From A World to Win News Service

Afghanistan: 4 years after the US-led invasion
Part 2

Revolution #020, October 30, 2005, posted at

Part 1 of this article, which appeared in last week's issue of Revolution, analyzed the current political and military situation in occupied Afghanistan.

The Economic Situation

The so-called reconstruction of Afghanistan has been mainly limited to building some roads and rebuilding parts of Kabul in order to meet the occupation’s communication and transport needs. There has been a rise in certain kinds of economic activity among entrepreneurs linked to foreign capital--last year a billion dollars worth of pre-paid phone cards were sold in Afghanistan. At the same time, the people lack the most basic necessities. Joblessness is a scourge, and widows suffer the most. Office workers earn $20 per month, while monthly rent for a small house could be as high as $100. Many people in the cities are homeless. Often powerful figures or government organs have confiscated their homes. Some 90 percent of the country’s budget is dependent on foreign aid. Little of Afghanistan’s economic infrastructure has been rebuilt.

The occupiers have shown no sign of interest in restoring agriculture. In fact, growing poppies for opium is Afghanistan’s only real productive activity. A heavy price is paid in the rising number of people whose lives are destroyed by drugs, not only here but in many other countries, since the bulk of the world’s heroin originates in US-occupied Afghanistan. Despite empty noise about fighting drugs and sometimes real harassment of peasants and the eradication of their crops, the situation is worse than ever. When Karzai’s Interior Minister, one of the regime’s most powerful figures, resigned recently, whatever his motives he complained that the regime and its supporters run the drug trade.

The overproduction of poppies has led to a sharp drop in the price of opium, as even the British officials in charge of opium eradication have admitted. Some US representatives criticize the British and Karzai for not tackling the problem vigorously enough. They advocate harsher methods against the peasants. But first of all, opium is the heart of Afghanistan’s economy, with high officials, warlords and the authorities on every level from top to bottom deeply involved. The two main reactionary sections of Afghan society allied with the occupiers, the feudals and comprador (imperialist-dependent) capitalists, draw their nourishment from it. So far, at least, the occupation has not been able to do without opium.

Secondly, what is the real effect of the anti-opium measures that have been carried out?

Reducing the amount of poppies on the market could bring a rise in the price of opium, which would especially benefit those involved in the global drug network, including top officials in and outside Afghanistan. But these measures bring the peasants disaster. The farmers are completely under the thumb of the moneylenders (usually associated with warlords or other feudal authorities) who advance them the money to buy seeds for their crop. If the crop is destroyed, the moneylenders want their pound of flesh anyway. The International Herald Tribune (September 29) describes a peasant who “could not pay off a loan of about $1,165 because his crops had been eradicated. [Instead], the farmer offered his 14-year old daughter. The practice of giving away a daughter to pay a debt is expected to increase sharply after the aggressive campaign against poppies.” Harassing the peasants only tightens the chains of semi-feudal exploitation and oppression gripping all of Afghanistan’s countryside.

The Liberation of Women

The occupiers said they came to liberate women, but women have been the worst affected by the invasion. It is true that in some areas of Kabul, women might be able to exchange the burqa, which completely covers the eyes and the whole face, for another kind of Islamic hijab (head scarf). Legally girls are now allowed to go to school, a right that was taken away by the Taliban. Women can work in some parts of the capital. But these legal rights are highly conditional on real circumstances. Women can work, but only if someone gives them a job. They can go to school, but only if they have enough money, if they are willing to risk rape and kidnapping by military groups working for the government and other jihadi forces, if their schools are not burned down, and many other "ifs."  Today more than 65 percent of girls do not attend school because their families can’t or won’t pay or because they are afraid. And this is not the worst of it.

The situation for women has remained unchanged in many aspects or has even become worse under the occupation. A few months ago a woman accused of adultery was stoned to death by a local court in Badakhshan, while the man was sentenced to a beating. Women are still persecuted and imprisoned for adultery on the say-so of their husband or other men. There are more and more cases of young women burning themselves alive. In the fourth year of the occupation there has been a fifty percent increase compared to the previous year. Women are at much greater risk of rape and kidnap now than before the invasion. Wearing a burqa is no longer legally compulsory, and women might not get beaten by the Taleban morality police anymore, but instead they might get raped or kidnapped or both. Forced marriage is as standard as ever. Girl children are sold for a couple of hundred of dollars. Since the invasion, prostitution has increased tremendously. Violence against women by family members is still as widespread as before, if not worse. The situation of women in Afghanistan cannot be judged by the few women in certain limited areas of the capital who might now wear a scarf and drive a car. It should be judged by the hell that more that 90 percent of the women are going through.

The imperialists and their flunkies are incapable of liberating women or even radically improving their situation, because they are not going to change the fundamental semi-feudal economic and social relations on which the severe oppression of women in Afghanistan is based. In fact, they have been helping to strengthen these relations for 25 years by allying themselves with the most reactionary economic, social, political and ideological representatives of these relations. And if they want to continue the occupation they have no choice but to rely on these forces and strengthen these relations. The interests of the imperialists are dependent on that, no matter what they might want. But in fact, Bush, Blair, Schroeder, Chirac and company and their Karzai have chosen to do as little as possible.

The constitution endorsed by the second Loya Jirga in December 2003 gave equal importance to Sharia law (Islamic law) in conducting the life of the people and established the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Not only will these laws not end the oppression of women, but they will also strengthen the semi-feudal relations that are the basis for it. Bush and Blair can brag that their guns brought elections to Afghanistan, but the electoral democracy imposed by the imperialists is a form of rule by the traditional backward classes propped up by the world’s biggest reactionaries. It is a thin cover for the general oppression of the people in which the domination of women is a keystone.

Rising People’s Resistance

The people are responding to the imperialist occupiers and their puppets with their struggle. They are clearly raising their voices louder and louder.

Upwards of 10,000 people took part in the demonstrations in Jalalabad and Nangarhar last December. In a series of protests last May in Kabul, Harat and other cities, students, joined by teachers and workers, clashed with security forces and even occupation troops and occupiers and burned the flag of Uncle Sam. A dozen students were killed. The massive demonstrations against rape in Badakhshan and many other places are additional signs of the discontent of a people who are becoming more and more clearly opposed to the occupiers and their puppet regime. Resistance is growing in different forms. This heralds difficult days ahead for the occupiers.

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