Human rights and Afghani culture

On 20/20 two nights ago they were interviewing the coordinators of a woman’s camp in Afghanistan which aimed to educate young Afghani girls, etc.

Then of course, they showed file footage of women in head-to-toe flowing gowns, faces covered, being beaten with canes in the streets for speaking, or doing God knows what.

The show made perfectly clear (I’m not taking any of this as fact) that women in Afghanistan:

-may not show their face in public or have identities
-aren’t allowed to be educated
-have no role in society outside of bearing and caring for children
-are regularly beaten for straying from these rigid restrictions.

Now, maybe I should know better, but there have got to be some human rights violations going on here. From my Western perspective it seems that these Arab women don’t hold many unalienable rights. (If any rights at all.)

So my question becomes:

If we are to help make Afghanistan a stable country capable of extinguishing rogue regimes such as the Taliban, should we not pump a little cultural imperialism in as well?

Or more specifically, should we allow a culture which condones human rights violations (not to mention produce suicide bombing, America-hatemongers) to fester under any regime, crushing or not?

I may just be another “meddling” American who thinks his culture is superior to a woman-repressing one. I can’t tell.

Help me understand. I seek the straight dope.

This is not Afghani culture-it is the culture of a bunch of extreme fanatics of Islam.

Think of what it would be like if Fred Phelps controlled our country and our culture.

No… I’m pretty sure that women were repressed there long before the Taliban came to power. My original question stands.

There is a lot of info. about human rights & Afghanistan, such as:

Yes, violet, however not much is being spoke or considered about it, that’s all.

Oh well, this is a tired old, subject anyway.

I’m not much of a philosopher. In fact, I consider most philosophical debates to be bullshit since either side can pretty much justify any course of action. But here it goes:

As an American, I feel that Western culture is superior when it comes to education, tolerance, personal freedom, and human rights. I also feel that it is not our right to force other cultures to become clones of America or Europe. So to answer your question, I believe that the best we can do is educate other cultures in our ways and hope they have the wisdom to embrace the positive aspects.

Actually Acco40, I was under the impression that Afghan women had been making great strides before the Taliban took power. Of course, they might not be what western women would consider great strides, but stuff like being allowed to wear trousers, the ability to get an education past age 6, being allowed outdoors without a veil, the ability to work outside of the home, etc.

Now, on the other hand, I hear that women who go out without a veil cannot only expect acid in their faces, but death as their punishment. Lovely.

I would refer you to a post which I wrote in this thread.

This is the post:

Basically, before the Russians went in, Afghanistan was a pretty cool place.

Before the Taliban came to power, woman were not oppressed. They could work, receive an education, didn’t have to completely cover up etc.

American cultural imperialism is most definitely not required.

All thats required is that the Afghanis get an opportunity to rule themselves without all the outside interference.

You are wrong. Although they might not have enjoyed all the freedoms that women in America do, Afghan women before the Taliban did take an active role in their society and culture. The Taliban’s edict against women working outside the home threw thousands of women out of jobs. Access to education for both sexes was a right under a previous Afghan government. When the Taliban said that there were not enough government resources to educate both girls and boys, hundreds of private schools were formed. Privately funded, they taught girls who no longer could learn in public schools. The Taliban then outlawed these private schools. To say that the oppressive rules of the Taliban are just a part of Afghan culture is to slander the Afghan people.

No, that is not the best we can do.

We can send the clear and unmistakable message that any group of people who decide to set up a regime as brutally cruel and inhumane as the Taleban that the people of the civilized world will not tolerate such forms of governance. “Cultural diversity” does not mean that we, as a world, have to accept a so-called “culture” which arbitrarily denies personhood to half of it population. The Taleban is at least as evil as Nazi Germany. The only difference is that they lack Germany’s industrial might. We destroyed Nazi Germany because they were evil. We should do the same to the Taleban. If that means making some aspect of this so-called “culture” illegal, so be it.

Western countries have no right to impose their culture, values, or beliefs on sovereign nations. The customs of other cultures may strike us as aphorrent, but that doesn’t give us the right to force our values on another culture. We can and should attempt to educate foreigners regarding human rights abuses. We can also justify imposing sanctions against countries for more extreme abuses. But we have no right to impose our will on other countries unless extreme abuses, such as genocide, are occurring. Why do I feel this is so? Because I don’t think we have the wisdom or the foresight to serve as the moral police of the world, except in cases where extreme and obvious abuses are taking place.

I’d say what’s happening to women in Afganistan falls into this category.

I reprint this post in its entirety because it needs to be read and seen much more often at these boards.

Few people are addressing the fundamental question of the outright invalidity of the Taleban and all that they entail. The Taleban must not only be deposed they must be eliminated from society as a whole. Their misogyney and violent perversion of Islam rip the mask off of their pseudo-religious claptrap. Extermination or imprisonment remains the only viable solutions for these murderous thugs. Anything less will merely assure another round of the same from these filthy slime.

Thanks for calling a spade a spade, KellyM.

And you think that what is happening to women in Afghanistan does not fall under this definition?

[li] A woman is prohibited from seeing a male doctor.[/li]
[li] Women are not allowed to be educated as doctors.[/li]
[li] A huge number of women will most certainly die needlessly from easily prevented diseases and curable (if detected early) cancers (breast and cervical).[/li]And this does not constitute genocide to you?!? It sure as Hades does to me and the Taleban are nothing more than a bunch of viscious misogynistic thugs for it. Please take your supposedly non-imperialistic culturally holier than thou attitude and cram it with walnuts.

I agree, we have no right to impose our culture on other sovereign nations. On the other hand, we do have a right to impose universally accepted minimal standards of civilized governance upon those who fail to live up to them. And, yes, there is a universal standard that we can hold nations to. It’s high time we started taking these “lofty words” seriously, as a nation and as a world.

I don’t see how the imposition of sanctions by economic force is any less “imposing our will” than imposing them by military force. Economic war is still war, and people still suffer from it. Death by starvation is arguably more unpleasant than death by explosives.

I could not disagree more. Wisdom lies in recognizing that there are times to act and times not to act, not in deciding that there is never a time to act.

I’m sick of “cultural relativism”. Human rights are absolute. A “culture” that ignores basic human rights is defective. A government that reinforces a defective culture needs adjustment. When the government provides no effective internal mechanism for self-correction, it is incumbent on the world community, and especially on the United States as the most powerful member of that community, to correct that government on behalf of and for the benefit of those that government pretends to govern, or to drive it from power and replace it with one more able to fulfill its duty to those it governs and to humanity as a whole.

The United States is not inept at guiding nations into appropriate forms of governance. We assisted the German and Japanese people in crafting lasting democratic governments that respected the inherent rights of their people and their respective cultures without the wholesale imposition of American “culture” on these nations. Why can we not be expected to do the same with Afghanistan?

Acco40, Afghani women are not Arabs.

Before the Taliban took over, 40% of Afghani doctors and 70% of Afghani teachers were female. Of course women probably played second fiddle to men even in those days - as is the case in many Asian, Middle Eastern, African and South American countries. I have no problem with cultural imperialism, but what form should it take and are you going to advise that it be used in all of the countries in which women and men are not seen as equals? Keeping in mind, of course, that probably more than half of the world’s population lives this way?

I’m not being facetious, this is a genuine question. I am all in favour of ousting the Taliban. But I’m not sure exactly what you mean by allowing Afghani culture “to fester under any regime”.

Originally posted by KellyM *
Note: extensive editing of text. Please consult original post, so as not to read this edited text out of context.
I agree, we have no right to impose our culture on other sovereign nations. On the other hand, we do have a right to impose universally accepted minimal standards of civilized governance upon those who fail to live up to them. And, yes, there is a universal standard that we can hold nations to. It’s high time we started taking these “lofty words” seriously, as a nation and as a world.


I agree with you completely that the U.S. and other nations should take the words of the “U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. It sickens me the way the U.S. routinely ignores or refuses to sign onto U.N. resolutions regarding violence against women and children and land mines. Furthermore, the U.S. should stop supporting repressive regimes that serve as convenient U.S. foreign policy puppets.

Economic war does not involve the direct invasion of a sovereign nation or the overthrow of a government. Sanctions can be planned so as to motivate governments to change policies that violate basic human rights. Direct humanitarian aid to the people of a country, for example, might greatly reduce any suffering that sanctions might otherwise impose on the general population. I believe the U.S. should vigorously fight humanitarian injustices, but I don’t believe it is practical or ethical for the U.S. to overthrow every government it regards as being guilty of human rights abuses. Besides, I rather doubt that we could overthrow the governments of China, India, Indonesia, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Republics, all of which have been guilty of heinous human rights abuses.

On an idealistic level, I agree with you completely. Cultural practices such as the enslavement of children, female genital mutilation, caste systems, and genocide disgust me. The world community should actively work to eliminate such practices. I believe, however, that the U.S. should work in collaboration with the world community in addressing these issues. If we unilaterally decide which governments do and do not have a right to continue their existence, we will have the entire world opposing our efforts. Organizations, such as the U.N., can be painstakingly slow or ineffective at dealing with such problems. But I believe that the only ethical and practical way for the U.S. to work against human rights abuses is through an international collaborative organization, such as the U.N.

Please understand that I believe that the U.S. should do everything in its power to fight human rights abuses around the world, provided that U.S. actions do not violate international law. I don’t believe that toppling governments we regard as abusive is a wise or stable policy. I believe that the U.S., in collaboration with other nations, can either motivate abusive governments to change or force change to take place in victim countries.

If the Taliban is removed from power, who will take over? The Northern Alliance? Would they be any improvement?


This is the crux of what I was talking about, and the basis of the question I raised. I’m afraid that the Hippie-friendly Afghanistan of yesteryear mentioned by xanakis is gone forever. What if the Northern Alliance takes over Afghanistan and ends up turning into another Taliban?

The “festering” I was referring to was the ability of radicals to set up shop in Afghanistan unchallenged. What gov’t can be established in Afghanistan (without our help) which would be capable of this??? I’m afraid that none can. Not only that, but there exists a minority within Afghanistan who sympathize with the Taliban, and will continue to. What becomes of them?

This being the ability to oust/prevent radicals from settling and prospering.