Reading his Oct. 23 New York Times column from Kabul, I was appalled at journalist Nicholas Kristof‘s naivete when it comes to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Kristof, author of Half the Sky and often identified as a proponent for women’s empowerment, argues for a reduction of American troops in Afghanistan and for a peace deal with the Taliban.
In seeking to convince himself that this turn of events will not be harmful to Afghan women, he optimistically provides some astoundingly slim anecdotal evidence to convince us that the Taliban are really not so bad.
Kristof feels uncomfortable with what he terms the U.S. “occupation“– though I know few Afghans who refer to the U.S. or international presence here that way — and so waves away his own discomfort over the spectre of a new Taliban government in Afghanistan by essentially saying, don’t worry, the Taliban might let girls have some schools, in some mosques, in some cases. This is hardly a reassuring argument to girls and women — who have gained the most since the fall of the Taliban — and conversely, have the most to lose from a Taliban return.
The evidence that girls will be able to go to school under the Taliban is slim. While girls might go to schools in some areas, in my experience, this is highly exceptional and by no means a uniform practice. The Taliban have been quite consistent in their beliefs that girls should not be educated and women who work outside the home deserve to die, a belief enacted in the Taliban’s murder of numerous female politicians, elections workers, policewomen and other prominent professional women. They are hardly interested in the protection or welfare of children given they regularly use children as suicide bombers and spotters and have hung boys they accuse of “spying for the Americans“.