A Word On Behalf Of The Afghan Women
This past winter, when the Ukrainian Army first stood toe to toe with Putin’s invasion and punched back, the outpouring of support was nearly universal. Their courage and bravery commanded our respect. To paraphrase President Kennedy’s famous Berlin speech, Ich bin ein Ukrainian. Suddenly all the world was from Ukraine.
Contrast that with how the men of Afghanistan dropped their weapons and fled before the Taliban. Their cowardice was damning and world understandably turned away in disgust.
In my Foreword to Afghan’s Lipstick Warriors: Darkness Falls, the sequel to Afghan’s Lipstick Warriors: First Chronical, I acknowledged my apparent naiveté in dreaming up the original novel. Afghan women grab their Kalashnikovs and kick some Taliban butt…Indeed.
As with all fiction, First Chronicle was an imagining, but one I had thought to be rooted in some measure of reality. There is, after all, a long tradition of women bearing arms in Afghanistan, from ancient mythical figures to contemporary warriors.
There is no more fitting modern example than Bibi Ayesha. In the early 1980s, during the Soviet occupation, she set off to avenge the death of her son and is rumored to have killed his murderer with her own bare hands. Bibi Ayesha went on to become Commander Kaftar, the leader of a militia that numbered as many as 600 men at its zenith. Picture a turbaned warrior here with AK and bandoleros. When the Taliban first came to power back in the ‘90s, not even they would dare to mess with her.
In a more recent example, the women of Darz-Aab in Jowzjan Province, seeing that the local police were undermanned, sold their livestock to buy more guns and joined the fight to prevent the Taliban from overrunning their village. Or there is the instance of U.S. Special Operations training an elite, covert female strike force that worked alongside them on high-risk nighttime missions for many years.
Reaching back into the long tradition of mythical Afghan female warriors, there was Shah Bori, who is said to have loved horses, swords and battle above all things girlish, or Nazauna, who singlehandedly protected the king’s fortress from foreign invaders, or Malalai, the Afghan Jeanne d’Arc, who died carrying the nation’s flag into victorious battle against the British.
So it was not without precedent that I had envisioned the women of Afghanistan rising up in arms against the Taliban. They’d give those bastards a good pranging, grab a bite to eat and get back to their jobs at the local bank or ministry.
Less than a month after First Chronicle was published, the Taliban’s stunning takeover was complete and I was left to feel as if I had cooked up a fanciful confection.
Today, a year into Taliban rule, I’m growing fonder and fonder of that fanciful confection. If the women of Afghanistan won’t rise up in arms, what other options do they have? The Taliban leaders are proving themselves to be hapless at running a country, but ruthless at suppressing women and maintaining their power.
If we take Iran as a model, once a fanatical regime like this assumes control, it can be fifty to a hundred years before the chains of bondage are broken, if ever. The Afghan men are, for the most part, indifferent about this state of affairs. They have to grow a beard and hide their pop music. Big deal. For the women, it’s medieval servitude again.
It’s not hyperbole to say that I felt truly inspired in writing the two Lipstick Warrior novels. There was a hope that the Afghan women would hear my clarion call and rise up to fight for their freedom. My heart has long burned over the mistreatment of women in this world and the cause of women’s rights in Afghanistan became a way for me to channel that anger constructively.
Now, as is true for most everyone involved in the Afghan struggle, there is a near complete sense of hopelessness. Whatever moderation the world community hoped to see on the part of the Taliban has been fully snuffed out in light of their behavior over the past year. Not only is tyranny and barbarism engrained in their fanatical religious DNA, they fear being outflanked by ISIS-K to their right. The Taliban political balancing act has become like that of a Republican primary candidate having to out-MAGA his opponent. If they don’t fully embrace a harsh view of Sharia, ISIS-K will do it for them.
As I sit here tonight writing this blog, that sense of hopelessness begins to invade my efforts on behalf of the Afghan women. The war in Ukraine rages on. The DOJ just raided Mar-O-Lago. Olivia Newton-John has passed away. Any attention I can direct towards the grim fate of the Afghan women will flame out as fast as a shooting star. Even more sickening for me is a perception that I’m doing this to sell more books and my own self-aggrandizement.
All I can think to say is, please, place yourself in the shoes of the Afghan women. You suddenly live in a world where education, meaningful employment and freedom of movement are denied you. To leave the house, you must be accompanied by a male relative and wear a burka. Dare to protest or flaunt these rules and you will be whisked away to the nearest prison. In the relative wink of an eye, all your hopes and dreams and freedoms have been stripped away.
In this era of fifteen seconds of fame, perhaps you will pause a moment, be touched by my words and click on one of the Afghan charities listed below. Whatever’s trending next will come along soon enough, but donate five, ten or fifteen dollars and you will long remember that you gave to your sisters across the world, suffering a fate that would surely crush your spirits, were it visited upon you.