Note to NATO: war and occupation in Afghanistan will not empower women!

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

by Sharon Miller

This past week, CODEPINKers were among thousands of activists who gathered to speak out against NATO at its summit in Chicago.   We joined our allies in protesting profligate war spending and the ongoing US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

During the Chicago summit, Amnesty International created an advertising campaign featuring Afghan women. The ads ask NATO to “keep the progress going” regarding human rights for Afghan women and girls.

I agree with many of Amnesty International’s previous campaigns, and hope my reading of this particular ad campaign is a serious misunderstanding of their intended message. However, regardless of the ads’ original intent, they convey loaded images; women's suffering in Afghanistan has been used to justify this war for over ten years. This rhetoric completely ignores decades of effort that Afghan women have put into their own empowerment, including the work of groups such as the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), and individuals such as Malalai Joya, among others. Amnesty International, being a human rights organization, hopefully already recognizes that the women of Afghanistan have had many successes in empowering themselves, without the “help” of foreign military interventions and occupations.

War is no way to help women or support feminist goals. Ten years after the US and NATO invasion of Afghanistan, Afghan women continue to suffer at the hands of violent misogynists, many of whom have been empowered by the US and NATO. Night raids and drone warfare are themselves acts of violence against Afghan women and their families. The very same Afghan women the US and NATO say they want to liberate and empower have been killed, injured, and traumatized in this war.

If US and NATO leaders truly wish to help the women of Afghanistan, they would be wise to remember the words of Malalai Joya (from her book A Woman Among Warlords):
In Afghanistan, democratic-minded people have been struggling for human and women’s rights for decades. Our history proves that these values cannot be imposed by foreign troops….no nation can donate liberation to another nation. These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves.

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