Time Magazine is out with a new cover story that attempts to explain "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan." The piece is accompanied by a powerful portrait of Aisha, an Afghan woman who had her nose and ears cut off by Taliban decree after attempting to escape abusive family members. The intense image sets the scene for the crux of the article's argument -- that the rights of Afghan women would be destroyed by a potential settlement between the U.S. and the Taliban.
As Time's Aryn Baker writes, the U.S looks potentially poised to negotiate with the Taliban in what she calls the "quest for a quick peace." Though this trade-off could provide some semblance of stability in Afghanistan, a condition would presumably set the table for an eventual drawdown of U.S. troops, Baker argues that it would come at a devastating price for the nation's women.
Though such a conclusion does raise a number of concerns about the terms of an American withdrawal, it also seems to overlook a variety of tragic conditions that Afghan women currently face, even with the heavy U.S. military and diplomatic influence in the country.
Despite promising rhetoric for women's rights in the 2004 version of Afghanistan's Constitution and subsequent legislation, the country has largely resisted implementing any meaningful progress in the treatment of women. In fact, in 2009, amid international protest, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a bill that was seen by many as the legalization of rape against women.
Though President George W. Bush repeatedly spoke loftily about the "freeing" of Afghan women following the invasion of the country in 2001, reports and numbers show that success stories more often stand as statistical outliers rather than narrative descriptions of a bettering situation for women.
If the treatment of Afghan women has not improved -- and may have even deteriorated -- since the American invasion, the question of what happens if we stay in Afghanistan may be just as important a question as what happens if we leave.
In the video below, Brave New Films argues that the idea of Afghan women being free after the toppling of the Taliban is a "false perception," and that "war won't liberate Afghan women." People interviewed in the video maintain that the advancement of women's rights has been "cosmetic," and that the actual quality of life for women has not improved since the occupation. In some cases, they argue, the treatment of women has worsened due to an extremely fundamentalist judiciary and the radicalization of a population currently engaged in what risks becoming a state of perpetual war.
Watch Brave New Films' Rethink Afghanistan Segment on Women of Afghanistan: