Monday, December 11, 2006

Good News and Bad News From Afghanistan

There is both good news from Afghanistan and bad news. The BBC published an encouraging report on Herat on 12/5/06. Herat has had five years of relative calm since the fall of the Taliban, whereas the Taliban have been gaining strength in Pakistan and southern and eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban were never accepted here. This is a Persian speaking city (the Afghans call their dialect "Dari"), and mainly Shi'ite, so the Taliban had no use for the local population. The Taliban spoke Pushtu and the widespread use of Urdu among them emphasized that their roots were really Pakistan rather than Afghanistan. Now that they are gone schools for girls are no longer banned, television is available, music is now again part of every day affairs. People wear clothes, jeans. Medical care is better: women doctors and nurses can work now. "There are a lot of private clinics and labs with relatively sophisticated diagnostic machines. Health facilities have been opened up in remote areas." Even so, many women are still wearing the burka - preferring to remain covered to avoid insults from the men.

But the BBC has also published a report on suicide among Afghan women. "Driven to desperation by forced marriages and abusive husbands, more and more are seeking release through self-immolation." Such a painful way to die - and some survive: we wonder what kind of world they will be able to live in now. Jealousy, forced marriages, a culture that permits domestic violence, and the hardships of living in a society broken by war - these
are the sources of the despair of young women seeking to destroy themselves.

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