- The Washington Times - Friday, April 12, 2002

When researchers from Human Rights Watch visited Afghanistan shortly after interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai was installed to help instill law and order in that war-torn nation, they immediately began chronicling the abuses suffered by men, women and children at the hands of the armed warlords whose viciousness has replaced the ruthless Taliban. The just-released report, "Paying for the Taliban's Crimes: Abuses Against Ethnic Pashtuns in Northern Afghanistan," is all the more both graphic and, of course, disturbing.
Men and women who live, for example, in the Pashtun village of Bargah-e Afghani, discuss in-depth and anecdotally the beatings, robberies and killings at the hands of warlords at every turn for the sheer hell of it. "My hands were tied, and they were beating me with their AK-47 assault rifles," A.S. tells the Human Rights Watch researchers. "They were accusing me of being Taliban and al Qaeda." The Afghan gangsters then looted his home, and when the 36-year-old farmer and father of six handed them $42, "they threw the money away, saying it was not enough." While A.S. was released, the Hazara soldiers turned their offenses toward three other villagers all of whom were summarily executed. One of them, A.S. says, was felled "with at least 30 bullets."
The talk, as you can see, is free and easy, albeit quite emotional. Talk about rape, however, is a no-no. As a matter of fact, the researchers confirmed only one rape, although they received "second-hand reports" that women and girls had been raped and kidnapped. "This does not mean that rape or abductions did not take place on a larger scale," the report says, "but points to the difficulty of confirming cases of rape in a society where such abuses are considered 'unspeakable.'
In the lone confirmed case, four Hazara soldiers raped a teen-ager in front of her father. The girl, 16, was forced to leave her village because "it was shameful for the family," the report says. Not only that, but one school administrator is quoted as saying that "the social stigma is so severe that in some cases families have killed their female family members."
Indeed, when it comes to chastity and Islam vs. establishing law and order in Afghanistan, the latter will surely be a far easier chore. This is because, I think, the doctrines of Islam as they relate to women are too doggone complex.
In her book, "Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam," Sonsyrea Tate devoted a chapter to "Making Modest Maidens." In it, she discusses the perplexities of wearing headwraps and veils, and how, at 12 years old, she convinced her mother that such attire, meant to reflect a girl's modesty, was having the opposite effect. "Ma, these clothes draw everybody's attention to me. People can't help but stop and stare. It's like I'm begging for attention. Like everybody's gotta know I'm Muslim. That ain't modest," writes Miss Tate, a former reporter with this newspaper and now managing editor of the Washington Informer.
Later, in the same chapter, she discusses how her faith forbids girls to shout in public which essentially means girls can't be cheerleaders for the school sports teams, and siblings won't have shouting matches. She also mentions the complexities of husband-wife relations and how they sit in the eyes of God. On the one hand, Miss Tate writes, an Orthodox Mulism book called Hadith said that "10 babies guaranteed a Muslim woman entry into paradise." Neither she nor her girlfriends believed as much, she says, becuase "having to change diapers and clean up vomit and babysit all the time, seemed more like hell." Then, on the other hand, she says that both the Koran and Hadith teach that "a good Muslim woman meant pleasing your husband … and doesn't ask for anything." An aunt, she writes, "had never gotten so much as a wedding ring from her husband, and welfare helped pay for their housing, food and medical expenses." Miss Tate quoted her aunt as saying that "Allah says a woman can get into Paradise only if her husband is pleased with her."
Can these conflicted teachings be at the root of the twisted logic and evil that manifested itself on September 11? Is this why some Muslims preach peace while others the Osama bin Ladens and the Yasser Arafats perpetually preach that, while violence will surely beget more violence, it is the only way paradise? This is what younger Muslims such as the 10-year-old boy who believed, thanks to Mr. Arafat, that lending his soul to mislead Israeli soldiers to their deathtrap consider the sacred teachings of Allah.
To be sure, words means different things to different folks and who is sending the message is as important as who is receiving it. Indeed, modest and chaste meant one thing at the turn of the last century, and it means something entirely in today's culture of multiple lovers. Rape, thank heaven, still means rape.
Thank heaven as well, that the iron hand of the Taliban, when burquas and male escorts were hard-and-fast rules, is no more. But it seems to have been replaced for the Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, with something that is menacing as well: armed soldiers-cum-warlords who rape and pillage as they darn well please while Mr. Karzai, himself a Pashtun, and other so-called fixer-uppers ponder their fate in Kabul.
Seems to me those guys in Kabul need a wake-up call about the hard-fought lessons of peace and goodwill.

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