Afghan feminists

The Guardian has an interesting article about the difficulties faced by Afghan feminists, in their bid to secure basic rights for women. It talks mainly of one feminist group – the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan – which the government sees as a dangerous group, plotting some kind of Maoist coup. In fact, RAWA are involved in delivering literacy classes to women, campaigning for more freedoms, and running orphanages for female children. You can read more here.

7 thoughts on “Afghan feminists

  1. Well, RAWA is frequently political as well, though those politics are mostly voiced in the West. And for a nation that struggles with providing its male citizens with basic political rights, I don’t think it’s that shocking to understand that the government (such as it is) views them as a threat.

    In general I think that the work RAWA’s doing is important, but the Guardian soft-balled the political realities of Afghanistan in a post-Taliban government in favour of a Western feminist lens to make their case stronger.

  2. What do you want to know? In the 20th century Afghanistan pre-Taliban (so we’re talking up to the late 1970’s) had a much more progressive attitude towards women and the restriction of women’s rights, though it still wasn’t comparable even to Iran or other more Westernized states in the region. With the advent of the Taliban, though, more archaic rules were put in place that reinforced the hiding of women from public sight. This had a pretty evident deleterious effect on the female population of the country, because it prevented not only their acting in politics but also their ability to even come together as groups to talk about politics.

    In the eight years since the Taliban were ousted from government, a lot of progress has been made, but it’s going to be some time (if ever) before Afghanistan will return to its 1970’s level of women’s freedoms. Granted, Afghan women have the right to vote, but that’s largely because that right was conditional on ISAF/US support for overseeing the election process.

    So in that context, RAWA is several steps ahead of what the country’s own regression of women’s rights and freedoms allow, and as such are considered an anti-government force by a central government that can barely keep management on its citizens as is, and can’t even draw census data on large swathes of the country.

  3. Ok – but I took all of that from the article. I had read you as suggesting that RAWA were a more extreme political group than the Guardian had led us to believe, and they had emphasized RAWA activities that Western feminists would be sympathetic to. But perhaps that wasn’t what you meant at all.

  4. No, I meant only that RAWA is viewed as an existential threat to the central government of Afghanistan’s politics, and that the fight they conduct with words strikes a chord with Western feminists without really taking into account the realities of Afghan society in a post-Taliban context.

    I don’t think they’re particularly extreme in a Western context; but I think they become very radical in an Afghan context.

  5. The original post implies that RAWA’s activities are not a threat to the government and so Karaka’s response seems necessarily corrective. However it’s not fair to call the original view the western feminist view point. It is also not fair to then go on to accuse as all of the habit of bad faith.

  6. I didn’t mean to imply that they’re not a threat to the current government, and hadn’t realised Karaka had read the post in that way. Insofar as the current government is committed to denying rights to women, RAWA do threaten the current regime. What they’re not, however, is a Maoist group planning a coup. The article I linked to claims that’s how they’re seen by the Afghan government. The post was supposed to be drawing attention to the way in which a group that’s fighting for what seem like very basic rights for women can be seen as so threatening.

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