Cablegate: Inverting the International Interference Paradigm:


DE RUEHBUL #3849/01 3360909
P 020909Z DEC 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: According to a series of meetings Embassy
officials have held with Afghan women in Kabul, they are
generally in favor of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and
cited many positive changes that have occurred in their lives
since the fall of the Taliban. Many women's rights activists
believe the international forces have provided them the space
they need to promote development, improve access to
education, and advance women's rights. While many women are
skeptical that a troop increase alone would have a positive
impact, they support increased international assistance in
development and social areas. Female interlocuters have
praised the effectiveness of international aid put directly
into the hands of local communities, both through microloans
to women and via the National Solidarity Program. They also
pointed to increased awareness of and access to shelters for
domestic violence victims as signs of positive changes for
Afghan women. However, some Kabul women have become
increasingly concerned by the deteriorating security
situation in the city; they look to both the international
community and their own security forces for help. End

On Troops: Women Want More Soft Power

2. (U) While former MP Malalai Joya is touring the United
States and Canada promoting her new biography and calling for
the removal of all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan,
women in Kabul are sending a different message. Most women
with whom Embassy officers have spoken over the past two
months - from NGO directors to the residents of shelters for
victims of domestic violence - support the U.S. military and
civilian presence in Afghanistan.

3. (U) While female Afghan interlocutors in Kabul are not in
favor of a never-ending military presence and are uncertain
about a troop increase, they have spoken extensively of their
continued need for U.S. security and particularly economic
assistance during meetings with U.S. officials. Kabul women
have told Embassy officials repeatedly that the U.S. and
international community presence in Afghanistan gives women
opportunities that they would never have been granted under
the Taliban. According to these women, the protection the
international forces provide allows women and girls to attend
school; to work outside the home; to serve in the government;
to be protected from domestic violence; and generally to
participate more fully in their society beyond the confines
of a compound. Indeed, some women fear that a rapid
withdrawal of international forces would force women back
indoors, out of public life.

4. (SBU) Orzala Ashraf Nemat, an independent human rights
activist, told PolOff: "If the international community left
Afghanistan now, everything would collapse. Things might be
moving slowly, but I really do believe we have gained
something." However, she was unsure of the impact of sending
additional troops. "If there were one soldier for every
Afghan in the country, that is still not what would win the
war. What is really needed is a legitimate government."

5. (SBU) Leeda Yaqoubi, Deputy Director of Afghan Women's
Network, said she would prefer to see international
assistance invested in development rather than more troops.
Specifically, she listed schools, factories, job creation,
and women's empowerment as areas where the international
community should increase its support. She also recommended
the international community create a better mechanism to
support the Afghan National Security Forces, rather than
spending money to increase the number of foreign troops in
the country. Yaqoubi suggested cities remain under the
control of the ANSF, while international troops deploy to
secure Afghanistan's borders. This comment echoes many
Afghans concern that the real danger to security in
Afghanistan stems from Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

On Development: Give the Money to the People

6. (SBU) Female parliamentarians and underserved urban women
alike are supportive of "international interference" in the
form of development aid that skips over corrupt Afghan
government mechanisms and is given to the Afghan people at
the community level. Fatana Gailani, director of Afghanistan
Women Council (AWC) and a staunch Karzai critic passionately
described how all foreign aid should completely bypass the
"corrupt government." In an October gathering of
approximately twenty women who had received small loans or
training from AWC, the women demonstrated the long-term
effect a small amount of funding can have on an uneducated
Afghan woman's life.

7. (U) With 28 percent of Afghans naming "lack of job
opportunities for women" as the biggest problem facing Afghan
women, the AWC program alumnae's gratitude for the training
that allowed them to support their families was not a
surprise. (Comment: According to a recent Asia Foundation
survey of Afghan people, the percentage of Afghans who name
lack of employment opportunities as the number one problem
facing women has increased from 1 percent to 28 percent since
2006. This may signify an increased desire for women to work
outside of the home. While this is likely due to economic
circumstances and the need for women to work, it could lead
to a broader cultural shift. End comment.)

8. (SBU) At the meeting with AWC program graduates, a Kabul
widow and recipient of an AWC loan described how she had
spent the grant money: she started a business with her son to
buy, repair, and resell damaged cars. She had paid back her
loan and her income is now substantial enough to support her
family. A young woman who used her loan to start a small
vegetable canning business spoke proudly about how she "can
now do things like a man, and is not afraid to go outside."
While not all of the women shared the same successes (the
wife of a disabled man explained that she had given her
microloan to her 11-year old son to start selling things on
the street), many of them do continue to attend literacy and
skills classes. They are driven to continue to better their
and, to them more importantly, their families' lives. As
nearly half (49 percent) of all Afghans listed lack of
education as the biggest problem facing women, it is
important that AWC connects literacy training with their
vocational programming. The women were thankful for AWC's
financial support and encouraged the international community
to continue to direct aid to the people of Afghanistan.

9. (SBU) Similarly, female MPs from Kabul, Badghis, and
Badakhshan praised a development program where rural Afghan
communities are empowered to "identify, plan, manage and
monitor their own development projects." Fawzia Nasseryar
(Kabul, Tajik) attributed the success of the National
Solidarity Program to the decision making process local
communities conduct in order to implement projects. Sabrina
Saqeb (Kabul, Tajik) enthusiastically described how better
decisions on funding, construction, and road-building are
made when women are involved in the process. Their
overwhelming approval of the partially-USAID funded program
demonstrated their continued need for international
development assistance.

On Domestic Violence: Providing a Safe Home

10. (SBU) According to data from the Afghan Independent
Human Rights Commission, overall violence against women has
decreased this year. There were 1,708 reported cases of
violence against women between January and September 2009,
versus 2,322 during the same period in 2008. However, the
directors of two women's shelters in Kabul told Embassy
officials that the number of female victims of domestic
violence referred by police to shelters has increased over
the past year. While some women are still sent to jail for
"running away from home," the increased police referrals is a
positive sign that police training on domestic violence
issues has been effective. INL-funded programs have trained
125 female police, thirty of whom work in "family response
units," which are located in police stations and respond to
crimes again women.

11. (SBU) At Women for Afghan Women's (WAW) "Family Guidance
Center" (FGC) in Kabul women who had been abused by their
male relatives live, eat, cook and take classes together.
They live as a family, affectionately protecting and
encouraging the younger residents. FGC residents vary from
an eight year old girl who was sold into marriage at age five
to an Iranian grandmother who was trafficked across the
border with her daughter.

12. (SBU) The shelter's newest resident is a teenage girl
from Uruzgan who was regularly beaten by her husband and his
family for the several years they were married. The girl,
Bibi Aisha, eventually ran away. Instead of receiving help,
the police took her to the women's prison in Kandahar.
Bibi's father rescued her from prison and returned her to her
husband's home, where the abuse continued. To punish Bibi
for running away and bringing shame on her family, the
husband beat her to the brink of death, cut her nose and ears
off, and left her to die. She was eventually brought to the
U.S. Special Forces base in Uruzgan, where she was given the
medical care she needed. The PRT in Uruzgan coordinated
Bibi's transfer to WAW's Kabul shelter in early November,
where she is finally living in one of few Afghan safe havens

for victims of domestic violence. (Note: There are currently
only 11 shelters throughout Afghanistan.)

13. (SBU) Embassy officials recently visited the shelter and
listened to women's stories of abuse. All of the women
expressed their gratitude to WAW for protecting them. A
young Pashtun woman from Kandahar implored international
donors to open more shelters in other areas of the country to
house women victims of violence (Note: INL is currently
funding organizations to open new shelters in Faryab,
Badghis, and Kunduz.) WAW-run Family Guidance Centers focus
on counseling family members and aim to eventually place
women back in their homes. The women at the Kabul shelter
explained to Embassy officials that once they return home
they will work to educate their extended families and
communities about women's rights to education and a life free
of abuse.

--------------------------------------------- -
On Security: Increasing Violence Affects Women
--------------------------------------------- -

14. (SBU) While women mainly spoke confidently of the
increasing rights they have gained, several also addressed
the issue of deteriorating security in conversations with
Embassy officials. According to one woman who had received
skills training from AWC, security concerns have increased in
Kabul to the point where some women are afraid to send their
children to school. From January 1, 2006 through October 15,
2009, there were 58 suicide attacks in Kabul City, versus
only nine suicide attacks between 2002 and 2005. While the
city remains safer than many other areas of the country, some
women we interviewed view the increased number of these
attacks as a sign that the Afghan government and
international community are not following through on their
many promises.

15. (SBU) The deteriorating security situation has also
affected civil society. According to Orzala Ashraf Nemat,
the lead up to the November 19th inauguration was "less
secure than before the elections." While this fear was not
supported by fact, there was notable silence from many civil
society actors during October and early November. Nemat said
the hush stemmed both from security concerns and the feeling
that "anything civil society said would be hijacked" by a
particular politician for his own personal use. (Comment: If
the security situation were to continue to threaten civil
society into silence, Afghanistan would risk losing the force
that has been most active in nudging the country towards an
effective democracy.)


16. (SBU) Progress on women's rights in Afghanistan
continues to advance at a snail's pace. However, women in
Kabul appear proud of the progress they have made in
increasing women's awareness of their rights and promoting
development. They recognize that these advancements could
not have been made without international support, and
repeatedly emphasized their continued need for assistance
from the international community. The Embassy will continue
to support Afghan women through increased funding to women's
organizations and by encouraging civil society to continue to
play an active role in pressuring the government to support
women's rights. USAID expects to spend over $93 million of
FY 2009 funds on programs benefitting women and girls in
Afghanistan, a significant increase from the $78 million
spent of FY 2008 funds.

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