The Cost Of Peace In Afghanistan: Who Is To Lose?
“We’re stuck.” that is how one delegate described the much-acclaimed intra-Afghan peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government-led delegation in Doha, that kicked on September 12.
The impasse is primarily due to differences that have emerged over the observance of sharia law, as well as issues related to other sects and minority groups and the language being used in the draft.
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad faced a tough grilling at his testimony before a house representative hearing on Tuesday.
Congressman Tom Malinowski asked Khalilzad: “We’re all for peace and I understand people want to leave but I think what you’re selling us is not peace. It is a fairy tale to make us feel better about leaving Afghanistan.”
And indeed, the peace efforts will bring anything but peace for the Afghani people so long as the Taliban is part of the government and there is a prevalence of sharia law.
Already a number of Taliban prisoners who were released by the Afghan government as a condition for peace talks have taken up arms again, according to Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, who chairs and oversees the government’s peace efforts. Yet even if this were not to be the case, the Afghani people will not have peace and stability.
Why will there be no true peace in Afghanistan?
The principle reason why restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan is an impossibility is because of how the Islamic religion is observed by Afghans. It is almost exclusively based on the sharia as dictated by archaic and draconian Quranic verses, as well as by the hadiths (sayings and acts) of the Prophet Muhammad that instigate violence and sustain the inequality between a man and a woman.
All Muslims are conditioned by him because in both the Quran and Islamic tradition, he is the example par excellence of behavior for everyone to follow. His words and deeds are agreed upon by all Muslims as identifying Islam, since he was faithful to Allah’s will as dictated in the Quran: And “[h]e who obeys the Messenger [Muhammad], obeys Allah.” (Sura 4, 80) Allah established in the life of the Prophet Muhammad general, eternal, and all-inclusive characteristics, and he gave every human being the possibility to imitate him and take his life as a model.
The problem, as indicated, is the identification of Muhammad, as recorded in the hadiths, as a promoter of violence, misogyny, or even the pedophilia: “Aisha reported that Allah’s Apostle married her when she was seven years old, and she was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he [the Holy Prophet] died she was eighteen years old.” — Sahih Muslim, Book 8, hadith 3311
There are no layouts to ensure that the Taliban will disavow its sharia-based human rights abuses against women, such as polygamy, child marriage, being forced to wear the burqa, stoning and flogging for adultery, imprisonment and beating for running away from their abusive husbands, denying them education and participation in the work force, etc. In fact, Taliban official and former governor of Herat Khairullah Khairkhwa — he was once a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay; released in 2014 — recently confirmed that the sharia will continue to be a part of Afghanistan under their rule since it was ordained by the Prophet Muhammad.
Who is to lose from peace?
Aside the innocent civilians who will have to deal with the ongoing violence of the Taliban, those who have to lose from peace are the Afghani women and young girls.
Phyllis Chesler, author of American Bride in Kabul, recently said: “I do fear for the Afghan people — particularly women and young girls — if and when America leaves, especially those who have shown so much courage in standing up for themselves against incredible odds.”
From the 1920s when the woman’s human rights activist Queen Soraya (wife of King Amanullah) pushed for changes to improve women’s lives and their position in the family, to the early 1970s, Afghan women were able to exercise some rights. As the wife of the king, Soraya fought to prohibit the wearing of the veil and the observance of polygamy. Women and girls were encouraged to get an education, and not just those in the capital city of Kabul, but also in the countryside.
Notwithstanding the violent protests by the country’s religious sects which forced the king to abdicate the throne in 1929 and go into exile, women maintained a certain amount of freedom, at least some by Western standards. Yet even as late as the 1960s in many secluded areas of Afghanistan, polygamy, child marriage and honor killing were practiced, and women were forced to wear the burqa.
When the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979 in response to U.S. covert operations in the region [which had been well in place for six months to overthrow the Communist People’s Republic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA)], women still enjoyed certain rights. Coed education was introduced in elementary schools by the PDPA and women were able to teach.
This began to change when the U.S. government backed the drug-trafficking Mujahideen — the forerunners of the Taliban — to oust the PDPA. (There is actual video footage showing then-U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski directly inciting the Mujahadeen rebels in Pakistan.)
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Women, because of the Afghan Women’s Council, were able to maintain some rights, which were altogether eradicated once the Taliban took over the reins of government in 1996. Women seeking an education were forced to attend underground schools, where they and their teachers risked execution if caught.
Women were also denied medical treatment for illnesses if a male chaperone did not accompany them. They were also publicly beaten if their burqas slipped or if an ankle or a strand of hair showed. They were stoned to death for “adultery” when raped. Women were even forbidden to laugh loudly as it was considered improper for a stranger to hear a woman’s voice.
Underage girls are also married to men as late in their 60s; some girls are even tortured by their own families for refusing to submit to the sexual desires of their adult husbands or prostitution.
It is true that Afghanis have to resolve their own problems, the U.S. cannot do it for them. Nevertheless, forging a peace treaty with the Taliban is just as bad as brokering one with ISIS or Boko Haram. As an American, I too, want to see our men and women in uniform pullout. But at what price?
Keep in mind that the U.S. covert operations of the late 1970s to 80s and the so-called rebuilding efforts after President George W. Bush sent in the troops to eliminate the Taliban who were providing a safe haven to al-Qaeda helped create the present-day mess in Afghanistan. The U.S. still has an obligation to ensure that the rights of the women and girls will not be eradicated.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University.
* Sources not cited may be found in my book Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.