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Burqa: Its Unrecognized Role In Afghanistan
[Comparison with Germany 1945 and Saigon]
[Here is another excerpt from
Dr. Kaukab Siddique's
Ahmed Rashid and others in the Pakistani secular
elite have given the burqa
such a bad name that it has become synonymous
with the oppression of
Progressive circles around the world have
accepted the burqa as a symbol of all
that is wrong in Afghanistan and, by extension,
in Pakistan and the rest of the
Muslim world. When a Taliban ambassador visited
to explain his
country's policies, his statements were drowned
out by vociferous feminist protests
against the evils of the burqa.
What has been the role of the burqa in
Afghanistan? Is it even possible look
at the role of the burqa dispassionately, with an
attempt to understand
We can begin by pointing out that Afghanistan and
Pakistan are dissimilar
societies in a variety of essential
characteristics. These dissimilarities are so
obvious that one can easily miss them, especially
if, as in the case of Ahmed
Rashid the purpose is to create a certain
propaganda effect among Pakistanis.
The most important dissimilarity is that
Afghanistan has been a land of war
since 1977 while Pakistan during that period of
26 years has been relatively at
peace with only sporadic violence coming in as an
overflow from Afghanistan.
Under Tanai and then Hafizullah Amin, leaders of
the two Communist groupings
of Afghanistan, a frontal attack was attempted on
the religious and
traditional base of Afghanistan. Tanai's Khalq
(People') grouping, and Amin's Parcham
(Flag') faction conceptualized Afghanistan in
limited ideological jargon as a
land of feudal lords trying to crush the peasants
and the workers. [Hence the
macabre joke about the seven million people who
left Afghanistan to escape
Communist rule when a neophyte Communist said: I
did'd know Afghanistan had so many
Accordin to reliable sources, the Communists used
to make recruits to their
Party walk on the
to ensure that the
newcomers had shed their
"reactionary legends." Jan Goodwin's book Caught
in the Crossfire  contains a
photo of Afghan Communist policewomen, wearing
skirts, lifting an Afghan woman's
burqa to investigate her. [After page 172. The
next photo shows five Communist
Afghan women who were "responsible for sending
Afghan children to the Soviet
Union for fifteen years of indoctrination."]
The attack on Islam was frontal and the Afghan
answer was also elementary:
in the name of Allah, which sparked the
fire of resistance which spread
from village to village. Gradually it became a
conflagration which ended up
burning the Soviets and driving them out of
However, before the Soviets came in, the Afghan
Communists wreaked havoc on
the people of Afghanstan. Atrocities were
committed and the center of
Communist terror was always Kabul. We must
remember the centrality of Kabul as the
bastion of anti-Islam experimentation by the
Communists to understand the nature
of the Taliban governance of that city.
The Communists, like the Americans today,
believed that the Burqa was the
main impedment in the way of progress by Afghan
women. However, the more the
Communist derided and abused the burqa, the more
the Afghans clung to it.
Gradually it became the symbol of Afghan honor
The Khalq and Parcham factions of the
Communists were bitter foes. When
Hafizullah Amin took over, the Soviet Union
sensed that a nationalist brand
of Communism had emerged to challenge Moscow's
control on Kabul. The Soviets
saw a possible defeat for Communism in a country
which they aw as theirs alone.
Since 1945, the Communists had not retreated
anywhere. They captured Kabul in
a day and the Afghan hinterland in three weeks.
The rest is history.
The Soviets fought the Islamic resistance
from village to village for
nearly nine years. The Afghans left en masse for
Pakistan (4 million), for
(one million) or simply from one place to
another within Afghanistan (one
million). The Americans saw their chance and
started sending weaponry to the
Mujahideen through General Zia's government in
Pakistan. Even the estimated 30%
or so of the weaponry and resources which Zia did
pass on to the Afghans was
enough to keep the resistance alive. The U.S.
wanted to fight the USSR 'to the
last Afghan.' Never did the U.S. imagine (as is
clear from Selig Harrison's
assurance his government) that the Afghans could
During all this time, the strict moral code
of Islam, in its most
archaic form of the top-to-toe burqa, saved the
family system from disintegration.
The Soviets left and the Afghans started
fighting each other. The
horrors of civil war continued till 1994 and only
ended with the emergence of the
Taliban. During the civil war, bandits and thugs
took over in localities where
the State no longer existed. During these years,
a section of the Hazarajat
Shias, heavily armed by Iran, tried to storm
Kabul and committed numerous
atrocities against women.
By 1996, the Taliban had taken over all of
Afghanistan and implemented
Islamic law, in its most literal sense, on the
Communist stronghold of Kabul.
The burqa already existed in Afghanistan and
still does (after the overthrow
of the Taliban in 2001). The difference was that
the Taliban imposed it on the
Communist women of Kabul who had consistently
sided with the anti-Islam
forces. The secularized women of Kabul were in
two categories: Firstly, the rich
westernized women, related to the King and
various corrupt offshoots of the
King's power structure. The second category was
that of Communist-related women
who believed that Islam was oppressive and should
be reduced to the status of a
private religion (as in the USSR).
These Communist women were most responsible
for the propaganda picked up
by Ahmed Rashid and others of his mentality. A
splinter faction among the
Communists, a Maoist group known as RAWA, came in
handy for American
the campaign against the Taliban went into high
gear. RAWA had put up a
horrific web site consisting of clips pulled
together of the first days of Taliban
rule in Kabul. Overall RAWA used the 'big lie'
technique and fell straight into
the hands of publications like the
and, later, the entire U.S.
KABUL compared to SAIGON and GERMAN cities
after World War II.
Kabul was the germinating point of the
anti-Islamic forces in
Afghanistan. The Taliban took Kabul by force
after defeating both Hikmatyar and Masood.
However, not even one woman was raped, molested
or enslaved by the Taliban.
The only punishment imposed on the defeated enemy
city was that the women could
no longer go out in their finery. They had to
cover themselves in the burqa
when they went out for necessities. In a few
cases, when they did not cover
themselves properly, they were beaten with canes.
No serious injury was inflicted
on any woman.
The great victory of the Taliban which will
make future generations
grateful to them was that they used the burqa to
save the Afghan family system
which was under unimaginable stress owing to
years of war and civil war. Owing to
the burqa, Afghan women have survived even the
American onslaught which
rained death and destruction across the country
on a scale which outdid the Soviets.
COMPARISON WITH GERMANY.
During the 1980s I visited Germany. Near the
entrance to the U.S. army
base near Frankfurt, there was a lineup of
automobiles. In front of each car was
a German woman holding the door open. My hosts
told me that the women giving
an open invitation to American troops to go sleep
with them. Forty years after
the collapse of Germany in 1945, the
disintegration of the German family
under the impact of war was still visible.
Frankfurt airport was the only international
airport I have seen which
displayed an invitation to "adult" pornographic
entertainment for the visitor
(not to be confused with advertising related to
the exploitation of women).
Iranians have found that German women are
most amenable to muta'
What did war do to the women of Germany?
"Christian armies" from USA,
Britain, France and the USSR invaded Germany in
1945 and the German family
system collapsed. I will leave out the sickening
atrocities inflicted by the
Russians on German women. More to the point is
the behavior of the American, French
and British occupation forces.
One eyewitness account noted the fate of
German women on October 5, 1945:
"Young girls, unattached, wander about and
freely offer themselves, for
food or bed . Very simply, they have one thing
left to sell, and they sell it.
As a way of dying, it may be worse than
starvation, but it will put off dying
for months - or even years." [Gruesome Harvest.
The Allies Postwar War Against
the German People by Ralph Keeling, 1947 and
Unlike the Russians, American troops did not
have to resort to rape.
Germany's women were starving in the harsh first
winter after the war:
"The American provost marshal, Lieutenant
Colonel Gerald F. Beane, said
that rape represents no problem to the military
police because 'a bit of food,
a bar of chocolate, or a bar of soap seems to
make rape unnecessary.' Think
this over if you want to understand what the
situation is in Germany." [Ibid.]
Keeling discusses the spread of venereal
disease owing to the plight of
German women. The sexual surrender of the female
population spread the
disease among American troops, German women and
finally the few German men who were
not in captivity.
"Thirty-five per cent of the civilian disease
victims are girls under 20. For
most of them, it was desperation that turned them
to sex indulgence. They
needed food, clothing, and shelter." [Ibid.,
IN AFGHANISTAN, owing to the culture of the
burqa, the women accepted
death by starvation rather than offering
themselves to armed men. The silent
heroism of the Afghan women needs to be
recognized. Instead, Ahmed Rashid and
others mock them as victims of Islamic bigots.
Even a FRIENDLY OCCUPATION by foreign troops
can erode family values.
Such was the presence of U.S. troops in South
Vietnam, particularly in SAIGON.
The city became a vast brothel for American
troops as the ferocious campaign to
defeat the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese
'true-to-life' movies have shown the impact of
friendly American troops on the Vietnamese
population. Tens of thousands of illegitimate
children were born from these
"friendly" contacts. After the war, Vietnamese
women tried for years, sometimes
successfully, to get American soldiers to accept
the children they had sired.
BY CONTRAST, Afghanistan has seen two
foreign occupations, first by the
Soviets and now by the Americans. The very first
impact of American victory
over the Taliban was to open up Afghan society to
cultural imperialism and its
associated way of life meant to introduce
consumerism into the Muslim way of
life. Men's beards were forcibly shaved,
movies and videos were
distributed, and women were encouraged to get
rid of the burqa.
The burqa, in all its ugliness, stands in the
way of America's attempts to
"open up" Afghan society. [The term "open up" is,
perhaps unwittingly, borrowed
by the Americans from the language of rape and
Ahmed Rashid and his friends in the West
misled Pakistanis and Americans
about the burqa. Afghanistan's experience of
unending war required the
discipline of the burqa (with serious punishments
for fornication). The future of
Afghanistan is linked to Islamic womanhood. Any
erosion of discipline would make
the little country a dirty backwater of New York,
London and Paris.
2003-07-25 Fri 21:05ct