Update: Representatives from the Afghan Women’s Network will now be in attendance at Bonn. Click here to sign a position demanding that Hillary Clinton and the U.S. Delegation to the Bonn Conference support the demands of the Network.
On December 5, less than two weeks from now, the second conference on Afghanistan will convene in Bonn, ten years after the first one installed the Karzai government. It will include all the usual suspects—Afghan governmental bodies, foreign governments, and representatives of Afghan civil society—with one big exception. Despite some pressure—who can say how much?—from the State Department, and the clear and cogent demands put forth by the Afghan Women’s Network, no Afghan women’s groups or representatives have been invited. As Human Rights Watch points out, “The Afghan government’s key donors and facilitators of the conference, including Germany and the United States, do not appear to have made women’s rights a priority for the meeting.” This is despite Hillary Clinton’s promise not to abandon Afghan women, and the fact that support from the German Greens—who are members of the government—helped build the Afghan Women’s Network.
When you consider that the Taliban’s treatment of women was a pretext for this war, these facts are staggering, if not surprising. The recent broadcast of “Peace Unveiled” on PBS’s Women, War, & Peace series shows the kind of opposition Afghan women activists are up against and how unreliable U.S. support for them appears. It’s an important program and series, very much worth watching, and all the episodes can be viewed online.
Despite all the talk about UN resolution 1325, people in the United States, even most feminists, have not focused on this problem. I wrote a post last July saying how important it was to support the demands of the Afghan Women’s Network. To my surprise, I was asked if I wanted the war to go on forever—as if the only two choices were between endless war and betraying Afghan women.
To accept this is to accept the idea that the only meaningful form of U.S. action is military. President Karzai (who changes his tune frequently) has been all over the papers saying how much he wants a continued alliance with the United States, meaning we should keep giving him lots of money. Are we to put no conditions on this aid, let human rights go out the window, and, in the name of respecting cultural differences, keep financing a corrupt regime with an attitude toward women and gays barely different from the Taliban’s?
Could the Obama administration show a little principle here? A little backbone?
Those interested in learning more about this story should read Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s article posted earlier this week in Foreign Policy called “Afghan women are not ‘pet rocks’” (referring to a dismissive remark by a State Department official). Let’s try to generate some pressure here.
Cross-posted from Meredith Tax’s blog