does not deliver security, substantial aid and reconstruction, we may never recover the trust of the Muslim world. If we turn our backs on Afghanistan, if we do not fulfill our promises, there is a good chance that the patient will never recover. Nor will she fulfill her dream of a free, safe and prospering Afghanistan. Terrorists are born in the cracks of broken promises.
Playwright Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, is the founder and artistic director of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.
For more information:
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Afghan Women’s Mission: