The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Courage in the Streets


by Tricia Dower

Something wonderful happened yesterday. Three hundred women in Afghanistan marched to protest a new law for Shiites that appears to endorse marital rape and restrict married women’s movements outside the home. I say “appears,” because President Harmid Karzai claims “the West” has misinterpreted the intention of the law (something lost in translation?) and that the rights of women enshrined under the Afghani constitution have not been abolished. However, condemnation from other countries (misinterpretation notwithstanding) has pressured him to promise he’ll review the legislation for any violation of women’s rights.

We’ll see.

The following articles provide background on the law and the protest: Times on Line, New York Times Opinion, and New York Time Asia Report. For me the big news is that those several hundred women had the courage to take to the streets and proclaim their disapproval of the new law. The courage to persevere as people called them whores and pelted them with stones.

I’m not that brave.

In the ‘70s, I led a group of female employees who lobbied for equal opportunity in our company. I got flak from a human resources employee —a woman—who reminded me she’d helped me get my job, and, therefore, was “disappointed” in me. But nobody called me names or assaulted me with hard objects. I didn’t lose my job. In fact, the CEO called me to his office to ask me to help him take the “affirmative action temperature” of the company. I was lucky. In another country I might have been executed. In the US, eventually I was promoted.

When I was a kid, I loved those Biblical epics in which the Christians would hang tough against lions, crucifixions, and other horrors. I would have been one of them, I was sure, one of the faithful braving all manner of indignity and suffering for what I believed to be true. I recall being caught up in the conviction of my imagined nobility at a screening of The Robe I attended with my grandmother. A stranger, a boy in the seat to my right, threatened my pre-prepubescent thigh with a cocked rubber band.

“You don’t want to do that,” I told him, implying the irredeemable loss of his immortal soul. He didn’t. I was filled with a sense of power. I had stood up to EVIL. The blessed life of a martyr was mine for the taking.

I’m ancient now and more realistic about what I can and cannot achieve by force of will and by my all too convenient cowardice. I applaud those Afghani women and say that until each of us is prepared to suffer for our convictions, we have no chance of earning a just world.

6 Comments:

Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Brave amazing women!

Stephen Harper openly critized this law at the G20; and it was the first time I was ever proud of something he did.

Some have argued that we shouldn't be 'forcing our values' by threatening to withdraw our military assistance if the law goes through. I thought that's why we were there in the first place to help protect human rights.

Thu Apr 16, 06:15:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger DoctorBoogaloo said...

I'm a writer with a day job (well, hell, aren't we all?) in education. For the past couple of weeks, I have been reading 'The Breadwinner' with a few of my Grade Six students. Last Thursday, we read the news and saw the pictures of the Afghan womens' protest march. Those young faces in the crowd... so like the characters in Deborah Ellis' novel.

I want my kids -- especially the girls -- to feel part of an assault on institutionalized intolerance; to empower themselves against any individual or group that threatens their freedom of thought and personal dignity; to be strong and creative, respected and HEARD.

These are brave women. And the last best chance for Afghanistan.

Cheers.

Sat Apr 18, 10:29:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thank you, Andrew. I believe you're right in thinking Canadians are in Afghanistan to protect human rights but I'm not so sure that's what the government thinks. I suspect it subscribes to the US objective of getting rid of a safe haven for terrorists. Wonder if either of those goals can succeed.

Sun Apr 19, 11:09:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Glad to meet you, Doctor Boogaloo, and thank you for your approach to teaching. I'm not familiar with "The Breadwinner" -- will look it up. But I truly appreciate your encouraging your students to empower themselves.

Sun Apr 19, 11:11:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Zahra Youssry said...

Brave Civilized Afghani women

Thu Oct 29, 08:12:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous the writer said...

reality is quite different from what we see in news ... watch the movie Redacted by Brian De Palma and you will know what is the truth.

We should be ashamed for what we are doing to the innocent or we shall suffer!

Sun Jul 24, 02:37:00 pm GMT-4  

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