Heather Barr, in an interview to The Times of India, said in response to a question about women and the withdrawal of troops:
"There'll be a serious negative impact on women's rights in Afghanistan. The issue is not the actual withdrawal of troops but the loss of interest in Afghanistan by the international community that'll come with the troop withdrawal — that is likely to have a devastating impact.
Progress on women's rights will only be sustainable if there's political pressure and aid from the international community. Without this, we'll see regression in the coming years — a regression which has already begun."
'International community' is a huge term. It also means countries that are neighbours and allies. It includes small nations that are grappling with similar problems, and not all are at the mercy of drone politics and magnanimity. The west has fed on the regression, if not partly helped to create it.
Where were the troops when Afghanistan was a modern state, and women held positions in the army, in politics and in several other professions?
If by international community Barr means those that toe the US line, then it just shows how little they care about progress and how much more for political expediency. If their interest had to do with troops, then it is clearly not geared towards rights. Outside troops cannot dictate, much less gaurantee, rights. They are often the ones to abuse those rights.
The dire note about "regression" seems to promote the colonising of indigenous ideas. It is convenient for the US to use Hamid Karzai when it needs to and now that it is time to go he becomes an effete man who will not stand up for women.
Has the US managed to stall the Taliban's regression? Did the troops alter the way of thinking, and bring women into the mainstream? How, then, can these troops of any consequence?
The hallmark of withdrawal symptoms is an overarching need to project a paranoid exterior while thinking about more regressive images to take back as souvenirs.
In other news
If Sanjay Dutt should not have been treated like a celebrity when the trial was on, why are the jail authorities using his fame now that he is in prison under the Arms Act for the 1993 Mumbai blasts case?
On September 26, that is today, Yerwada Jail's inmates are to put up a play - Teemiratun...Tejakade (From darkness to light) - at the Bal Gandharva Auditorium in Pune. Dutt will not only act in a skit, but also perform two dance numbers.
They are promoting it as his show. They are capitalising on his name. While all 20 performers are prison inmates, it is clear that this time it will be special. So special that they managed to get Raju Hirani, who has directed Sanjay in the Munnabhai series, to fine-tune the act.
When was the last time a film director was asked and agreed to be a part of such a show?
Now if Sanjay Dutt is denied some facilities he asks for, we will need to question such a decision (unless of course those are illegal in any way). They cannot say he should not be treated like a celebrity because they are already doing so.
© Farzana Versey