Sunday, August 15, 2021

When the Walls Are Closing In

I've had a difficult time sleeping the past several nights, and maybe you'll think I'm being foolish. But what is happening in Afghanistan is really bothering me. I'm actually surprised at how intensely it's affecting me.  I follow world news fairly closely, and at times something will happen that truly saddens me, or even makes me angry.  But it rarely keeps me up at night like the resurgence of the Taliban has done. 

I've been worrying about what will happen to Afghanistan's women and girls, especially in Kabul.  I can only imagine how scared they are right now.  I know it's not the same thing, but I keep thinking about the 1930s in Nazi Germany, how my ancestors must have felt knowing that Hitler was on the march, aware that the nice, modern lives they had been leading were about to end... how frightened they must have been, how helpless, nowhere to run, and few if any ways to escape.  

I'm not being overly dramatic. The Taliban are well-known for their casual brutality. Their version of religion does not include music or art or movies, and it does not allow for women to have an education or a career. Of course, there is nothing in their scriptures that forbids education for women. There is nothing that forbids many of the things they insist must be banned. But it doesn't matter. This isn't logical. It's about power. And it's about using an extreme interpretation of religion to subjugate women and girls once again.

I guess that's what bothers me the most--that these men think they have the right to do it.  While I've never encountered extremists like them, I've certainly seen powerful men who believed they could do whatever they wanted-- men who thought it was perfectly okay to hit their wife or girlfriend, men who thought it was fine if they harassed or even sexually assaulted a woman, men who believed their daughters didn't need an education. And in many instances, I've seen men who knew better or saw their male friends behaving badly, and they said nothing. 

In Kabul, where women and girls have enjoyed the benefit of having choices and making decisions, they are about to return to lives that are very restricted, where the men call the tune and the women are expected to be obedient... or face the consequences. I wonder why so many men seem to be okay with this. In a way, it reminds me of when I was growing up in the 1950s, a time when women had few options and no matter what we wanted to do, we were told that "girls can't do that." There were few male allies back then. Few men spoke up on our behalf.  I wish they had. 

Maybe that's why this is so upsetting: agreed, I'm not in the same situation, but believe me, I understand feeling trapped. Fortunately, I managed to get through it and my life was never in danger.  But the fear and the depression I felt were very real.  I can only imagine how the women and girls in Kabul are feeling right now, and I wish there were something I could do. I wish there were something the world could do. No, not another military intervention-- I'm among the many who believe we stayed in Afghanistan far too long. But it would be nice to see some of the men--the husbands, the fathers, especially men in neighboring countries--stand up and defend these women and girls, before they lose their futures, before they lose their hope, before they lose their lives...      


  1. RobertPoste'sVaccinatedChildAugust 17, 2021 at 11:01 AM

    For the past 20 years, a whole generation of women/girls have been educated. I can only hope that the networks of activist women, established during those 20 years, will remain intact as they take their movement underground. Great strides and inroads have been taken to get out from under the fist of these kinds of men. We can only hope and pray that those fires will keep simmering to await such time to explode through and squelch Taliban rule for good.

  2. I fully agree that the West’s doomed involvement in the region should never have lasted anything like this long, if at all. Real change is ultimately best achieved from within. Only a few hundred kilometers southwest of the Afghan border, the Sultanate of Oman has for many decades now implemented a unique policy of educating and employing its female and male populations in precisely equal numbers - 50/50 - across all economic sectors. It was made so by the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a singularly benign autocrat who very sadly passed away on January 10th 2020. Not long after 9/11 I had the privilege of directing a 4-year violin project for the Sultan’s Court Orchestra in the capital Muscat, the class consisting of 18 girls & 18 boys, treated equally at all times as a matter of course. Not being directly entangled with the volatile schism between Sunni & Shia Islam (Oman follows a far milder school, Ibadi) has certainly facilitated social equity far more readily there. However, one always had the sense that such positive progression should be possible in time across the troubled region as a whole – if only the enlightened leadership of a Sutlan Qaboos could be emulated in certain other countries - so very rich in their own distinct ancient histories and most intriguing, captivating cultures. Not least in Afghanistan… its people’s current situation is indeed deeply distressing.