Taliban’s Abuse of Women a Reminder of Why Our Troops Fight to Preserve Liberty

Just finished reading Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” a novel about the lives of two women, set in modern Afghanistan. It’s a valuable book for many reasons, not least of which is the light it sheds on women’s lives under the Taliban, who rose to power in 1996.

Certain aspects of the Taliban’s phenomenal brutality toward women in particular were brought before American eyes and ears during the months preceding the liberation of Afghanistan: public beatings of women for exposing even an inch of skin, for instance. The U.S. media also did a decent job of acquainting Americans with the Taliban’s rules forbidding women from receiving education or working. But I don’t think I personally grasped the full extent of the Taliban’s brutality toward and systematic repression of women until I read this book, which was written by an Afghani-American who presently serves as a U.S. envoy to The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR).

One of the most chilling realities this book dramatized was that, during the years of Taliban rule, the level of obstetric and gynecologic care in Afghanistan suffered drastically. The reasons for this were numerous: the Taliban forbade male health care workers from treating women, some female health care workers (the only category of work allowed to women) ceased performing their duties due to harassment by the Taliban, the Taliban banned women from most hospitals in Kabul, and funneled international aid money away from the few centers available to women. As a result, those female health workers who endured harassment to travel to work were forced to perform operations on women–including cesarean sections–without anesthetic.

Even as Hosseini, who is also author of the international best-seller “The Kite Runner,” dramatizes these horrors, he does not shy away from dramatizing the horrors of war, even touching on the unintended ones–the collateral damage–caused to ordinary Afghani civilians by the U.S. invasion. Still, it is hard to imagine any individual who is truly committed to human rights not supporting that liberation.

Funny how, for all its admirable efforts in the 1990’s to raise awareness about the plight of women in Afghanistan, I have yet to hear many voices from the international Left give any credit to George Bush, to American troops, or to those of our NATO allies for the liberation of Afghanistan, including Afghani women.

In addition to being a compelling read (and if you read it, stick with it–it’s one of those books that really picks up after the first hundred pages), “A Thousand Splendid Suns” should remind all who care about human rights that our troops deserve great respect and support for continuing the fight to preserve the fragile liberty that has taken root in Afghanistan.

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