Problems in Kabul’s Missing Persons Office (political cartoon)

Crossposted from Town Called Dobson

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One thing I find remarkable is the plantation owners of colonial America never stumbled on the idea of burqas for their slaves. Instead, the Klan wore them.

However, they still seem to be in heavy use in Afghanistan almost six years after America invaded the nation in an effort to drive out the Taleban.

Chicago Tribune's Kim Barker has a great story on this issue.

Sharifa Hamrah does not go to work much anymore. Her job is just too dangerous, considering the rocket attacks, the threats on her life and the would-be suicide bomber who disguised himself as a woman in an attempt to get to her office.

She is no soldier. She carries no gun. Yet Hamrah, 48, a short woman with a sly smile and a head scarf, has become an unwilling participant in a war, a potential target like the other women who work for the Women's Affairs Ministry in Afghanistan.

"Our problem is we cannot go out," said Hamrah, who is head of women's affairs in troubled southern Paktika province but spends much of her time in Kabul. "We cannot go to the districts. We cannot go to the villages. We cannot talk to village elders. We cannot even talk to women."

This is the same old thing that was going on before the U.S. invasion. The Taleban had outlawed skin care products, comic books, or damn near everything you can buy at a Wal Mart. Women could not be seen in public and if they were, the penalty was death, typically by stoning. They had to wear a burqa to comply with the law. Men got off easy, they were not allowed to shave.

Now, women have more freedom, more jobs. In the streets of Kabul, many women have stopped wearing burqas, favoring business jackets, long skirts and head scarves. They work in government offices. More than 25 percent of the parliamentary seats are reserved for women.

But one outspoken female lawmaker sleeps in a different house every night or two, to make sure her enemies cannot find her. Only one out of 25 Cabinet ministers is a woman--and she runs the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Of the 4,600 teachers in Afghan colleges, only 600 are women. The head of women's affairs in the troubled southern province of Zabul won a chance to go to India for training; her husband, a doctor, forbade it.


In the last two months, insurgents have left two leaflets threatening Hamrah. She said police have warned her four times of potential suicide bombers. In December, a man, hidden under a burqa, tried to get in to see Hamrah. Police searched him because his high-pitched voice sounded fake, Hamrah said. The man was strapped with explosives. He was arrested and the bombs were defused.

"They've said they can easily kill me," Hamrah said. "Why should I doubt them? They killed the secretary of the governor. They killed the provincial judge. They killed many people."

Bush's failure isn't only in Iraq. Bush's failure isn't limited to equal rights in America or Kabul. Bush has failed at everything.