Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

The Bondage of Freedom

This chilling story about the death of a young woman who hosted a popular television program in "post-liberation" Afghanistan serves to remind us, both that American intervention may have done some good and that it probably won't ever turn out to have done enough:
However, former colleagues of Rezayee paint a picture of a vivacious young woman whose enthusiasm for the freedoms she saw, both through the foreign media and among Kabul's large expatriate community of aid workers and business contractors, may have led to her downfall.

Several colleagues, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the young television presenter had developed an alcohol problem, a highly unusual development for an Afghan woman and a Muslim, one that is illegal in Afghanistan. Three times she came to work drunk, they said, and once had to be locked in a room to sober up. The fourth time, they said, she was sacked.

It was also widely rumored that Rezayee was having relationships with young men, they said. Whether true or not, even the suspicion of extramarital sex can lead to the killing of a woman by her own family in Afghanistan to protect the family's honor in the eyes of their peers.

Personal and familial honor is a central plank of Afghan society, and honor killings are not uncommon. Last month, a young woman in a remote northeastern region of Afghanistan was reportedly stoned to death for having an affair outside marriage.

Such retribution is both culturally accepted and unlikely to result in legal repercussions.

"If you see your wife sleeping with someone and you kill them before complaining to the courts, if the couple were caught in the act then there is no charge that is investigable against you," said Seddiq, explaining the Supreme Court's position on such killings.

If Rezayee died at the hands of her family, it would be particularly tragic because she had described them in several interviews as her staunchest supporters.

Several months before her death, she told a U.S. journalist who is researching a book about Afghan women and asked not to be named, "Since I was very young, my parents have always supported me, and even more so when I took this job at Tolo TV."

In a phone interview, her brother Jawad, who faces a police investigation, denied family involvement in his sister's death.

"My sister was not murdered. She committed suicide," he said. "The people in charge of Tolo TV are responsible for her death. They spread rumors about her, so she killed herself."
Needless to say, the Bush Administration is presently supporting the government of Afghanistan, regardless of whether its Supreme Court takes this sort of position. It seems wrong to use this tragedy to make a point about our own situation in the United States. But I do get the feeling that a good percentage of American fundamentalists harbor similarly reactionary desires. Luckily, they've forgotten about Afghanistan, since it hasn't been on the news lately.

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