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Women Are Setting Themselves On Fire In Afghanistan

According to a new report, "self-immolation is being used by increasing numbers of Afghan women to escape their dire circumstances."

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While the Afghan defense ministry assures the world press that "all international conventions on prisoners' rights would be implemented" once it gets control of Bagram, the many reports of arbitrary arrest, torture, and other ill-treatment by Afghan security forces suggest otherwise. In fact, there is nothing very trustworthy about either the Afghan government or its US/NATO backers, who have averted their eyes from anything that would besmirch the credentials of their war purposes in Afghanistan.

This leads the leaders of the Western alliance to some pretty strange places. Take Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Talking to interviewers for the French-language television network TVA about the many reports that prisoners captured by Canadian forces and turned over to Afghani authorities were tortured, even killed, Harper said:

"We are speaking here of a problem among Afghans. It's not a problem between Canadians and Afghans. We're speaking of problems between the government of Afghanistan and the situation in Afghanistan. We are trying to do what's possible to improve that situation, but it's not in our control."

For Harper, the system of transferring prisoners to the Afghans "works very well," though he admits there are "problems from time to time." As an example of some of these problems, read the over 40 redacted emails sent from former Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin to then-Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay alleging the torture of detainees transferred by Canadians to Afghan prisons.

While trumpeted as a blow against the idea of turning Bagram into a second Guantanamo, the likelihood is that things will not get any better for the 700 plus prisoners at the US facility there. Nor does it speak to the ongoing management by Special Operations forces of a black site prison, also on the Bagram Air Base. US Special Operations forces are granted special privileges to hold prisoners in indefinite detention. Evidence of torture at the SO black site prison, published in both The New York Times and The Washington Post last November, has not produced any follow-up in terms of Congressional hearings or further investigations. Instead, the handover of the Department of Defense's primary Bagram detention site appears likely to even further reduce oversight and investigation into the plight of prisoners there, once under Afghan jurisdiction, as the promises of the Afghanistan government are not to be trusted.

Meanwhile, the propaganda from Washington continues unabated. "Surge turning tide against Taliban, says McChrystal," blared ABC news on Monday. But no amount of propaganda is going to fill up the moral bog that is the US war in Afghanistan. Whether its targeted assassinations, leading to rounds and never-ending rounds of assassination and bombings, as at Khost, or the counterinsurgency attacks that target school-age children, as at Ghazi Khan, the campaign in Afghanistan has nowhere to go but down.

Even its vaunted aim of improving the lives of Afghan women is proven to be a lie. As a statement by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) reported recently:

The US "War on terrorism" removed the Taliban regime in October 2001, but it has not removed religious fundamentalism which is the main cause of all our miseries. In fact, by reinstalling the warlords in power in Afghanistan, the US administration is replacing one fundamentalist regime with another. The US government and Mr. Karzai mostly rely on Northern Alliance criminal leaders who are as brutal and misogynist as the Taliban....

Last month, Malalai Joya, a former member of the Afghan parliament, told Michelle Goldberg of the Daily Beast that the situation for Afghan women is every bit as bad under Karzai as it was under the Taliban. Joya is also concerned that civilian casualties are fueling popular support for the Taliban.