Rula Ghani - the voice of Afghanistan

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Rula Ghani – the voice of Afghanistan

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara


Rula Ghani speaking about women's rights. (by USAID Afghanistan on Wikimedia Commons)

There is hope for people who care about women. Rula Ghani, the First Lady of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, was in New Delhi recently. She was at an international conference on gender and empowering women. I hate the phrase, ‘First Lady’. It sounds like she is only helping the ‘first man’.

But here, the fact that this strong Afghan woman is First Lady is really important. People see her as the voice of Afghanistan. And she has had to courage to speak forcefully about women and for the women of her country.

The audience were listening to every word. We don’t get enough stories of hope. It’s difficult to find good news about Afghan women. So Rula Ghani made everyone happier. She talked about Farkhunda - the 27-year-old woman from Kabul. People said (wrongly) that she had burnt the Qur’an. So she was killed – stoned to death. Most newspapers in the world have told the story. But Rula gave more information that the newspapers didn’t. She told us that Farkhunda was killed because she had the courage to tell the men selling amulets (small objects to bring luck or protect people) at the Shahe Do Shamsira Mosque that they were wrong. Farkhunda said it was wrong to sell these to poor people who came to the mosque to pray.

But there is hope. Farkhunda’s death started a movement of Afghan women. When they are sexually harassed on the street, they say: ‘man Farkhunda hastum’ (‘I am Farkhunda’). There have been big protests, and women’s groups have said there must be an investigation into the murder of Farkhunda.

A journalist in Kabul wrote: ‘In a country where warlords were heroes, suddenly Farkhunda is a symbol for justice and women’s rights.’

And there is support from important people. Afghanistan’s (acting) Minister for Religious Affairs, Daiulhaq Abid said, ‘Not everyone who wears a turban is a real religious scholar.’ This was a direct challenge to the people who are controlling the religion. It is a very big step for women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Everyone said it was very wrong that the police and the public did nothing. The men protecting Farkhunda did nothing. They watched her death. So they helped the murder. Afterwards, when everyone said it was wrong, the head of the Independent Human Rights Commission said that soldiers, police and security forces need education about gender issues and how to protect people. Probably everyone needs that education - judges, politicians and men in general. Not only in Afghanistan, but also around the world.

Does this mean things will change for Afghan women? Islam has great role models. We need to tell the stories of these women to stop fundamentalism. We must follow the Islamic women scholars of the past. We wish the movement peace and strength.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).[Category: Women's Rights]]