The photo arrests my gaze. It instantly haunts me. It shows two Afghan women chatting while sitting on their heels, close to the ground. They are both wearing iridescent light blue burqas. One seems to be clutching a shopping bag. They are about to be shot to death by Taliban fighters who accused them of running a prostitution ring that catered to American soldiers. For good measure, the Taliban also accused them of working for the local governor. According to the BBC here:
“A spokesman for the Ghazni governor said the dead women were “innocent local people” and the US has also dismissed the allegations. US military spokesman 1st Lt. Nathan Perry said he had never heard of “anything close to that nature.” Ghazni officials told Agence France Presse that the women, killed late on Saturday, had no connection with the government.”
It is impossible to tell how old the women are. Perhaps they are like some of the women I once knew as servants in Kabul: Hearty, shy, good-natured, energetic peasant women who hid their faces in their long veils when they giggled. These two murdered souls could not have been like the more educated women I once knew in Kabul who were serious, impossibly sophisticated, certainly more knowledgeable about western fashion than I was. The Taliban and the endless, hopeless war has made it impossible for such women to survive and flourish.
The photo, taken on July 12th, 2008 could be an illustration for Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Please recall that this novel, tailored to American tastes, still convincingly shows us how sadistic and twisted the Taliban are, how they routinely use orphaned Afghan boys for sex play, force women into prostitution, then kill them for it. Amnesty International has also documented these practices and American feminist groups have denounced them as well.
Many say that “Islam” has nothing to do with such behaviors. And yet–the Taliban view themselves as “holy warriors” and perhaps as Afghan (Saudi) Arabs. Thus far, the Taliban has not been publicly denounced as anti-Islam by leading Muslim clerics world-wide.
Funny, a few years ago, thousands of Egyptian men went on a “sexual wilding” rampage in Cairo right after they heard a Ramadan sermon in a mosque; they undressed and assaulted women who were both veiled and unveiled. And, in Algeria, after hearing their mullah denounce the impoverished women who were working for foreign companies in their city of Hassi Messoud, about three hundred men also went on a rampage–only they killed, gang-raped, mutilated, and buried women alive. I have written about both tragedies.
In both instances, (in Egypt and in Algeria) “foreign influence” or “colonial-imperialism” did not cause the criminal behaviors. What did? Did Islam do it? Or is this bad behavior a perversion of Islam both by mullahs and by their followers? And, if it’s the latter, where are the Muslim reformers?
By the way: We dare not underestimate the Taliban’s willingness to kill and die–and to engage in a lifetime of guerrilla warfare. The same Taliban “militants” who executed these two Afghan women in cold blood the evening of July 12th, also managed to get inside an American military outpost in Ghazni province on July 13th that had allegedly only been constructed three days ago. The Taliban killed nine American soldiers and wounded fifteen more. NPR covers it here.
Historically, each time that Afghanistan has evolved beyond the Middle Ages, it has been plunged back into medieval darkness. What might it take to escape its own history?