Thursday, April 02, 2009

Rights

I've resisted writing about the alleged 'law' under review in Afghanistan for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I try not to do outrage here. I may deal with subjects that outrage me, but I try to calm down before writing because I don't think much is accomplished by flying off the handle. The second reason is something doesn't feel right about all of this. Too many facts are missing and the story keeps morphing.

That said, watching Stockwell Day in the House today and then the Ambassador to Afghanistan on CTV, well, I just wanted to get a few things down that are bothering me, aside from the obvious of course.

In the House, Bob Rae asked Day when he knew about this law.

“Mr. Speaker, the head of women’s affairs at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said that western silence had been ‘disastrous’ for women’s rights in Afghanistan. She went on to say something which is very pertinent, ‘If they had got more involved in the process when it was discussed in Parliament, we could have stopped it,’” he reported. “I would like to ask the government, when was it aware of the legislation being proposed with respect to women in Afghanistan and what did it do about it when it heard about it?”

Day didn't answer which under normal circumstances with that crew wouldn't be weird, but what he did say was odd. He said:

“Mr. Speaker, I was in Afghanistan only about two or three weeks ago and the officials in Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan were not even aware of this legislation coming at them.”

Doesn't that sound as if he knew? Doesn't that sound as if he mentioned it and those he spoke with were unaware?

That's really disturbing to me if in fact that's the case. I'm not diminishing the fact that I'm sure he's outraged too, but if he knew... I suppose the other option is that he has an odd way of phrasing things and maybe he didn't know. That too is disturbing. This was passed in February. Shouldn't we have more awareness of what is happening in that country?

Obviously we have no right to blatantly interfere in their parliamentary process, but given that we have made a pretty big deal of our contribution in terms of assisting with governance issues, how could we not know this law had been passed?

In addition to the outrage I felt when I heard this, I confess to feeling an overwhelming sadness specifically for the women of Afghanistan, but for the country in general. I don't think anyone expected the country to turn around on a dime, nor do I happen to think that our way of life is the 'be all to end all', but I do believe that everyone has the right to freedom, happiness, expression, safety...you know what I mean. Not Western rights or values, but human rights, human values.

The facts surrounding this particular law are strange. It's purported to be driven by either Shi'a members of parliament or Karzai supporters looking to gain the vote of the Hazara Shi'a, which is a tiny minority in the country. Aside from being a minority, they have been one of the most oppressed groups both under the Soviets and the Taliban, so I really don't get this at all. Furthermore, it's been said that the law would only apply to Shi'a women. That too just seems ridiculous.

The Ambassador said this:

"I fully understand the reaction - the immediate, emotional reaction of countries like Canada who have done so much to build a young democracy," Samad said in an interview.
"People also need to understand that this young democracy is immature. It is not at the same standard as a Canadian or European democracy. And it's in a very different cultural context as well. We are going to fall down, we are going to make mistakes, and we're going to move forward as a result."


While I fully appreciate that he is in an impossible place, it's not the democratic process of the country that is the problem here.

I heard the infamous Christie Blatchford speaking about this the other day. You know Christie don't you? She's the one who jumps up in a room to defend our military and rail against the Liberals or anyone left of Harper, without provocation. She's so quick to jump to conclusions that in this instance she actually said, "If we're going to insist on talking to the Taliban, this is what we are going to get'. Yes-siree, that's what she said. Never mind that the Taliban have nothing to do with this. Never mind that they are Sunni, not Shi'a. Never mind that most of the Western world agrees that moderate elements of the Taliban have to brought into the process before we can see some peace. Nope, none of that mattered. She had a point to make.

Who knows? Maybe she'll be proven right, but at the moment I think it's far more important that we learn the facts, understand when our government knew about this and make sure that this law is never enacted.

Rights. Such a basic concept.

8 comments:

The Right is Where it's At said...

KNB I also hope that this law is never enacted. But unfortunately I think if this is true the damage has been whether or not this idiotic law becomes law. Here is my reason. There are people in their parliament that actually believes in this stupid law. Because even if this law isn't enacted. You can bet that sometime in the near future it will come up again.

Unless we(the west)can change the mentality of some of those people on the necessity of human rights, human values. It will one day become law of the land.

When I saw this story I too started to doubt the mission "what are we fighting for in Afghanistan",but then I stopped and said to myself would the "Afghan women be better off if NATO pulled it's troops from the war torn country?" The answer to this in my opinion is "no."

I'm not so sure that sanctions would work. They are already one if not the poorest country on the planet.I really don't know what could be done to change their mentality here. What do you think KNB?

KNB said...

It's exceptionally complex Right.

Consider how we feud in this country. On this blog even. Consider me trying to persuade you that Liberalism is a much better scenario for this country than Conservatism. We don't get very far do we?

Take that to Afghanistan and consider all the different players and belief systems, religious and otherwise.

It's really too complex to draw even my simplistic analogy, but I think you get my meaning.

At this point, I'm just not sure. If Human Rights was at the core of their Constitution and everything else had to be based on that, they'd at least have a running chance I guess, no matter how contrary some laws may seem to Western eyes.

All I know right now is that we must pay attention and not allow this to go unnoticed or unremarked on.

Did you know that at the time the Taliban took over in Afghanistan, most of the world turned a blind eye? Two high profile people spoke out. Hillary Clinton and Lloyd Axworthy.

The Right is Where it's At said...

If there is a glimmer of hope in Afghanistan is that their democracy if we can call it that is just starting. Take our country for example. Our democracy is much older and yet women weren't even considered as a person or even have the right to vote as early as the 40's. I know that this is very little consolation to the Afghan women living in Afghanistan today. It's just a shame that in the 21'st century we still have to talk about this.

"Did you know that at the time the Taliban took over in Afghanistan, most of the world turned a blind eye? Two high profile people spoke out. Hillary Clinton and Lloyd Axworthy."

Yes I know but we all saw where that led us unfortunately. The west should take lesson from it.

"Consider how we feud in this country. On this blog even. Consider me trying to persuade you that Liberalism is a much better scenario for this country than Conservatism. We don't get very far do we?"

You know in Canada we sometimes take our freedoms for granted. Not to change the subject,but we have a freedom where we can choose the people who we want to lead us by voting.Unfortunately some us in this country don't take this seriously it's just too bad.

penlan said...

"The facts surrounding this particular law are strange. It's purported to be driven by either Shi'a members of parliament or Karzai supporters looking to gain the vote of the Hazara Shi'a, which is a tiny minority in the country. Aside from being a minority, they have been one of the most oppressed groups both under the Soviets and the Taliban, so I really don't get this at all. Furthermore, it's been said that the law would only apply to Shi'a women."

What came to mind for me is that if the Hazara Shi'a have been the most oppressed, as they are such a small minority, then they may be thirsting to have some power of some kind & this is their only way of getting some. People who are terribly oppressed often will lash out in inappropriate ways to so-called "fight back". It's all psychological, as you know. It's disgusting what is going on here.

And as far as it only affecting Shi'a women it may be because the other factions would never stand for it as they are larger & there would be more of an uprising with the women.

As far as Day goes it does sound like he knew at the time he was in Afghanistan, no matter the wording/phrasing. If that is true then why did he keep quiet about it here? The Cons have been too quiet for too long on anything that has been going on in Afghanistan. Think torture & their still ongoing push to stop the commission looking into it from going forward.

Interestingly on CBC Newsworld this morning on the Your Turn segment a viewer wrote in saying that here in Canada the 1st time there was ever a court case involving marital rape was in 1982 & then a law was enacted in 1983 to make it a crime. That wasn't so long ago & was a surprise to me. And we are democratic & advanced? It makes us look like we were living in the Dark Ages on this one for far too long. Which we were.

Excellent post!

RuralSandi said...

Right....being allowed to vote is alot different than permission to rape and abuse women.

The Right is Where it's At said...

RuralSandi:

"Right....being allowed to vote is alot different than permission to rape and abuse women."

Yes I know Sandi,where did I imply that it's the same? I was just giving an example of democracy that's all.

FredfromBC said...

>All I know right now is that we must >pay attention and not allow this to
>go unnoticed or unremarked on.


What you mean by that, of course, is that you must find a way to blame it all on Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right?

KNB said...

Grow up Fred.