Taliban: We’re baaack!

The Taliban have long predicted that they would exhaust the patience of US and Nato forces. Now, with the US in direct face to face negotiations over a deal that allows their troops to leave and the Taliban to return to a position of power, do those predictions look set to become reality. Key issues such as women’s rights, the justice system, press freedom and the future of the Afghan constitution are being left in the dust.

“We are clear that we are the strongest entity on the battlefield and the political front, while the government have their fridges stacked full of dead soldiers and are not even involved in the current talks. And we foresee an Afghanistan that is ruled according to shariah law.” Haji Anwar, Taliban soldier.
“My fighters are not tired of war and we can see that even the Americans recognise us as the most important group in Afghanistan. We will take the whole country back, step by step, by war or peace.” Taliban commander codenamed Abdullah.

Afghanistan was once a country set to become an economic wonder. From 1956 to 1979, with aid primarily from the Soviet Union and the United States, roads, dams, power plants, and factories were constructed, irrigation projects carried out, and education broadened. In the 1950s and 1960s, some of the biggest strides were made toward a more liberal and westernized lifestyle. However, after the Soviet Union left the country in 1989 subsequent mujahideen and Taliban governments turned towards mostly illicit enterprises, such as growing opium poppies for heroin production and smuggling goods. It is estimated that Afghanistan produces more than nine-tenths of the world’s opiates. Many segments of the population, including the Taliban and supporters of the central government, profit from opium production. It seems all is lost.

Afghanistan 1978
Afghanistan Present

Recommended reading: Caravans, by James A. Michener. First published in 1963.

Written as memoir of an employee of the American embassy, it vividly captures the complicated Afghan life, in the post world-war II era. Today, when we think of Afghanistan, we invariably think of it as a victim caught in the struggle of world super-powers during the cold war, the struggle that finally led to militant movements and the way wars are fought on world scale. But, this book brings us back the memories of the time when the atom bomb had literally shocked the world.

Indonesian women suffering epidemic of domestic violence

The concept of marital rape is one that is unfamiliar to many Indonesians, with some conservative activists and politicians even arguing against a bill seeking to provide greater protections to victims of the crime on the basis that it was not compatible with traditional norms. Marital rape is not illegal under Indonesia’s Criminal Code but it is criminalized by the Domestic Violence Protection Act. However, marital rape carries a higher burden of proof and a lower maximum punishment than rape outside of marriage.

Marital rape is not being prosecuted enough, campaigners say. Data from the national commission on violence against women in 2018 showed the highest number of cases of violence against women occurred within households, with a rising trend of marital rape, in part, the commission believes, because more women are coming forward.

Indonesia contains the world’s largest Muslim population and in recent years the country’s Muslim majority has embraced more overt signs of religiosity and shifted toward Arab-style devotion. Most of all, a puritanical Salafist interpretation of Islam, which draws inspiration from the age of the Prophet Muhammad, is attracting followers in Indonesia. Wahhabism, imported from and fostered by Saudi Arabia, draws converts into government prayer halls. Wahhabism promotes pervasive gender discrimination and lack of equal rights that affect most aspects of women’s lives.

One wonders if there is a link between the increase in Wahhabism and the increase in domestic violence towards women. If so, Indonesia has a long way to go to fix this crisis.