U.S. Must Not Abandon Afghan Women to the Taliban
Editor’s note: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a fellow and deputy director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council of Foreign Relations. She writes extensively about women entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Bosnia and Rwanda. She wrote “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana,” a book that tells the story of an Afghan girl whose business created jobs and hope during the Taliban years.
(CNN) — The killing of 16 unarmed Afghan civilians is, as President Barack Obama has said, heartbreaking. Families have lost children, mothers and fathers in a rampage that has left Afghanistan reeling.
For Afghans it is the latest in a pattern of disrespect and dishonor: the burnings of the Quran that ignited protests, video of U.S. soldiers urinating on Taliban corpses, kill teams in Kandahar.
And, devastatingly, another casualty of this rampage is the quiet voices of men and women who risk their lives each day to fight for the progress of their country. Human rights activists, midwives, high school principals, doctors, entrepreneurs and young students crowding on to Facebook like kids everywhere else in the world. Their voices pleading for patience and calm are lost in the violence, mistrust and misunderstanding of the last few months.Stuck in between are the country’s women, who have fought since the Taliban’s departure to strengthen their own rights to go to work and to school and to lead their communities. More than 2 million girls are now in school. Women make up a quarter of the Parliament. And nearly 3,000 midwives go out each day to save women’s lives in a country that Save the Children rated the deadliest for expectant mothers.