Meeting with the women of Afghanistan

Posted by Medea -

Sun, Oct 4, 2009

Afghanistan, War Dollars Home

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We started out the day visiting a women’s magazine called Roz. We were amazed at how “risqué” the photos were (we couldn’t read the articles)—women without scarves and with lots of make-up. We asked if they had problems publishing such photos and they said no, but that one time they published a photo of a woman with a sleeveless blouse and that was a problem. The journalists write about everything from fashion to AIDS to profiles of women politicians.

We returned after that to the conference on peace and security between Afghan, Pakistani and Indian women. We videoed several women about their views on the U.S. call for 40,000 more troops. Some women said yes, we need more troops, but most said no—instead train the Afghan military, hold reconciliation talks and put more money into social needs and job problems. We hope the post the responses as youtubes when we get home. We also wrote up a letter to President Obama saying no more troops, and asked the women to sign. The organizer of the conference must get US government money because she freaked out and wouldn’t let us circulate the letter! Instead, we talked to some of the women during the breaks, and many of them signed. (In the evening, Jodie got the wife of Karzai’s brother to sign on!)

Since we are returning tomorrow, we took time to do some shopping along Chicken Street—buying jewelry, shawls, dresses, bedspreads, purses… The shopping break was a nice diversion from all the sitting and talking.

In the afternoon we spent time with two amazing women who were among the main organizers of the protest against the Shia law that would have legalized marital rape and codified the unequal status of women. This was the first protest these women had ever participated in, and they were terrified to face to mullahs and fundamentalists who accused the women of being anti-Muslim. Some were beaten on the day of the march, but they remain strong and determined to keep improving the status of women.

Tonight we had a terrific meal at the home of Karzai’s businessman brother, Mahmoud Karzai, and his wife. The guests included businessmen who had security companies, the president’s first deputy chief of staff (a woman), the president’s economic advisor, journalists, a UN rep and more. We all had great conversations and realized how lucky we were to have, once again, such great access to so many different opinions (at the dinner, someone from our group remarked that back home, it would be like having dinner at the home of Jeb Bush!).

Tomorrow is our last day and we will back it in with more meetings, including university students—something we are all looking forward to.

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