Tuesday Headlines – Afghan Women Make Strides, But Challenges Remain

How Afghan Women Are Changing Their Country
On International Women’s Day, former First Lady Laura Bush focuses attention on the gains (and continued obstacles) women in Afghanistan have made in the last 15 years. Before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, most women were required to wear burqas, were not allowed to drive or pursue an education. In short, they were subjects, not individuals.

After the U.S. intervention destabilized and ousted the Taliban leadership, the doors of opportunity opened and many ran right through those doors.

In today’s Afghanistan, 36 percent of teachers are women and almost 3 million girls are now receiving an education. That is a vast improvement over the 5,000 girls being educated 15 years ago. Bush notes that today women hold 69 seats in parliament and thousands of women have started their own businesses.

“It is hard to find another country where women have made such substantial gains against such overwhelming odds in so short a time. In the United States, women won the right to vote in 1920, but it wasn’t until 1969 that nearly all of the elite Ivy League universities started admitting women,” writes the former First Lady in a Washington Post op-ed.

Bush remains cautious and optimistically aware of the existing challenges, including the societal and cultural biases which incite violence against women. In a column that speaks to those concerns, Rustam Ali Seerat notes in Global Voices that a weak Afghan government and an inconsistent American presence have failed to quash a growing Taliban insurgency.

“Today gender politics in Afghanistan are more complicated than ever, with victories in some areas qualified by setbacks in others,” he writes, adding that “women have been among the greatest victims of the intensifying Taliban insurgency and a rise in criminal violence that neither the frail government in Kabul nor the shrinking American military contingent on the ground have been able to contain.”

For example, a recent New York Times article detailed how women in Afghan prisons often are subjected to forced virginity tests.

Summit Offers Europe Chance To Develop Formal Migration Policy The Brookings Institute’s Jessica Brandt sees this week’s European migration summits as a critical opportunity to bring a semblance of conformity and unity of policy to the Continent’s fractured response to the migrant crisis. With the warmer weather of summer around the corner, the situation could worsen still, Brandt says.

Russia Offers Several Cautionary Tales For America
The Soviet Union learned too late that trying to impose its will in Afghanistan was a futile pursuit. Russians emerged from the collapse of communism too willing to embrace another “czar,” but this one, President Vladimir Putin, wrapped himself in a cloak of populism and nationalism, asserts Alexei Bayer.

“On [Putin’s] watch, Russia has become an inconsequential pariah state. Poverty and privations are spreading while Putin’s propaganda blares about the country’s fearsome global might. This too should sound familiar. Unmindful of Russia’s pathetic experience, millions of Americans are falling for a shameless con artist and know-nothing windbag,” contends Bayer.

And that know-nothing windbag to whom he is referring is, of course, GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

The pair, he asserts, “are even similar in many ways – from philandering to hypocritical Christianity and from narcissistic love of hearing themselves talk tough to atrocious taste for nouveau-riche luxury.”

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