Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Women: from 1919 to 2016

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Women: from 1919 to 2016

Nearly a century back in 1919 Amanullah khan came in power as a king in Afghanistan. He began to reform many social and political institutions to modernize the country. He did not favor traditional definition of women and believed that seeking equal rights between the two genders through traditional norms was impossible. He nurtured the idea of secular education for women and men. In his reign, men and women got equal educational opportunities. Women for the first time in Afghanistan could walk at the same level with men. Men having been supported by centuries of patriarchy still had the first say in all aspects but we definitely can claim it would not be the final one. It is fair enough to say that Amanullah khan gave women their rights, but still the question crops out whether it was successful or not?
During his reign, he paved the ground for women to enjoy their rights. Women started to have an active part in socio- economic activities. Women got a glimpse to move forward so as to prove themselves as autonomous human beings with dignity. They for the first time got the chance to put aside the taboos and break through traditional superstitions as well as go beyond social and religious coercive limitations. In fact a new horizon of the perspectives appeared for them to seek the life each human deserves. But of course it was not the end; As now, the tribal customs was a great sway on the way. There were two paths were being shaped, the first which led to equal rights between men and women according to law and the second was traditionalist which claimed “women should act according to traditional norms”. The situation went this way throughout the reigns of the successor kings till 1964.
The constitution which was drafted in 1964 at the time of the last king of Afghanistan Mohammad Zaher, gave equal civil and political rights to men and women. In fact this constitution became the base of the women’s liberty. Women got the right to education. Schools were no longer only for boys, girls could also participate in the classes. Based on this constitution in 1980s and 1990s a woman could have been a teacher, a doctor, a judge, a university lecturer even an author. Theaters were open; men and women could be a part of the cinema industry regardless of their gender. As an example: Hungama, Mahwash and Parween are the known female singers of the time. The constitution guaranteed Freedom of media and freedom of speech. The golden age of Afghanistan, in the history of women in particular began. Since every democratic value was respected. In 1973 Mohammad Daud overthrew king Zaher and established the republic of Afghanistan. At that time, president Daud had warm relations with Soviet Union. Communism was in the apex of power since Soviet Union. For this reason, the Afghan communist party got the government after president Daud.
In the beginning of 1990s Mujahidin began a war against Soviet Union and made them to withdraw all their forces from Afghanistan. Finally they succeeded and Soviet Union left Afghanistan. With the end of communist era in Afghanistan the ethnic war began and Afghans went through very bloody and hard years. It was the worst when it came to women’s’ conditions.
In 1995, Taliban invaded Afghanistan and took over the power this way the age of Fundamentalism began; Freedom of media and freedom of speech faded out. The first and most important right that women lost was the right to learn. Schools came to be merely for boys. No woman could step out except she was fully covered in Hijab. They were not allowed to work. They were only like dolls behind walls. It was the worst for women that Taliban laws provide men with the chance to abuse women. In a metaphor one can say “they were only cards in the hands of male players” or they were the walking chocolates which could come out of the cover only when men allowed them. In a sense women were aliens and refugees of the time as no one let them educate and seek the ideal life. No constitution existed to give women the fundamental rights, the right to liberty, equality and pursuit of happiness. It is bad enough when a corrupt and cruel regime takes over the power but the worst is when the subjects adapt with the cruelty. Liberty, equality and democracy did stop at that time and gave way to fundamentalist, sexist, prejudice and traditional absolutist. Dignity for women was defined: to stay hidden and protect themselves from strange gazes. The socio-political functions of women had been cut to zero. Eventually Taliban did not last for more than 6 years.
Immediately after September 11, US-led international coalition attacked Afghanistan  and that was the end of the Taliban regime.
Since 2001, democracy and liberty somehow revived. The age of fundamentalism ended and the new era began. Karzai became the transitional president as well as the cabinet ministers were introduced, there were several women among them. The constitution of the country was approved in 2004 based on the Loy Jirga held in 2003. Women and men got to enjoy the same rights in accordance with the new constitution. Women began to enjoy all the primary rights. Nevertheless, Afghan women have faced many ups and downs; according to the latest reports 80% of women are still suffering from violence.
Undoubtedly, giving women’s rights in the paper does not mean that responsibility is over. The fundamental strategies need to be taken. Analysts are of the view that the fundamental strategy is education; as long as, educationally, they are weak, they are not able to take their rights. Because rights are not bestowed rights are taken. Currently, there are some Afghan educated women who enjoy their rights better than many men. They can work, study and benefit from domestic rights; while the uneducated women are deprived from very basic and Islamic rights. They are not able to ask heritage and dowry even from their brothers and husband. These mean that the more they are uneducated the more they are victimized.
On the other hand, extremist should understand that commonalities between Islamic teaching and humanitarian conventions are more than differences. Even the general spirits are almost the same; so it is far more Islamic to stress on commonalities than cutting the nose of women.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the newly emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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