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Americans: Empower Women. Taliban: Kill Women

4 years ago
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David Wood
Chief Military Correspondent
KABUL, Afghanistan -- In Afghanistan, where women have traditionally been treated as shut-ins and worse, 29 Afghan women are taking a daring step: They are the first volunteers to undergo training to serve in the all-male Afghan national army.

Two American women, Rebekah Martinez and Jennifer Marcos, are among a cadre of U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants spending six months away from their families to train the Afghan women here.

Meanwhile, the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, reportedly has issued new orders for his Taliban fighters to begin again targeting women cooperating with Americans or helping their own government. Assassinations, suicide bombing and IED attacks may follow, on the women -- and on their families.

When the U.S. Army drill sergeant community heard that Afghan women wanted military training, it leapt at the chance. Volunteers were sought. Martinez came from Longview, Texas, where she is a police officer. Marcos flew from Salt Lake City, where she works with prison inmates. Two weeks after signing up they were in Afghanistan.

"It's pretty exciting -- we couldn't get here fast enough,'' Marcos told me one day recently in Kabul, where they are about halfway through the 20-week course.

Basic for women here is nothing like U.S. Army basic or, for that matter, the entry training given to male Afghan soldiers. The women meet in a classroom in downtown Kabul -- indoors, away from prying eyes. They do not mingle with men. They take meals in a separate mess hall. They have a tiny, secluded patch of earth for exercise, where they have learned, with some giggling, to do push-ups. They've been introduced to the 9 mm pistol and been taught combat first aid. They study leadership and English, and do computer work. Harder academic subjects will come later.

Most of the women are poor. Already they have lived hard lives. Some have seen family members killed. All have been touched by war. They seem driven to rise above their pasts. Some have children; signing up with the military puts their kids at risk, too. But they are determined. "They have heart,'' Marcos said.

Martinez added, "They want to get out there and work hard to prove they can do it.''

Mullah Omar, the one-eyed cleric who rules the Taliban, would smash this opportunity. Omar is a world-class misogynist. When he was in power in Afghanistan, education for girls and women ended (officially, that is; many courageous women continued to teach in hiding). Girls schools were burned. Social justice, for women, went back to the Stone Age. Women were banished from public life and severely punished for such transgressions as speaking to a man.

According to a July 16 dispatch by McClatchy Newspapers, U.S. intelligence officials intercepted a directive from Mullah Omar ordering his fighters to "capture or kill'' women and Afghan civilians working with the Afghan government or the allies. The story said a Taliban spokesman dismissed the report as American propaganda.

The women are undeterred. Eventually they will take jobs in the Afghan army in finance and logistics. Those skills are badly needed. But their actions shine a light far beyond their military desk jobs. Already their determination to step forward -- and the Afghan army's eagerness to accept them -- is encouraging others to come forward. And the ripples spread, unseen.

The benefit goes both ways. The Afghan women's quiet determination has touched the Americans deeply.

"A lot of us want to come back as civilians and help,'' Martinez said. "We see how much these girls want something different, and how willing they are to work hard for it. We've grown really close to them and want to see them succeed.''

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94 Comments

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gkeithchesterton

Sorry, but women don't belong in the military. It is a perversion of the natural order. I also have to wonder what happened to all the liberal admonitions against ethnocentrism. We know that feminist reforms are contrary to Afghan culture, yet we forge on ahead anyway. Does respect for other cultures end when you disagree with those cultures? If so, I have no idea what liberals ever criticized conservatives for. Conservatives also only take issue with things they disagree with.

September 28 2010 at 6:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
johnksmall1

I have to question why their training is so secretive that they have no contact with their male counterparts, the eat and train alone, take their English language courses alone, because it is very dangerous and they and their families could be killed. Yet someone splashes a photo, presumably of the women, across the internet. It doesn't make sense to me. Anyone have an explanation?

July 20 2010 at 11:53 PM Report abuse +14 rate up rate down Reply
judykay1229

The travesty of the Taliban, and other fundamentalist religious groups who believe in the supremacy of the male gender, is that the contributions which could be made by women are banished, the discoveries and achievements which women have produced in other areas are denied in the countries who espouse the Taliban. The even sadder travesty is that when one half of the population is denied basic rights, the other half suffers as well. As Tariq Ali, the great Muslim novelist has written, the Islamic religion is the best religion in the world except for the way it treats its female population.

July 20 2010 at 11:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Timothy

The sad part is that this war might not be over for a long time. Its scary since the people who soldiers once trusted turn around and become our enemies its like this always over there. I am glad that our military is finally choosing to train women and men equally over there but the other sad part is that we don't know who to trust over there. I hope that the middle eastern people decide to turn to our side and rise up against the Taliban at any cost that we soon outnumber the Taliban forces and then have to end the Taliban reign over that part of the world then our military forces will be able to move in and extract every and any Taliban officials with much ease hopefully.

July 20 2010 at 11:31 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
gking70199

THE ONLY WAY TO ACTUALLY WIN THE WAR IS THROUGH THE WOMEN. we just have to figure out what incentive to offer them (in mass) to rebel against their oppression. our war would be over, and the talban wouldnt have a chance.

July 20 2010 at 11:14 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
ulalenamommy07

In my opinion (and its just an opinion.) I agree with the women joining their armed forces is a good idea. It allows for them to help out and aleviate their country in being so short handed when it comes to their military. Putting them in positions that require them to do clerical work and logistic duties is a step in the right direction. Our military employs women and has done so, for as far back as the civil war. However we do not allow them to fight on the front lines or be in elite forces. I highly doubt that their country would allow their women to be in combat. I have been to the middle east on numerous occasions, and I have seen how the men there, both in the military and civilian side treat women. Some good....some not so good, but that is their culture. When it comes to combat situations, I have seen with my own eyes, middle eastern men not being so VALIANT in the heat of battle. This being said, I believe that its in a man's primitive nature to be not only protective of women, but more so, unable to deal with the sight of a wounded woman. I have seen the ravages of war first hand and concider myself to have been one of the most hard charging people on the battle field. But through all I have seen and done, NOTHING prepared me mentally or emotionally to view a wounded female soldier just 2 feet from me in ICU. No "Humane" man would ever put a woman through combat(battle) deliberately. Its not that they cant do it, i have seen women out shine men when it came to marksmanship, coordination, and are extremely driven to excell. It boils down to this... MAN CANT DEAL WITH THE SIGHT OF A WOUNDED WOMAN, if they are for some reason able to, they have not encountered the sight and lived it, or it would only be to hide behind her as a coward in the line of fire. Lets see where the middle eastern man stands. =)
Respectfuly,
SGT. Slaughter

July 20 2010 at 10:48 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to ulalenamommy07's comment
Jolep112

The article would have been better to have not shown the womens faces. The picture may make them targets for their enemies. Afgan women are indeed brave and fearless. when one wanted to vote, the taliban pulled her off a bus and killed her. suddenly, the word was out. and thousands of Afgan women went out to vote.Once People get a glimpse of a better way of life. mountains will move until they get that life. I admire them for their courage.

July 20 2010 at 10:42 PM Report abuse +23 rate up rate down Reply
slwebcon

They should be giving them self defense classes such as Karate and then each one, teach one.

The women of Afghanistan need to learn to defend themselves and really kick some
butt of the men who abuse them.

July 20 2010 at 10:34 PM Report abuse +16 rate up rate down Reply
tausq

The Taliban, the Iranians, the North Koreans hate us because WE'RE FREE! Freedom is a threat to their ability to rule with absolute power. The U.S. arming these women - it's about freedom. I love it!

July 20 2010 at 10:29 PM Report abuse +24 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tausq's comment
Ankhorite

Because we're "free" ?? They could not care less about that.

They hate us because we are more powerful than they are.

Period.

Our civil liberties (or, since 9/11, our LACK of civil liberties) mean nothing to these nations.

July 27 2010 at 12:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jhbivusa

The courage, commitment and dedication to defeating enslavement by the Taliban and its supporters by these yung girls and mothers should be a guiding light for all of us. It is more than enough evidence for me that the brave Afgan men and women deserve all of the support that we can give them.

July 20 2010 at 10:27 PM Report abuse +16 rate up rate down Reply

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