Burn Baby Burn (Afghan Inferno)

In the West, back in the ’60s and ’70s, feminist-leaning women used to burn their bras as a sign of their liberation from centuries of patriarchal oppression. Most Western women are still wearing bras these days, but there is no doubt they are able to do just about anything a man can do, such as become Shrieker — er, excuse me — Speaker of the House.

In Afghanistan, conversely, as a sign of their continued oppression, many women are burning themselves–and to death. Why? Because they see it as the only escape from beatings, rape, forced marriage, bleak servitude and various other misogynistic social customs that are all the rage amongst knuckle-dragging Muslim men, but which hold little charm for the ladies.

If they must kill themselves, why don’t they just take an overdose of pills? Because they believe self-immolation is far more likely to get the job done. Unfortunately, roughly a fourth of the women survive their horrific suicide attempts and needless to say, the Afghan health care system is something less than stellar for severe burn victims (especially if they are shamed females who probably deserved to die anyway).

But guess what? Things are vastly better for women — and everyone else — in Afghanistan today than they were a few short years ago under the Taliban. Besides being total prisoners in their homes who couldn’t leave without male accompaniment, if women were caught wearing nail polish, for instance, they could have had their fingernails ripped out or their fingers chopped off. Anything that was entertaining was banned: music, dancing, television, even flying a kite. Public floggings were an everyday street scene throughout the country and public executions down at the soccer stadium in Kabul were as common as the soccer matches.

But certainly women got the worst of it. Those wily Talibanis had pretty much put the kibosh on what they considered to be one of the greatest scourges of the modern world: the uppity female.

So if things are so much better today, you might wonder, then why are some Afghan women going to the extraordinary lengths of torching themselves to escape mistreatment? Well, you have to realize that everything is relative. What I mean by that is that just because things have improved doesn’t mean that Afghanistan isn’t still an abject backwater of ignorance and Islam (if that’s not redundant).

In other words, just because the Taliban is no longer running the show doesn’t mean that most people living outside the city limits of the breathtakingly cosmopolitan capital of Kabul aren’t continuing to practice their age-old customs, which make being born a woman less appealing than being born a dog. Don’t expect Afghanistan to become a showcase for the compassionate treatment of Islamic women anytime soon.

Greg Strange provides conservative commentary with plenty of acerbic wit on the people, politics, events and absurdities of our time. See more at his website: http://www.greg-strange.com/

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