There is not a single, public Christian church left in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. State Department. This reflects the state of religious freedom in that country ten years after the United States first invaded it and overthrew its Islamist Taliban regime.
In Afghanistan, women’s groups are claiming a rare victory. Last winter, the government was planning to bring battered women’s shelters under government control. Women’s rights advocates sprang into action, complaining that the new rules would turn shelters into virtual prisons for women who had run away from home because of abuse. But after a flurry of media attention, the Afghan government agreed to re-examine the issue. And this month, President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet quietly approved a new draft that has support from women’s groups.
More and more Afghan women are breaking with tradition in their male-dominated society, taking jobs and participating in public affairs.
The two teenagers met inside an ice cream factory through darting glances before roll call, murmured hellos as supervisors looked away and, finally, a phone number folded up and tossed discreetly onto the workroom floor. It was the beginning of an Afghan love story that flouted dominant traditions of arranged marriages and close family scrutiny, a romance between two teenagers of different ethnicities that tested a village’s tolerance for more modern whims of the heart. The results were delivered with brutal speed.
While many Afghan women have to fight against the misogynistic traditions and values held in their families in order to be “given permission” to participate in the social, economical and political life of their communities, all women have to struggle against the violence, assault, abuse and discrimination that they face daily as they leave their homes.
In the Financial Times, Ayaan writes about proposals to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, writing we’re perceived as “a weak America that roars but retreats when the going gets tough”.
Officials are painting the weekend killings at the United Nations mission in northern Afghanistan’s largest city–which sparked cascading violence across the nation–as the handiwork of a small band of insurgents that used a protest against a Quran-burning as cover for a murderous plot: but a Wall Street Journal reconstruction of Friday’s assault, based on unreleased videos, interviews with demonstrators and the UN’s own recounting of events, shows a more complex picture and indicates that ordinary Afghan demonstrators played a critical role in the attack.
Eight foreign employees of the United Nations in Afghanistan have been killed after protesters overran their compound in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif: two of the dead were beheaded by attackers who also burned parts of the compound and climbed up blast walls to topple a guard tower, said Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a police spokesman for the northern region: over a thousand protesters had flooded into the streets of the normally peaceful city after Friday prayers to denounce the burning of the Koran by a US pastor, and after two or three hours violence broke out.
Pressure is mounting for the release of an Afghan Red Cross worker who was arrested last summer for converting to Christianity: the worker, Said Musa, 46, who left Islam roughly eight years ago, was arrested in May after an Afghan TV report showed locals being baptized and called for the government to crack down on apostasy.
The Afghan government says it plans to take control of women’s shelters — a move strongly opposed by international human rights groups: the Voice of America’s Sarah Williams spoke with Rachel Reid, the Afghan researcher at Human Rights Watch in Kabul, who says a government shelter is “far more likely” to cave-in to pressure from families and tribes to hand back victims of domestic violence, putting women’s lives at risk.