Guest Post By Katherine Tiedemann: Six Shelters


Katherine Tiedemann is a policy analyst at the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program.
The everyday lives of Afghanistan’s some 16 million women are often forgotten or overlooked in the morass that is US involvement in Afghanistan. The news cycle revolves around helicopter crashes, numbers of Western troops being sent to the country, and US military fatality body counts – all critical issues to be sure, significant in justifying the US presence in the region and understanding the security conditions there.
But a gripping, somewhat out of the ordinary piece in today’s Los Angeles Times caught my eye. The piece details in forceful language the sad stories that come out of the few women’s shelters in Afghanistan. David Zucchino writes:

Women have virtually no options in Afghan tribal culture. It would be scandalous for a woman to live alone or pursue a job on her own. They are dependent on men for food, clothing, shelter and status — and often must give up their children when seeking divorce. Girls have to be at least 16 to get married, but the law is widely ignored. Most women who reach the shelter are…old enough and bold enough to dare to escape; often they flee to police stations or a local human rights group.
Traditionally, police returned abused women to their husbands. But since “family response units” staffed by female officers were established in some police stations in 2006, police in Kabul have been more willing to steer women to shelters. Still, police in rural areas routinely return abused women to their husbands, rights groups say…
Most abused Afghan women never reach shelters. Some commit suicide, occasionally by self-immolation. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has documented six such cases a month this year, a fraction of the total in a country where such tragedies are rarely reported, especially in rural areas.

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan recently released a detailed report on violence against women in Afghanistan whose table of contents alone jerks at my heartstrings: sections include “When tradition suppresses women’s voices; impact on women’s professional lives; is rape a crime in Afghanistan?; when injustice becomes the norm.”
The report’s recommendations are admirable – but my cynical side has to ask how realistic it is to expect the government of Afghanistan to take actions like “adopt[ing] and implement[ing] affirmative action laws and policies aimed at redressing the current gender-imbalance.”
But we should also listen to Afghan women, as Robert Greenwald pointed out yesterday. Providing refuge for battered women in Afghanistan is one way to help, as the some 750 women who have sought refuge in the privately-funded Family Guidance Center in Kabul have shared.
But there are 1,637 domestic violence shelters in the United States – for some 150 million women – and only six to cover Afghanistan’s 16 million women. For those doing the division, that’s one shelter per every some 90,000 US women and one per every 2.7 million Afghan women – clearly there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Let’s hope Karzai’s government keeps “trying to address women’s rights“.
— Katherine Tiedemann


11 comments on “Guest Post By Katherine Tiedemann: Six Shelters

  1. Marilyn Tiedemann says:

    Women in the U.S. are just as easily abused. Some husbands (and outside family members) remove the wives from all the bank accounts and control all the money, so the women cannot get legal help to get free. The abusive husbands brainwash the wives by telling them they “don’t matter.” Some are so twisted that they tell the wives to commit suicide. They beat and strangle them in front of the children. They belittle the mothers to the children, which is child abuse. The children become so brainwashed that they do not realize they are victims. When/if the mothers ever escape, they are strong survivors who tell of their lives in captivity as a warning to others. The fathers/abusers never change. They hide and lie to themselves and the world forever.


  2. Tramadol says:

    Does anyone doubt that the Soviet Empire would have fallen anyway and that its satellites in Eastern Europe would be just as free today as they are?


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  4. David says:

    Carter, I assume on Brzenski’s advice, made a horrible mistake in Afghanistan, but not because he was weak, but rather because he was a POTUS trying to fulfill the warrior king role Americans demand of their presidents. The consequences of his decision are as described, but the general characterization of Carter, especially contemporary Jimmy Carter, are way off the mark.


  5. nadine says:

    If Carter had not been such an obvious weakling, the Russians might never have dared to invade Afghanistan, and the previous government, which was modernizing, at least in the cities, might have survived.
    The net effect of Carter was to promote Islamist fanatics in Afghanistan and Iran, whatever his intentions. And today he is still supporting Hamas who are Talibanizing Gaza.


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Uh oh, Wig-wag is gonna punish the peanut farmer for daring to cross Israel and the I/lobbies.
    Its all Carter’s fault that tribal Muslim women are abused and oppressed.


  7. ... says:

    ww’s memory is a bit like reagans.. the missing link has been found!


  8. questions says:

    Any room for Reagan in your “pantheon”? My memory of learning about the Taliban is a Ms Magazine cry for help for Afghan women in the early 80s and Reagan’s refusal to intervene because it was just women, so who cares…. I remember a fair amount of outrage directed at Reagan on this issue. So I’d vote for tossing him on the pile of Cold War stupidity.


  9. ... says:

    regardless your revisionist history wigwag, you’re basically for war 24/7, which is the guidance carter was undoubtedly given back in the 70’s… money=war… how to perpetuate war? start one where unnecessary and try to stop it, after it has run amok… bush did the same with iraq, and we are waiting to see which american pres will have the balls to stop it… pick a number…


  10. WigWag says:

    It should also be pointed out that amoral realists like Stephen Walt and some of the people who post and comment here are at their worst when discussing Afghanistan.
    They argue that the U.S. needs to get some perspective; that U.S. interests in a stable, secularizing Afghanistan are less critical then they’ve been made out to be. They argue that the opportunity costs of U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan are too large; that the cost in dollars is too high and that the cost in American lives too great to justify our involvement there.
    I look at it a different way. My view is that because Jimmy Carter and Zbignew Brzezinski created the Taliban; the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, has the responsibility of protecting Afghan women from the monsters the thirty ninth President of the United States gave birth to.
    I give Obama credit for stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing.


  11. WigWag says:

    Perhaps a little history is in order here. When the Soviet Union dominated Afghanistan in the 1970s it was a modernizing state moving in the direction of secularism. Women were respected and held high office; women were found as both faculty and students at institutions of higher education and women served as lawyers and judges.
    The secularization of Afghanistan was stopped dead in its tracks by Jimmy Carter and Zbignew Brzezinski. Brzezinski, the darling of the realists, has many fans including Steve Clemons, but the tragedy befalling Afghan women can be laid squarely at his feet.
    It is common knowledge that Jimmy Carter and his Administration created the Afghan resistance movement almost single handedly. What is less well known is that Brzezinski did everything he could to trick the Soviets in attacking Afghanistan in 1979.
    This is what Brzezinski said to Le Nouvel Observateur in a 1998 interview:
    “According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”
    Brzezinski summed up Carter’s strategy this way,
    “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.”
    When asked if he regretted the strategy he developed, Brzezinski said,
    “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”
    Even more shockingly, Brzezinski said this,
    “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”
    Every woman in Afghanistan tortured and oppressed by Afghan tribal society has Jimmy Carter and Zbignew Brzezinski to thank.
    Is Brzezinski the only political leader to make this mistake? Of course not. The United States did it with the anti-Castro Cubans who committed so many heinous acts in Central and South America (and perhaps had a role in the assassination of President Kennedy) and Israel did it when it ignored Hamas and encouraged its development as a counterweight to Arafat and his Fatah movement.
    But the effect 40 years later on the lives of Afghan women of the decision Carter and Brzezinski made in the 1970s is profound and horrifying. How anyone can listen to either of these two men without recalling the tragedy that they personally caused is mystifying.
    What would have happened if the Carter Administration had not secretly encouraged the Soviet attack on Afghanistan? What would have happened if the United States had not armed, funded and provided logistical support to the Mujahadeen?
    Does anyone doubt that the Soviet Empire would have fallen anyway and that its satellites in Eastern Europe would be just as free today as they are?
    But for Carter and Brzezinski’s dumb and morally questionable decisions in the 1970s would the September 11th attacks even have happened? Would Pakistan be as unstable as it is and would it have earned the distinction of being the “most dangerous country in the world?”
    And would Katherine Tiedemann have to have written this very interesting but incredibly sad post?
    Can someone remind me again why the usually astute and perceptive Steve Clemons and so many of his colleagues at the New American Foundation respect men like Carter and Brzezinski?
    Many of the problems currently afflicting South Asia and the horrible subjugation of women in radical Muslim societies can be directly traced to decisions they made.
    Is any President and any National Security Advisor in the half century responsible for more suffering than Jimmy Carter and Zbignew Brzezinski?


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