I am haunted by this picture of Aisha, 18 years old. The picture was on the cover of Time Magazine, August 9th.
Aisha ran away from her husband's home in Afghan's southern province, Uruzgan. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, beat her, abused her. Aisha said if she hadn't run away she would have died.
A local judge said she had to be made an example of so that other girls wouldn't do the same thing. Her brother-in law held her down. Her husband sliced off her ears. Then he went to work on her nose.
Click on the photo; enlarge the photo -- Time Magazine describes how they left her on the mountain to die but she didn't die. Aisha is alive, hidden away in a woman's shelter in Kabul. She tells her tale about what happened with dulled eyes, and a toneless flat voice.
That's what happens in Afghanistan. Human rights for men and woman are not protected. President Karzai, talking with the Washington DC representative from the New York Human Rights Watch, wondered how he could do anything about human rights when so many people were dying. Karzai asked, "What is more important-- protecting the right of a girl to go to school, or saving her life?"
What does this mean to us, after nine years of war, when we need an exit strategy-- when we have been spending billions training and equipping security forces -- we've lost 1000 soldiers, have no way to win a war with the Taliban, and protect women's rights which the Taliban deem a Western concept -- an idea that goes against Islamic teachings.
During her visit to Afghanistan in May, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Women's rights must not be the sacrifice by which peace is achieved."
Yes, progress has been made in Afghanistan -- girls go to school, women and girls hold down jobs, wear jeans, some even hold public office. But if the Taliban came back, everything that has been gained over the nine years of war will probably be lost.
Right now, women are getting "night letters" -- someone knocks on their door and delivers a missive -- a note forbidding them to leave their homes without a male relative, threatening them if they do, with harsh horrible death -- "But first we will set fire to your daughter, the heads of your children will be cut off."
It seems impossible, a bad dream, not a serious real threat in a world with airplanes, Internet, phones that can reach people anywhere, a space station in outer space, and yet ...
Where do I fit in this world where this happens? Where do you fit? Do we give up our lives, our work, the patterns we've made for ourselves and our families? Even if we did, what difference would it, could it make, when these ideas of right and wrong and punishment exist.
So I write this, and publish it, and live my life in a soap bubble. When it bursts, I have to blow another and float along.