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Policy Against Terrorism Begins with Human Rights

Today, at the White House, supporters of R.E.A.L. will be asking U.S. President Obama and Afghanistan President Karzai to reconsider the planned discussions on “reintegration” and “reconciliation” of Taliban supremacists in Afghanistan, including suggestions to allow them to return to the police and armed forces.

The reason that the United States of America is in Afghanistan today is because of the September 11 attacks on America by Al-Qaeda terrorists, with the Afghanistan Taliban providing a safe haven for such terrorist training and plots to kill thousands of Americans.  The  statutory reason that the United States is in Afghanistan is based on the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which gives vague terms around what the American military can do in response to those associated with the 9/11 attacks.

But if we have learned anything from the 9/11 attacks, it is that there are those in the world who deliberately and consciously seek to reject our unqualified, universal human rights.  There are those who reject our freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  There are those who reject a pluralist society that respects our differences, but ensures our unity in an omniculture of universal human rights.

Any foreign or domestic policies that ignore human rights and that ignore women’s rights (half of humanity) are bad decisions, and directions that we will not support.

We have seen a steady stream of HATE against women in Afghanistan, some of it by the Taliban, and some of it by the Afghanistan government.  Such hate begins with a conscious and deliberate rejection of our unqualified, universal human rights.  Such hate and rejection of human rights is the same root cause of terrorist tactics whether they are domestic or international.  This is what American and Afghanistan government policy must first address.

On May 6, 2010, another Taliban attack on government office resulted in the death of an Afghan woman.   Recently, a woman was murdered in Kandahar as she left work.  Women’s rights activist Roona Tahrin regularly gets death threats in Afghanistan, and another women’s rights activist was murdered a year ago. On April 24, 2010, girl’s schools in Kunduz province was attacked with poison gas, sending nearly 90 girls to the hospital.  On May 4, 2010, there was another poison gas attack on a girl’s school in Kabul, putting another 20 girls in the hospital.  Then once again, on May 11, 2010, there was yet another poison gas attack on girl’s schools in Kunduz and Kabul, with so many girls coming into the hospital a doctor told Reuters that they couldn’t give an accurate count of those affected.

So when Afghanistan President Karzai repeatedly calls for talks and negotiations with the supremacist Taliban, it is understandable why some women’s rights activists ask who is the “good Taliban,” why other women’s rights activists feel women’s rights are being forgotten, and why other women state that Afghan President Karzai is “failing women.”

But the rejection of human rights for women and others goes beyond the Taliban.  The Taliban are a reflection of such hate also found in the Afghanistan government and society.

In March 2010, Reuters reported on Afghan girls who have been imprisoned in Kabul for the “crime”  of avoiding forced marriages and “moral crimes.”  Reuters also reports on one 16 year old girl “sold, raped and jailed, a girl faces Afghan justice” – a girl raped while incarcerated. The United Nations has repeatedly warned about that violence, abuse, and rape of women is “widespread” in Afghanistan, it warns about how women are bought and sold in Afghanistan, and it warns about “a culture of impunity that leaves such crimes unpunished.”  Just a year ago, the Afghanistan government sought to pass a bill legalizing marital rape for Shiite Muslims; an “amended version” permitting starvation of women was quietly passed in August 2009.  One cleric, Mohammad Asif Mohseni, told the media that such rape was defended as part of Afghanistan “democratic rights,” and asked “”Westerners claim that they have brought democracy to Afghanistan. What does democracy mean?”

In the United States, our government leaders apparently cannot answer that question.  Richard Holbrooke complains that Americans should not expect a “perfect democracy” in Afghanistan.  The U.S. has provided a graphic (see larger size) that illustrates its “strategy” in Afghanistan.   Notably, it is not centered on human rights or women’s rights.


In Afghanistan, Americans must ask where is the policy for human rights?  Where is the policy to address the root causes of terrorism?

What are we fighting for?

Human rights and women’s rights are not an afterthought, not a marginal issue for human peace, and certainly not inconsequential in addressing the ideological basis for terrorism tactics.

We will have no security without human rights.   We will have no security without women’s rights.

We will have no conscience if we abandon the Afghanistan women to hate, misogyny, violence, and yes – the TERRORISM –  of the Taliban and those who view women as less than human beings.

When we abandon the victims of terrorism, we enable terrorists ourselves.

Choose Love, Not Hate.  Love Wins.

Afghanistan: Girls recovering from poison gas attack (Photo: Reuters/Mohammad Ishaq)

Afghanistan: Girls recovering from poison gas attack (Photo: Reuters/Mohammad Ishaq)