Friday, April 24, 2009

Afgan women protest for their rights

The story of women protesting in Afganistan a week or so ago is a bit old now but it's still worth mentioning. I brought up in my recent post about honor killings that within cultures and regions in which abuse of human rights is common (particularly fundamentalist Islamic communities), especially against women, there is a serious need for some lifestyle reflection that will ideally lead to respectful values shifts. It's no longer tolerable in the 21st century to rape and beat women (who knows why it ever was), and disturbingly to integrate those rather obvious injustices into a legel system. Because, we as the human race, have not quite moved beyond those regretable acts, action must be taken to demonstrate that people wont just sit down and accept systems that are abusive and cause immense suffering. In Martin Luthor King's famous "Letter from a Britmingham Jail", he speaks out against what he calls unjust laws and prescribes civil disobedience as the wakeup call for society to realize its errors and hopefully right them in the future. In a society where women are normally quite subservient to men, when a group of 300 women march through the streets of the capital and reject what they believe is an unjust law, that's a very powerful act.

The story goes, that a law was passed recently by Afganistan's two houses of parliament and even signed by President Hamid Karzai, that fobids women of the Shiite Islamic sect from rejecting the sexual advances of their husbands. Basically the law made legal spousal-rape. Second and third provisions of the law called for Shiite women to be prohibited from leaving their own home without the permission of a male relative and forceed the women to dress up any time their husband so requested. Seems worth protesting to me.

So this group of women braved a counter-protest crowd, reportedly more than three times the size of their own group, to criticize the law and repudiate its grounding in the Islamic scriptures. The women took a solid analytical look at the human rights aspect and the religious aspect of the law and found it to be based on pure fantasy. In reponse, they were met by a violent mob that threw stones and shouted "Whores!" at them. Not exactly a scholarly response. Simply exclaiming "Allah Akbar" is not a legitimate argument in the present time when the issue of human rights is on the table. The counter-protest was based purely on emotion, it made little or no attempt that I could discern to refute the fact that this new law had no basis in Islam. There should be more to the Koran than simply memorizing it, and reciting it. It must be interpreted as a guide to living a kind and honest life. The calls must be heeded that suggest a modern reading of the Koran that encourage spiritual living and allow for equality and prosperity. Put your fist in the air. The more these issues are covered by the media the more they must be confronted by the offending societies and the greater the pressure will be to reform. These few hundred women have performed a courgaeous act and hopefully their brave example will be followed, emulated, until values shift and freedom is realized.

I first came across the protest story on a new political photoblog I discovered called BAGnewsNotes. The site is a prolific commentary on American and global political affairs focused on the images that accompany them. Check it out, I mean, what could be better than politics and photography together? Its quite a happy family.

This New York Times link should be checked out too, it has a great video from the protest. Afgan Women Protest New Law on Home Life

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