Afghanistan,  Stoppers

The feminist case against an Afghan withdrawal

Socialist Unity advertises Respect leader Salma Yaqoob’s appearance on the BBC’s Question Time as the sole antiwar voice in a discussion on Afghanistan.

There’s a video of her comments on the show, along with favorable comments about her from audience members and panelists, so it’s hard to get a sense of the full debate. And the fact that the other five panelists were Establishment-type middle-aged white males seemed almost designed to make her look brave and simpatico.

But wasn’t it a little condescending, a little 1950s-Foreign-Office, for her to call the Afghans “a tribal people” (i.e., different from you and me)? And does she really believe that bringing the Taliban into the government is the best solution for the Afghan people– especially Afghan women?

A much more interesting and revealing program would have had Salma Yaqoob against Wazhma Frogh, an Afghan human rights activist and a recipient of the US State Department’s 2009 International Woman of Courage Award.

Along with Lauryn Oates of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, she has written an article for The Calgary Herald making (to borrow a phrase from Sarah) the Decent feminist case against an immediate withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. They write:

In October, the women’s antiwar organization, Code Pink, went to Afghanistan. The Christian Science Monitor reported that the pink T-shirted women were surprised to learn the overwhelming majority of women do not support a withdrawal of foreign troops from their country. Expecting their counterparts — Afghan activists fighting for peace and gender equality — to support their demands, they were confronted with the problem that perhaps their position has been counterproductive to the Afghan women’s movement, or even wrong.

And yet Code Pink reaffirmed its position in favor of troop withdrawal.

It seems logical that a foundational step for Code Pink would be to consult the people who live in those countries, to find out what their actions might mean for those most affected by the position they espouse. Code Pink’s modus operandi is symptomatic of a western feminism that is not rooted in values of global solidarity, but is self-interested, insular and shamefully relativist. It is based on tribalism and rejects internationalist values. In this feminism, emancipation is only for western women — not for women in places like Afghanistan.

Read it all.

(Hat tip: Terry Glavin, who recently returned from another visit to Afghanistan.)