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August 16, 2022

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: A Wake Up To Australia’s Real Responsibility for Freedom

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The Taliban are back. Back is a life where women have no agency, where they will be forced, again, to wear a burqa at all times in public, because the ‘face of a woman is a source of corruption’. This makes the push back on mask wearing look pretty shallow.

Today I woke up profoundly aware that as a white woman I live in a country that affords me extreme privilege. While baristas and hairdressers take to our front lines as ‘freedom fighters’– getting shouty about the right to not wear a mask during a global pandemic – women in Afghanistan are waking up today wondering if the last 20 years was a dream. Two decades of education and ambition are over. The Taliban are back. Back is a life where women have no agency, where they will be forced, again, to wear a burqa at all times in public, because the ‘face of a woman is a source of corruption’. This makes the push back on mask wearing look pretty shallow. Under the Taliban, it is women and children who will suffer most.

After 20 years of American intervention, the Afghan government collapsed in one night. Weirdly, I was watching the latest season of Homeland where (spoiler alert) the presidents – both Afghan and American – are killed and the Taliban take control. This was made in 2019. It was dramatic, but clearly more than two years ago Netflix writers were able to forecast the political future for Afghanistan.  

Today I woke up to the news that President Ashraf Ghani has fled. The Taliban have taken Kabul and are giving interviews from the Presidential Palace. The US personnel have hightailed it to the airport to Get the Fuck Out. It’s starting to look a lot like Vietnam. Although the Americans are saying ‘This is nothing like Saigon’. 

Really? Who is being left behind? What is going to happen to those who were seen to be working towards democracy with the US led forces?

I guess, unlike when the Viet Kong took Saigon, this time we have Facebook. It’s kind of surreal when a deposed president posts a message on Facebook to tell the world he had no choice but to leave: ‘In order to avoid a flood of blood, I thought it was best to get out.’ For a minute I thought I was still watching Netflix. Fact check. This is the real world. The lines are blurring.

I can only imagine the fear and the despair of women and girls in Afghanistan.

There is a whole generation of Afghan women who have entered public life as journalists, academics, teachers… who could very well end up being forced to marry Islamist militants. Women leaders and law makers who have been working to open up opportunities for later generations of women, who now have good reason to fear that the gains of the last 20 years will be lost. 

‘With every city collapsing, human bodies collapse, dreams collapse, history and future collapse, art and culture collapse, life and beauty collapse, our world collapses, someone please stop this,’ Afghan photographer Rada Akbar wrote on Twitter.

While the Taliban have promised to protect women, women don’t believe them. 

The first and only female prosecutor in Kandahar Province has sent 21 men to jail for beating and abusing their wives. In the lead up to the Taliban takeover she received a warning: a handwritten note, on the windshield of her family car, folded around a bullet. The New York Times reports the contents of the letter ‘From now on you are our target and we will treat you like other Western slaves’.

Perhaps it’s timely to revisit some of the rules women lived under with the Taliban: no laughing loudly (strangers are not to hear a woman’s voice), no bright clothes, no appearing on the balcony of their home, the requirement that all windows be painted over so that women can’t be seen, public stoning of women accused of infidelity, women whipped in public for showing their ankles. In fact, any non accordance with the dress code is met with a whipping and abuse. Previously, for women under Taliban rule,  there was no activity outside the home without a close male relative, there was a ban on study at school, university or any other educational institution (women are banned from learning to read). There was a ban on high heels or shoes that make noise, because a man must not hear a woman’s footsteps. Women were not permitted to gather for any festive or recreational purpose. Women were not to appear in pictures in newspapers, or in books, or in pictures hung on the walls of the home. 

I write this list, and I can’t help but cry. Australia needs to step up.

Afghan refugees living in Australia right now need permanent protection. We need a one-off humanitarian intake of vulnerable groups, and we need to lift the ban on family reunion immigration that currently prevents the hundreds of Afghan Australian permanent residents from being reunited with family still in Afghanistan. 

After 20 years of promises to protect women and other persecuted groups, in Afghanistan, we can’t just walk away.

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  1. yes we can walk away, we should never have joined America in this bs war for the last 20 years we have terrorized and destroyed a nation, Australian soldiers killing civilians with impunity and lets not forget the Taliban are Afghani and have massive support throughout their country which is why the cardboard cut out government propped up by America and its lackeys fell over in less than 2 weeks its time for the west to stop pushing our ideologies onto nations that do not want it,
    also i think we will find that most Afghani woman support the traditions that we see as oppressive the Taliban have mothers too and who helps to keep these traditions we find so offensive in west alive?

    • Perhaps only a woman can truly understand the horror of misogynistic “tradition”. To survive it, some may seem to embrace it. That is a survival tactic, not genuine enjoyment or support of it.

      • I certainly would not want to be a woman living in a nation that’s cultural traditions forces the suppression of ones existence but lets not ignore the role women alongside men play in passing on culture and tradition, culture and tradition are extremely powerful methods of control forcing all people to conform with the dominant as a method of survival even if the traditional practices accepted causes mental and physical harm to themselves and the people around them, every culture has its beneficiaries, its champions, and also its victims.

    • “most Afghani woman support the traditions that we see as oppressive” Where did you find this information? Please provide your source.
      Also, I suggest you do some reading about Afghanistan in the 1960s prior to the Soviet invasion. You might be surprised.

      • Yes to Denis and Sian Lewis. My then wife travelled through Afghanistan in 1976 and told me that through all the Muslim countries she travelled, like Turkey, Iran and Pakistan she was only treated with respect in Afghanistan. It was still a democratically governed country with a Royal family, just like Britain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands for instance.
        Here is how these Afghanistan wars started:
        Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs [“From the Shadows”], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahideen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
        Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahideen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
        Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
        B: It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

        While it is understandable that Mandy entertains fears about women’s rights by the return of a Taliban government in Afghanistan, early indications are that the Taliban anno 2021 are not the same Taliban of 20 years ago. They have already stated that women will not be removed from the workforce or from educational pursuits. While is highly likely that they will insist on haircovers for women, they haven’t talked about the burqua as yet. Time will tell if they keep their word. The leaders of the Taliban from 20 years ago consisted mainly of the Pashtun tribe and came to power with the financial and military support from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the USA to defeat the presence of the Soviets military. Osama bin Laden received a part of that support to oust the Soviets. The American government paid that Taliban government 50 million dollars to eradicate the opium trade and within a few years they reduced the export of heroin from 1800 tons to 50 tons per year.
        In May 2001, 4 months before 9//11 the then Taliban government, including the one-eyed Mullah Omar was the guest of the Bush government where negotiations were held over pipelines crossing Afghanistan’s territory and the development of this resource rich country. The conditions that the American government and corporations wanted to impose during these negotiations were not agreeable to the Taliban government and on their return home they stopped over in Berlin and were told by American officials to “accept a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs”. And that’s what they got on October 7, 2001, less than a month after 9/11. American and British forces were already present in the Middle East months before October 7, 2001 to carry out this operation on the pretext that the Taliban government did not want to hand over Osama bin Laden. The Taliban government repeatedly stated that they were willing to hand over Osama bin Laden if the US government provided evidence that he was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And since the war against Afghanistan started the heroin trade has escalated to 9000 tons per year, largely controlled by the CIA and their 18.000 US contractors. It is likely that these contractors will also be expelled from Afghanistan by the present Taliban government. Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of Emipres. Those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it.

    • Oh Dennis where did you get the idea that women like being oppressed? They would like the choice to decide whether or not they support the archaic traditions, they have no choice and no voice.

      • hi Jill i do not have the idea that woman like to be oppressed i do have the idea that 20 more years of western occupation and warfare directed at some of the poorest people on earth is not going to give women a choice or a voice

  2. There was a movie at the end of the war years in 1946 of Bogart and Becall in The Big Sleep. It was remade in 1978 with Robert Mitchum.
    This was the movie about detective Philip Marlowe. Here Mandy Nolan says she wakes up as a white woman with privileges. In 2021 that is indeed woke.
    Some of us are not white with privileges but have a dark skin without privileges. We are awake. That is the black comedy for some of us.

  3. Woo hoo, love to hit a home run with my comments. You had to censor that one didn’t you. Do you think by censoring no one else will notice? It stands out like dogs balls…you look no different than the oppressed woman in your image. Ooops, too late now….

  4. While I respect you drawing attention to this terrible situation, Mandy, I don’t think it is a good idea drawing the kinds of parallel you have re’ the wearing of masks and the wearing of burqa (and worse oppression). It leads to a messy conversation that muddles up issues and can detract from the enormity and horror of the actual situation in Afghanistan in this instance. But maybe these are the times we live in? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em (in messy, rhetoric-burdened, over-wrought grandstanding, performative communication as opposed to civil discussion where we actually hear each other and the facts)? Sigh – who am I criticize! At least you have put your hand up to get into the halls of power and DO something! I just wish we could all converse in a way that feels more clear and practical and sane.

  5. I read Afghanistan cost the West 2 Trillion dollars. With a population of 40 million that is $50,000 per person or $200,000 say for a family of four. That would be enough to build a house and set up the family in business or a farm to keep them the rest of their lives. Instead we leave ruin.
    Who are the real backward nations?

  6. I mostly agree with your article. Most Afghani men will get by under Taliban rule; not so for women who will probably suffer greatly under their governance. It’s a great shame that the ‘#metoo’ generation didn’t have the same care and concern about the Yazdi women, who suffered a far worse fate than their Afghani sisters will.

  7. western propaganda would have you believe a small group of men In the 10s of thousands just took control of a nation of 30 million a nation that has one of the highest gun ownerships a nation with a government and a standing army of 300,000 soldiers trained by the greatest armies on earth with full military backing they took this nation without any conflict in less and 2 weeks. do you think this could of happened with out the support of women?.

    • The development of the goings on Afghanistan is much murkier than we are led to believe in the western media. The negotiations between the US government, the Taliban and the now former Afghan governments have been going in Doha for many years and under President Trump a deal was signed, the exact nature of which has not yet made public except that the US military would leave. President Biden has merely finalised these negotiations. The transition timeline had been agreed upon. On August 09, 2021, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Doha with a US team of negotiators for 3 days of top level discussions with representatives of both the Taliban and the now defunct government of Ashraf Ghani. In the wake of the Doha meeting on August 13, the “Green Light” was given to Taliban Forces to capture Kabul as well as most of the provincial capitals which they have without much of fight. And let us look more closely what’s happening on the ground.
      When the US military suddenly left Bagram military airbase, prison and torture centre five weeks ago, the Taliban moved in shortly afterwards and released their 5000 prisoners. The Afghan military seems to have given up the fight by melting away and a lot of their equipment has fallen into Taliban hands. The Taliban are ignoring the presence of US and Nato troops at Kabul airport during the evacuation of staff and Afghans who cooperated with the allied forces. Russian television showed a media interview on Afghan TV with a Taliban media representative and the TV station’s female reporter wearing a shawl. The Taliban have stated that they are prepared to form a government with all stakeholders.
      According to a Reuters Report (August 16): “Former Afghan Interior Minister Ali Jalali on Monday said he was never under consideration to become transitional president for Afghanistan and that he would never have accepted the position. “The bottom line is that I’ve never been contacted. I’ve never been considered. I never thought about it, and I’m not interested,” Jalali, who served as Afghanistan’s first interior minister after a 2001 U.S.-led invasion, told Reuters. Jalali, who is a professor at the U.S. National Defense University in Washington, spoke by telephone from Washington. He was responding to a Reuters report that quoted three diplomatic sources on Sunday as saying he would likely be named to head a transitional administration in Kabul as the Taliban took over the capital.”
      According to a Russian report the: “Taliban’s co-founder and second-in-command, Abdul Ghani Baradar is expected to become Afghanistan’s President.” It remains to be seen what’s going to happen in the coming years to the lucrative opium trade and the development of Afghansistan’s enormous riches in oil, gas and many precious minerals. The US, Chinese, Russian, Indian corporations and Pakistani interests are vying for their share of this rich cake and the question remains how much will the Afghani people benefit for the reconstructions of their country from these developments after 43 years of upheaval and warfare.

  8. Like in Vietnam, shortly after the west took over the drug trade was enforced. Also, the interim Government and the western aid ops made a small fortune in aide not delivered to the people of Afghanistan, but instead they bought real estate overseas and filled their bank accounts. The corruption was beyond all means and is not backed by the people of Afghanistan. Talk about western values that we imported. Drug trade, cronyism, and the freedom to be exploited. Now this has failed, and is a slap in the face of western politics. A Farce really. My heart goes out to all people of Afghanistan who are caught up in this rip tide.

  9. Keep sharing Mandy. Truly very disturbing some of the responses. Every human deserves Agency over their lives. This means creating a society that upholds Human Rights (and ecological). Falling back on obsessive oppressive tropes has created the conditions for war and oppression. Who wins???

    How about sharing ideas for creating positive changes?

  10. “Short Memory !”
    Back in 2001, we attended a huge Public Forum,
    at City Hall, Brisbane, addressing the possibility of Australia being involved in the invasion of Afghanistan.
    On the panel, amongst noted public figures, including the wonderful, intelligent, Professor Ian Lowe, was the then leader of the so called Green Party, Bob Brown, who spoke unequivocally in support of the U.N. backed invasion of Afghanistan. The response from the standing only audience, was certainly that of disapproval.
    We remember when the Australian Green Party was founded on 4 guiding principles, one of them being ‘Peace & Non-violence’.
    We also remember when one of the founding members of the German Green Party (first in the world) Petra Kelly, publically spoke after she resigned, stating that she came to regret forming a political party, around what was originally a movement.
    The Green Parties’ have moved an awful long way from those guiding principles.
    Look what the U.N. policies of partition did for the people & land of Palestine.

  11. Good on you Mandy for highlighting the oppression/violence & brutality of the Taliban & others like them.I can’t believe some of the comments I have read here. Those that think women somehow LIKE being oppressed /subjugated terrorised & murdered are arrogant / naive & lacking compassion. No wonder (as some of you stated) women didn’t speak out about the Taliban when you had the chance to visit this nation..Geez I wonder why that was ?? They wouldn’t dare & would you like to visit now, as some of you have had the audacity to almost defend these brutes. Many of the comments I have read here make me feel quite ill, we must support our Afghani sisters & their children who are soooooo desperate to come here. Why do you think thousands of people ran in terror to board planes in Kabul ? Was this fake news ? Listen..YES LISTEN to the Afghani’s that fled by boat risking their lives to come here yrs ago, they are pleading to our useless Govt to allow their family & friends into western countries. I met many of these brave individuals when I volunteered for several refugee NGOs’ some years ago before moving North. We should be taking at least as many Afghani’s as Canada has. I am ashamed to think our Govt didn’t act months ago knowing this tragic outcome was just around the corner, yet another stuff up Scomo to a long list of incompetent bungling. The Taliban can not be trusted for one second & I don’t care who started this , we need to getting our interpreters out & anyone else that wants to come , which is a longgggggg list indeed. Already the Taliban has started breaking their insincere promises less than 48 hrs into their self appointed position of power (& taking the Palace). IF you think we are backward (yes sometimes we sure are ) just go and talk to some of the very lucky Afghani Australians like I did. You might get a different perspective of ‘backward’. WHAT A SPOILT BUNCH of pampered, privileged & gullible bunch, some of you are. This is not an academic argument any longer , this is about rescuing those that seek to be rescued.

  12. I’d like to know how to support the “Dressmakers” of Khabul a group started
    by Kamila Sidiqi for both men and women, and groups like them.
    Afghani women know what they need, and how they need it. We need to listen.
    Not all are able or willing to flee, leaving behind their homes, their babies, parents, and their community. I wouldn’t. It’s a “Sophie’s Choice”.

    Some good did come from the 20years of occupation for women started to re-appear in all walks of life both inside and outside the home, society seemed to be normalising women in the workforce, in educational institutions and Government.
    Khabul had the same number of women in government as the U.S Congress.
    Well they did……it is now a part of their history, it’s a positive part.
    I cannot see them give up these gains as easily as Ashraf Ghani did.
    I will not stop listening to their voices.
    Ashraf Ghani, fled his country with bagful’s of his country’s money, leaving his countrymen and women, his colleagues and friends genuinely shocked and disappointed (Kamila Sidiqi BBC interview).
    He didn’t positively empower his country to help them empower themselves.
    Just another Opportunistic Covert Narcissist.
    Too Cynical?……..….maybe.
    Unfortunately we don’t have to look too far, and there’s always the mirror.
    Ashraf Ghani was encouraged to have talks with the Taliban. He refused.
    Remind you of anyone?
    I am hopeful the women of Afghanistan and women everywhere are able to have their “Night of burnt meat” Iceland 1975 when 90% of the women peacefully stopped work inside and outside the home, and rallied for positive change.
    I heard Kamila Sidiqi wants to return as soon as she can to continue the work she started with the Dressmakers once the “Taliban target” she finds herself wearing is less visible if ever.
    And maybe on a lighter side (at risk of seeming crass), we could help women and men agitate from their kitchens and bedrooms with some humour,
    “The subtle art of Forgetting how too cook while staying safe.”
    “How to slip some “E” into the Taliban tea.”
    “How to jam a gun quicker than you can say “pickle in my Pakol” and 1001 other uses for flour and water.”
    “Cooking with Opium to Tame your Taliban Tigers”, (may cause Constipation,)
    Julia Gillard and her sure-fire tips for: Negotiating with a Misogynist”
    Kamila Sidiqi, the dressmakers, the mothers ,grandmothers, sisters, aunties and the children of Afghanistan I see you, help me hear you so I may help you, with Love.


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