Revisiting the Afganistan War's Impact on Women

By Sadie Cox

Last December President Obama announced the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, making it abundantly clear that the American occupation of that country was far from over. After 8 years of war in Afghanistan and with U.S. military presence there only increasing, now is a critical time to examine the ways this war has, and continues to be, marketed to the American people.As the Bush administration began to build support for the invasion of Afghanistan it suddenly took an interest in something it had previously been only hostile to: feminism. In the months prior to the occupation of Afghanistan the brutal repression of Afghan women became one of the central talking points of the Bush administration. Meanwhile, there was an onslaught of media coverage addressing the status of women in Afghanistan. Special reports and documentaries that featured exoticized and otherized burqa clad Afghan women became both a media staple and a rallying point for liberal and conservative war mongers alike. In the lead up to war the U.S. government made the export of Westernized, equal rights feminism one of the key goals of the invasion, promising to bring safety, opportunities and a better life to Afghan women. However, this thinly veiled form of cultural imperialism was far from being a sincere attempt to challenge the oppressions faced by Afghan women.

As the war in Afghanistan escalates, the occupation grows longer and the betterment of the lives of women continues as an argument used to support the war it is essential to question– has the US occupation at all improved the lives of Afghani women? There are abundant indications that no, it hasn’t. Reports from 2006 revealed that: honor killings of women and girls were on the rise, domestic abuse rates remained high and at least 300 hundred schools for girls had been set on fire. 2006 also saw the murder of one of the regional Directors of Women’s Affairs in her own front lawn. Just last year the US proxy government passed a law that effectively legalized marital rape.

Addressing women’s issues in Afghanistan was never an initiative that the U.S. government was genuinely committed to; it was, however, an effective means of generating popular support for the war. After all, how would the U.S. military, which can not even guarantee the rights and safety of its own female soldiers as demonstrated by rampant sexual harassment and a high incidence of rape, be able to improve the lives of Afghan women through military occupation? As war escalates in Afghanistan it is time to realize that the only true goal of this war is the continued extension of American political and economic interests.

Sadie Cox ’11, writes as a member of MPJC-SDS and can be reached at [email protected].