Monday, January 03, 2011

News from Afghanistan

The bad ones: It's mostly girls who are not going to school. The reasons vary from family opposition to threats of violence:

Worsening security and enduring conservative Islamic customs prevented almost five million Afghan children from going to school in 2010, a government official said on Saturday.

The strict Islamist Taliban were ousted from power by U.S.-backed Afghan forces nearly a decade ago, but many women are still not able to work outside the home and girls are prevented from attending school in remote parts of the country.

Under the Taliban, women were barred from accessing health care and education and made to wear burqas covering them from head to toe. Only boys were allowed to attend school. Many of these customs are still widespread.

Girls have had acid thrown in their faces while walking to school by hardline Islamists who object to female education. Several girls' schools, including some in Kabul, have also been hit by mysterious gas poisonings blamed on Islamists.
Then the good news: The Women's Garden in Kabul is reopening:

The Women's Garden, an 8-acre oasis in this country's capital, reopened in November after seven months of reconstruction and funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The park gives Afghan women a place where lush trees protect them from the brutal sun and they can distance themselves from the hardships of life and strict Islamic doctrine.

Behind its walls, Afghan women find the freedom and empowerment lacking under Islamic or sharia law. The law, strictly enforced under the Taliban, forbids a woman to go to a public park without a male escort. Many wait for the fledgling democracy to formally renounce the practice, but until then, the garden provides a unique opportunity for women to chum unescorted with other women.
Note that the park is reopening. It's not something new but an attempt to return to pre-Taliban levels freedom for women in Kabul, and it doesn't wipe out the problem of girls not getting educated. But it's still good news.