ISAF vows support to Afghan women in anti-corruption fight
KABUL, Afghanistan (Aug. 2, 2012) — The commander of international forces in Afghanistan pledged full coalition support behind efforts to protect advances made by Afghan women in the decade since the Taliban era ended.
Gen. John R. Allen, now in his second year as head of the International Security Assistance Force, told a women’s shura at his ISAF headquarters July 29 that the successes and sacrifices of coalition and Afghan forces on the battlefield demand an end to the corruption that threatens the hard-earned gains.
“ISAF will do all we can to stand beside the women of Afghanistan in the fight against corruption, for the rights of women, and for health care and education,” Allen told the shura.
His remarks came at the end of a two-hour conference aimed at addressing corruption and its corrosive effects on women and Afghan society.
The commander of the 50-nation coalition praised President Hamid Karzai’s initiative last week in issuing a decree directing the Afghan government’s key ministries to take concrete steps to combat administrative corruption. The order follows a July 8 international conference in Tokyo that generated $16 billion in commitments of financial support to Afghanistan.
“The Mutual Accountability Framework from Tokyo and the President’s recent decree provide valuable tools to protect the rights of women and minorities and deal with the problem of corruption,” Allen said.
While the Afghan government’s commitment to fighting corruption and upholding the rights of women and others are well defined in the Afghan Constitution and other strategic documents, organizers were quick to acknowledge that the problem is not confined to the Afghan government, pointing to ongoing efforts by the international community to counter corruption in global contracting.
Still, those attending the shura focused their attention on corruption within state institutions and on the need for urgent reform and justice.
In a keynote address to begin the shura, Allen said that corruption not only undermines the government’s effectiveness and fuels discontent among the Afghan people, but it poses a constant threat to Afghan women.
“Crimes against women … have been wrongly attributed to culture or even to religious belief,” he said. “More often than not, such crimes are fostered and enabled by corrupt practices and officials, and corrupt actions against women.”
The conference, arranged by ISAF's anti-corruption arm, Task Force Shafafiyat – the Afghan word for transparency -- provided a forum for suggestions to combat corruption and to bear witness to the suffering of the oppressed.
One participant cited the fate of Nadia Anjuman, a 25-year-old Afghan poet who, only months after publishing her first collection of poetry, was reportedly beaten to death by her husband over a dispute about her writing.
In a plaintive poem called “Light Blue Memories,” written only weeks after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Anjuman laments the female victims of politically enforced silence but also anticipates a day when they would be free to express themselves without fear.
Will the rise of your memories
Your light blue memories
In the eyes of fishes weary of floodwaters and
fearful of the rain of oppression
become a reflection of hope?
Reminding conference attendees that a women’s shura would have been unimaginable just over a decade ago, Allen praised them for their courage and called the women of Afghanistan “a defense against the darkness of the ‘90s” and a critical part of the coming “Decade of Transformation.”
Click here for the full text of Gen. Allen's speech.