NGOs decision to continue providing relief in Afghanistan is justified


When the Taliban regime in Afghanistan recently banned women from working in NGOs, several of them decided to stop working in this country, but later some of them reconsidered this decision and decided to continue working.

This decision should be supported because while the ban on women working in NGOs was clearly and completely wrong, the fact that over two thirds of the people of Afghanistan, including women desperate to feed their children, need humanitarian aid, cannot be ignored. Hence in these extremely difficult conditions, for these NGOs with established contacts and experience of delivering humanitarian aid, it would not be proper to abandon people, and their decision to continue working here is very sensible.

The Taliban regime’s decision to ban women from working in NGOs is completely wrong not just on grounds of gender injustice and discrimination but in addition it will be extremely harmful for the country and its distressed people as women play such a valuable role in taking humanitarian aid further. Besides, many women will be deprived of the few good jobs that are still available to them.

While the entire world should condemn such arbitrary and cruel anti-women decisions of the Taliban, we should also ask another question—how did such forces of extreme religious fundamentalism become so powerful? The answer is well-known—to fight the Russian army and the communist regime in Afghanistan friendly to Russia, the USA and the CIA, with Pakistan’s help, financed and armed with most deadly weapons Islamic fundamentalist fighters who were summoned from all over the world to assemble in Afghanistan.

Under which Afghanistan regime did the women of this country have the most freedom to join all kinds of jobs and access all kinds of education? Clearly it was the communist regime, whatever may have been the other problems with it (and there were many). If gender justice is the key concern of the USA and its western allies, then they should have welcomed the communist regime, but they spent huge money to arm religious fundamentalist militants from all over the world (including Bin Laden and his followers) to fight and oust this regime and hang its leader.

The story goes back much further. When the pro-people regime of Sukarno was being ousted in Indonesia in 1965-66 by General Suharto in a prolonged coup aided by the USA and its allies, the religious fundamentalist Islamists were called in as a close ally by Suharto and company, with the main job assigned to them of killing communists. Communists were a big force then under Sukarno and it was suspected by coup leaders that they will come to the help of Sukarno and will oppose the pro-imperialism and pro-big business changes that were on the agenda of the coup leaders. Mobs of these armed fundamentalists and extremists went on a killing spree, identifying people on the basis of being communists, communist sympathizers, and less often on the basis of some racist background too. Nearly half a million to one million people were killed over of six months in Indonesia in 1965-66.

There are several other examples of the USA and its close allies using and supporting religious fundamentalist forces, which are generally known for their support for gender based discrimination and injustice, in order to oust and harm communists, socialist or other governments, parties or groups considered to be hostile to the USA and its allies. Hence the USA and its allies have to accept a big part of the blame for making forces of gender discrimination and injustice more powerful in several countries. Such an acceptance should be the first part of a wider process for ensuring that such mistakes are not repeated in future.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include A Day in 2071, Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth for Children.

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