We are sitting in Badam Bagh, or Almond Garden, Afghanistan’s only prison for women in the capital Kabul.
The prison is a window on a world where, outside these walls, women are constantly judged against a standard that makes many of their stories difficult to fathom.
Sixteen-year-old Sabera, with a pretty yellow head scarf, frets that she is missing school.
“I was about to get engaged, and the boy came to ask me himself, before sending his parents. A lady in our neighbourhood saw us, and called the police,” she explains.
She was sentenced to three years but, in an act of mercy, it was shortened to 18 months.
Fellow inmate Aziza was accused of running away from her husband. She says she was acquitted two months ago, but still languishes in prison.
A senior official in Afghanistan’s Ministry for Women’s Affairs told a recent UN workshop that about half of Afghanistan’s 476 women prisoners were detained for “moral crimes”. That includes everything from running away from home, refusing to marry, marrying without their family’s wishes, and “attempted adultery”.
“In many cases women run away because they can’t bear the domestic violence and then they are picked up and taken into custody for a long time,” explains Nader Nadery, a commissioner at Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission…
About 40 young children also share their mother’s fate, living in Badam Bagh…
Prison authorities say children are taken away to a boarding school after the age of five.
Regular readers know I generally support other nations’ independence from the rule of Western ideology and so-called morality. We usually can figure out how to be as corrupt and inhuman as anyone else on the planet – given the opportunity.
I also have a measure of confidence in commerce being likely to move reactionary nations forward to some better place on the planet. If people can learn to deal with each other in the course of making a living – we might be less likely to kill each other.
But, that friendly support for commercial interchange doesn’t mean avoiding criticism of folkways and mores, the delightful tidbits of stupidity and anti-human behavior left dangling from many religions, many cultures, like political dingleballs. My old business acquaintances in China, Taiwan, Japan, Iran, Philippines and on and on – would know exactly what I mean.
Treating women as chattel is over, folks. Lose the stupid hangups!