18 November 2008

Acid in Afghanistan

I was reading the Times of India and this piece on the Global News page caught my attention. It’s got me introspecting about the kind of world we live in these days.

A 17 year old girl by the name of Shamsia is lying in a military hospital recovering from an acid attack. Men on motorbikes used a water pistol (Pichkari) to spray acid on a group of school girls as they arrived at their school covered in burqas. She was the worst affected with the acid burning her face and entering her eyes. Her spirit is still strong and she wants the Media to announce to the world that she will continue to go to school even if they try to kill her. A sentiment not many school going children worldwide would understand.

The President Hamid Karzai has called it the work of “enemies of Afghanistan” a broad reference used to mean extremists from the Taliban. It’s the most convenient scapegoat for his government. If anything goes wrong just blame the Taliban. A reporter trying to get both versions managed a telephone call to a Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi who said that his group would “never do such a cowardly thing against girls and children.” Not exactly the response we have come to expect from a group so popularized by the Media for its extremist views and destructive ways.

The funny part is I believe that the Taliban did not have anything to do with the attack contrary to what is being accepted. The Taliban believes in big gestures remember the bombing of the Buddha Statues? How can it justify its claim that women are insignificant by going out of their way to attack them? No this was not the work of an organization rather it was the work of a few individuals. The mindset of the Afghan Man tells him that a woman is no better than the cattle he owns. Indians can understand that mindset because at one point of time they shared it, in fact in some rural areas or less developed areas this still hold to be true. So how can livestock go to school and get educated?

Worse they give themselves airs and talk about being men’s equals. If this kind of thing catches on we might never be able to keep them subdued in the house. They will want to go out in the world, they will challenge our authority. Best to nip the bud and dissuade them from educating themselves, teach them a lesson they need to learn. This is the kind of thinking that caused the attack. The men on the motorcycle will never be caught but if more men are to be discouraged from doing the same thing we need to ensure that we get to them young. Change their thinking pattern; do you know who can do it? The mother.

So yes I am happy that Shamsia is willing to brave attacks and go back to school because one day she will tell her son about it. She will explain how difficult things are for women in their society and he will be blessed with an attitude to solve this problem. In his own little way he will contribute to the change in his society by asking for an educated wife to marry and so the change will snowball. The acid eating up Afghanistan will finally be washed clean. It will take some time but I know it will happen as it has already happened in India. I wish them luck and the patience to make it happen.

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