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Taliban's Defeat Won't Liberate Women
THE 'LIBERATION' of Afghan women is one reason given to justify the war in Afghanistan. The first broadcasts from Kabul TV and radio are fronted by a woman and photographs appear in the press of women not wearing the burqa.
Now that the Taliban have gone, declare apologists for the war, a new era opens up for women in Afghanistan; now they will be able to work, go to school, and will not be beaten for dressing inappropriately.
But women won't be 'liberated' by the Taliban's defeat. Many in Kabul remember previous power changes when unveiled women had acid thrown in their faces.
Most women are not removing their burqas, some because they fear the return of the Taliban, some because they fear the Northern Alliance troops.
As one woman explained: "I am not going to walk unveiled through a city full of soldiers where there is no police force".
The Northern Alliance are no champions of women's rights. These are the very people who viciously raped thousands of women and children when they were last in power. One of their favourite sports was to chop off women's breasts.
The Taliban regime had an especially repressive attitude towards women's rights. But many of the restrictions imposed on women were already in force in parts of Afghanistan before their arrival.
Historically there has always been tension and conflict between rural areas, where custom and practice has been more backward as far as women are concerned, and urban areas where women have had more freedom.
Many women fear their own male family members as much as the Taliban or the Northern Alliance. Behaviour considered to bring dishonour to the family can often be brutally punished.
Many of the social restrictions women face are not confined to Islam but existed (and still exist) in non-Islamic countries and are rooted in the division of society into classes.
MPs such as Clare Short and Joan Ruddock hypocritically put themselves forward as advocates for women's rights in Afghanistan while giving their full support to the bombing which has killed hundreds of women and children.
The right to work and be educated will remain just that - a right - for millions of women in a country economically devastated by years of war and now laid to waste by US bombs.
Only socialism can guarantee real economic and social liberation for women in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In The Socialist 23 November 2001: