Chattel and cattle


The government in Kabul handed out piles of cash today to families of 140 people killed in a U.S. airstrike.

Grieving relatives got the equivalent of $2,000 for each person killed and $1,000 for each one injured.

In Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson’s story on All Things Considered this afternoon, though, one paragraph — intentionally or not — hits like a cold bucket of water:

Many of those interviewed say they will use the money to rebuild their homes and buy new brides and livestock.

No other mention was made in the story of the life of the women of Afghanistan.

For that, we have the Peoria Journal Star which this week carried a blistering editorial that suggested one of the original — if secondary — goals of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was no longer a concern.

Much has been written in the last few weeks about a law passed by the Afghan parliament governing how members of the Shiite minority may treat women. It explicitly spells out the limited circumstances under which a woman can leave her home, backsliding toward the draconian restrictions imposed by the Taliban. But that rule alone is mild compared with another element of the measure, which effectively legalizes marital rape by mandating that Afghan women must submit to their husbands’ demands for sex. The law offers only a few exceptions for women, but no exception would make the odious measure more acceptable.

When Karzai gave it his approval it sparked an outcry, particularly given the reputation he’s cultivated as a leader interested in improving human rights for women. There were street protests in Kabul and Western leaders widely condemned the change, with President Obama calling it “abhorrent.” In the face of such pressure, Karzai froze its enforcement and put it through a judicial review, which is slated to wrap up next week.

Meanwhile, reports out of Afghanistan today said five young girls slipped into comas, and 100 have been taken to a hospital, after a gas attack on their school. It’s the third such attack of late and an official said he doesn’t think the Taliban are responsible.