British guns for foreign dictators!

Anyone with their finger on the pulse of current affairs will have noticed there’s something quite momentous occurring in other parts of the world: people are rising up and revolting against their dictators. The response of said leaders has ranged from reasonably mild, to all out bloodshed. So it’s heartening to know that Britain is capitalising on the situation by flogging its military wares to oppressive regimes! Shortly after the Egyptian people ousted Mubarak, Cameron popped over to the Middle East with a team of arms salesmen, to promote British hardware and try to flog some more trinkets (ammunition, pepper spray, tear gas, and fire arms) to our friends in the Middle East and North Africa. But don’t worry, Britain has some tough export rules, which ensure that our weapons don’t end up in the wrong hands.

Why We Need Women in War Zones

An excellent article here dealing with Lara Logan’s sexual assault in Egypt.
Women can cover the fighting just as well as men, depending on their courage.

More important, they also do a pretty good job of covering what it’s like to live in a war, not just die in one. Without female correspondents in war zones, the experiences of women there may be only a rumor.

Look at the articles about women who set themselves on fire in Afghanistan to protest their arranged marriages, or about girls being maimed by fundamentalists, about child marriage in India, about rape in Congo and Haiti. Female journalists often tell those stories in the most compelling ways, because abused women are sometimes more comfortable talking to them. And those stories are at least as important as accounts of battles.

There is an added benefit. Ms. Logan is a minor celebrity, one of the highest-profile women to acknowledge being sexually assaulted. Although she has reported from the front lines, the lesson she is now giving young women is probably her most profound: It’s not your fault. And there’s no shame in telling it like it is.

(Thanks, David!)

Do a good deed – suggest some women!

The request below just came up on Philos-L, asking for significant publications and authors on societal forms of violence to list on their website [UPDATE: This is the link that should work in North America]. Their list of the ‘most significant authors in the field’ only includes women at present. So, since they are asking for suggestions, let’s all think of some female authors to suggest (as well as male ones!):

The IOWGT Website publishes the best that has been thought and said on societal forms of violence, establishing a resource for scholars around the world. A typical paper appearing on our website is read by 3000-5000 visitors—attracting more readers in a year than a typical journal publication attracts in a lifetime.

Our website presents writings from some of the most significant authors on these topics, including:

Are there significant publications we are missing—authors whose writings belong on our website? Please convey your suggestions to me

We hope you will use our Website in your research and teaching—and return to it frequently.

Best regards,

Orion Anderson
Editor-in-Chief of the IOWGT Website

Horrific events in the Democratic Republic of Congo

There has been a war in the DCR for many years now. Who is at war changes, but a constant feature of the conflict is the sexual violence perpetrated by soldiers on all sides. Civilians are raped en masse – predominantly women, but also men and children – in what has become a routine practice. Rape is used as a weapon of war to intimidate people who are seen as supporters of the opposing side. The UN has forces stationed in DCR, but has so far failed to stop the awful tide of violence. The most recent reports concern the Walikale region. A coalition of armed militia carried out a series of attacks on civilians in July and August. The UN’s human rights chief said the “scale and viciousness” of the mass rapes “defy belief”. Even for DCR, where such attacks are common, the incident stood out because of the “extraordinarily cold-blooded and systematic way” it was carried out. There is a UN base just 20 miles away from where the attacks took place, but they failed to adequately protect the victims, as the UN has admitted. Now the very same region has suffered another mass raping – this time, it is alleged by UN peacekeepers, the perpetrators were government troops. It goes without saying that these horrendous practices have a terrible effect on the people attacked. There are survivors’ accounts on this BBC site. Thanks to W for the story.

Back to the Future: Afghanistan in 2050

This discussion originally appeared at Chicago Boyz, who this month held a round table on Afghanistan in 2050: an exploration into what the next forty years might look like. It is reposted here with permission of Feminist Philosophers, with many thanks.

A nurse instructs a group of young mothers on post-natal care.

Two women flip through records in the local shop, asking questions of the gentleman who works there.

Young girls laugh in the sunshine as their Girl Scout leader teaches them a song.

This is Afghanistan in 2050; it looks remarkably like Afghanistan in 1950. Men and women walk the streets without fear of death by stoning; women choose to shop with uncovered heads; education is widespread and equally available for all Afghans.


The differences between Afghanistan pre-Taliban and Afghanistan post-Taliban are challenging to conceive. From 1996 until the invasion of the United States in 2001, the world as Afghanistan knew it changed dramatically, and undeniably for the worse. The lot of women under the Taliban’s harsh regime was devastating. But perhaps the greatest hope for Afghanistan in 2050 is to look into its past.


From the ’50’s to the ’70’s, Afghanistan was a largely stable country under the rule of Mohammed Zahir Shah. The King steered his country slowly into modernization, opening it to the West and allowing his subjects greater political freedom. The culture of the time also liberalized, providing social freedoms for both men and women. Notably, women were allowed into the work force, chose whether to cover or uncover their hair and bodies, and had more substantial agency over their own lives.


This, then, is the challenge Afghanistan should undertake: undo the last sixty years of repression and throw as much weight as possible behind the cause of Afghan women. As Afghanistan pushes, and is pushed, towards control of its own destiny over the next four decades, perhaps the best hope for the country’s future lies with its female citizens.

Social freedoms. By endeavoring to return to the mid-twentieth century’s quality of life, Afghanistan sees a greater level of equality between men and women. Women’s lives are not consolidated in the private sphere but are expanded outward into the public sphere. Women take part in public works and enterprises, seek employment and enrichment outside the realm of the family culture, and express their own agency through their fashion, creative efforts, and social choices. Girls have the same access to education as boys, and a majority of young Afghans can expect a secondary education.

Economic reforms. The use of microloans and other economic projects directs capital to Afghan women, encouraging them to engage in private enterprise that dovetails with the social freedoms allowing women more access to the public sphere. Independent economic vitality pushes against political restrictions, building up the political voice and goals of Afghan women in their national and local governments. Political action affects government economic policy, loosening restrictions on female entrepreneurship and providing mechanisms for further investment in local business, including female-run entities. More local business helps to bolster Afghan’s struggling economy, pushing back against revenue from poppy farming and black market timber sales. Afghanistan invests in itself, spurred by its investment in women.

Religious tolerance. Afghanistan is, and will always be, an Islamic state. But as the combination of social and economic reforms changes the relationship of citizens to state, so too does it change the relationship of state to religion. Not unlike Syria or Jordan, Afghanistan gradually reduces the state-based restrictions on its population, particularly its female citizens, moving religious doctrine from the governmental realm to the private realm. Previously imposed restraints on public and private behaviour are eased and individuals gain more self-selection when it comes to how they choose to express their religion.

What I describe here is not a panacea; these changes, should they come, are gradual and slow-moving in nature. Alleviating the quality of life of women in Afghanistan will not solve the country’s many ills in every sector of its society. But these changes are most assuredly a necessity, to answer in part for twenty years of repression, poverty, and hardship.

From the vantage point of 2010, these changes seem very far away. But rather than view these three aspects of Afghan society–social, economic, religious–as unknown progressive leaps forward, I argue instead that Afghanistan should look into its past for frameworks with which to build upon. At one time, Afghanistan grasped each of these aspect of society, and were headed down a path of greater individual freedoms and reforms for its citizens. To meet its future in 2050, Afghanistan and its people must reclaim its 1950 past. Perhaps in four decades we will again see women walking uncovered past women in niqab and know it to be the result of individual choice and freedom.



Karaka Pend is a philosopher by training and a FP junkie by passion. She blogs at Permissible Arms and has an abiding love for the Misfits. Images respectfully pulled from Foreign Policy and the NYT Lens Blog. Many thanks to Feminist Philosophers for allowing me to contribute this post.

Memo to America

Malalai Joya, Afghan politician, has these words to say about the war.

Almost every day, the NATO occupation of our country continues to kill innocent people. Each time, it seems, military officials try to claim that only insurgents are killed, or they completely deny and cover up their crimes. The work of a few courageous journalists is the only thing that brings some of these atrocities to light.

For instance, it was only after the reporting of Jerome Starkey of the Times of London that officials admitted to the brutal Feb. 12 murder of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, and several young men in a night raid at a home where a family was celebrating the birth of a child.
Read More »

Petition to Save Iraqi Academics

Sally has sent us a link to an important petition, which begins:

A little known aspect of the tragedy engulfing Iraq is the systematic liquidation of the country’s academics. Even according to conservative estimates, over 250 educators have been assassinated, and many hundreds more have disappeared. With thousands fleeing the country in fear for their lives, not only is Iraq undergoing a major brain drain, the secular middle class – which has refused to be co-opted by the US occupation – is being decimated, with far-reaching consequences for the future of Iraq.

Already on July 14, 2004, veteran correspondent Robert Fisk reported from Iraq that: “University staff suspect that there is a campaign to strip Iraq of its academics, to complete the destruction of Iraq’s cultural identity which began when the American army entered Baghdad.”

For more, and to sign, go here.

Recognition for Women of Steel

I’ve just been reading about the Women of Steel – women who worked in factories in the UK during Word War II:

it fell to the women of the city to keep the steel mills working and during the course of the conflict, thousands juggled family life with the demands of heavy industry …  But when peacetime came they were unceremoniously dumped from their jobs – their vital role on the home front largely forgotten.

Last week they received recognition for their work from the Ministry of Defence.

 A woman war worker adjusting the tracks on a tank

Dorothy Slingsby, (L) Richard Caborn MP, (2ndL) Kit Sollitt, (3rd L) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, (C) Kathleen Roberts, (3rd R) Veterans Minister Kevin Jones (2nd R) and Ruby Gascoigne (R) pose for a photograph in 10 Downing Street

Court-martial for pregnancy

The BBC writes:

A US Army general in northern Iraq has defended his decision to add pregnancy to the list of reasons a soldier under his command could face court martial…
The male sexual partners of female soldiers who get pregnant would also “face the consequences”, he said.

(Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

A Woman Among Warlords

Malalai Joya is a female member of the Afghan parliament. For a long time now she has been speaking out and campaigning against the warlords that rule Afghanistan, who have the support of the US and their allies. When the Taliban were overthrown seven or so years ago, people in the West were told that things would be better for the Afghan people, especially Afghan women, but this is far from the case. Malalai Joya has now written a book about her experiences. You can read more here.