Highlights

 
Quotable
It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
July 19, 2004

Where the Taliban Once Tread


by Jim Lobe

LONDON – Dr. Massaouda Jalal is not a winner yet, but she has won at least something just by contesting the presidential elections in Afghanistan as the only woman candidate.

Dr. Jalal, 41, just about qualified to contest past the minimum age of 40. This makes her also a younger candidate than the 13 males in the contest, including President Hamid Karzai.

Presidential elections in Afghanistan are due on Oct. 9 after being postponed twice first to June and then to September. Parliamentary elections are due in April next year.

More than seven million people in a potential electorate of 10 million have registered to vote so far, according to UN figures. Forty percent of these are women.

That could be good news for Dr. Jalal, who has given up work temporarily as pediatrician and psychiatrist at the Kabul Medical School to try and cure the ills of the country.

"A lot of women are clearly very happy that I am contesting," Dr. Jalal told IPS in an interview in London. "In meetings, and on local radio and in the newspapers many are raising their voices to support me."

Inevitably, it is harder with the men. "I do face individuals in mosques and at other gatherings who object to what I am doing," she says. "But I tell them that what I am doing is quite legal and based on the new constitution, and it is nothing new in the Islamic world."

There have been women heads of government in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey. "Look at President Megawati, and Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country, with 200 million Muslims."

Despite the objections she encounters, Dr. Jalal, who is contesting as an independent candidate, says she is getting a response far better than she could have expected.

"They say I am their sister and their mother, they say a wounded Afghanistan needs a mother and a doctor to get looked after and healed," Dr. Jalal says. Whatever they say, this certainly seems a line she is putting out to present her case for presidency.

Contesting an election in Afghanistan cannot be easy. "The security situation is a very big problem," Dr. Jalal says. "I know the dangers, the difficulties, the risks. But when you follow a great idea there is always a risk." But security, she says, is "the first need and the first wish of the people of Afghanistan."

Dr Jalal has addressed several election meetings in Kabul and also in other towns. "I usually get gatherings of about 500 to 1,000 people," she says. She has spoken at meetings in schools, universities, mosques and at other places where gatherings have often been organized by local women.

She speaks to people in her native Pushtu and also in Dari, the language used by most Afghans for communication between different peoples in the country. Beyond that, she is talking the language of a new Afghanistan.

"I never have met the Taliban," she said. "Women do not support the Taliban. Democrats, technocrats, the youth do not support the Taliban. But I have lived through those bad days. After the international community came in I decided to put myself forward even though I have never been a part of any political organization. If anybody at all, I represent civil society."

Dr. Jalal, whose husband is a teacher in Kabul University, has two daughters and a son. She was in London on a visit to meet women's groups.

Women's issues would be a matter of prime concern to her, she says. "Fortunately girls have started again to go to schools. There is good cooperation from all people for this. But lack of access to education means that many girls cannot go to schools, because there simply are not enough schools."

If she becomes president, she would like to change that, certainly. But among the many "ifs" about Afghanistan, this is among the bigger ones.


comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • US Jews Open to Palestinian Unity Govt
    3/26/2009

  • Bipartisan Experts Urge 'Partnership' With Russia
    3/17/2009

  • Obama Administration Insists It's Neutral in Salvador Poll
    3/14/2009

  • NGOs Hail Congressional Moves to Ease Embargo
    3/12/2009

  • Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support
    3/7/2009

  • Washington Ends Diplomatic Embargo of Syria
    3/4/2009

  • Diplomatic, Aid Spending Set to Rise Under Obama Budget
    2/28/2009

  • Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals
    2/26/2009

  • Lugar Report Calls for New Cuba Policy
    2/24/2009

  • U.S.-Israel Storm Clouds Ahead?
    2/20/2009

  • Calls Mount for Obama to Appoint 'Truth Commission'
    2/20/2009

  • Washington's Praise of Venezuelan Vote Suggests Détente
    2/19/2009

  • Rightward Shift in Israeli Polls Creates New Headaches
    2/13/2009

  • US Advised to Back Somalia Reconciliation Efforts
    2/12/2009

  • Hawks Urge Boosting Military Spending
    2/5/2009

  • More Troops, More Worries,
    Less Consensus on Afghanistan
    2/4/2009

  • Report: Most Citizens Kept in Dark on Govt Spending
    2/2/2009

  • Obama Raises Hopes of
    Mideast Experts
    1/28/2009

  • Obama Picks Israel-Arab, Afghanistan-Pakistan Negotiators
    1/23/2009

  • Rights Groups Applaud Move to Halt Gitmo Trials
    1/22/2009

  • Obama Offers Internationalist Vision
    1/21/2009

  • Around the World, High Hopes for Obama
    1/20/2009

  • Liberals, Realists Set to Clash in Obama Administration
    1/19/2009

  • Obama Urged to Take Bold Steps Toward Cuba Normalization
    1/15/2009

  • Clinton Stresses 'Cooperative Engagement,' 'Smart Power'
    1/14/2009

  • Bush Foreign Policy Legacy Widely Seen as Disastrous
    1/14/2009

  • Networks' Int'l News Coverage at Record Low in 2008
    1/6/2009

  • Amnesty Calls on Rice to Drop 'Lopsided' Gaza Stance
    1/3/2009

  • Israeli Attack May Complicate Obama's Plans
    12/30/2008

  • Report: Recognizing Hamas Could Help Peace
    12/19/2008

  • Business Groups Support Dismantling Cuba Embargo
    12/8/2008

  • Mumbai Massacre Seen as Major Blow to Regional Strategy
    12/5/2008

  • Obama Urged to Quickly Engage Iran, Syria
    12/3/2008

  • Diplomacy, Multilateralism Stressed by Obama Team
    12/2/2008

  • Obama Foreign Policy: Realists to Reign?
    11/28/2008

  • Hemispheric Group Calls for Major Changes in Americas Policy
    11/25/2008

  • Greybeards Urge Overhaul of Global Governance
    11/21/2008

  • Intelligence Analysts See Multi-Polar, Risky World By 2025
    11/21/2008

  • Obama Urged to Strengthen Ties with UN
    11/20/2008

  • Obama-Tied Think-Tank Calls for Pakistan Shift
    11/18/2008

  • Obama Advised to Forgo More Threats to Iran
    11/17/2008

  • First, Close Gitmo,
    Say Rights Groups
    11/11/2008

  • Obama's Foreign Policy:
    No Sharp Break From Bush
    11/11/2008

  • Coca Cultivation Up Despite Six Years of Plan Colombia
    11/7/2008

  • Obama to Seek Global Re-engagement, But How Much?
    11/6/2008

  • Two, Three, Many Grand Bargains?
    11/3/2008

  • Moving Towards a 'Grand Bargain' in Afghanistan
    10/19/2008

  • Top Ex-Diplomats Slam 'Militarization' of Foreign Policy
    10/16/2008

  • Bush Set to Go With a Whimper, Not a Bang
    10/15/2008

  • Pakistan 'Greatest Single Challenge' to Next President
    10/8/2008

  • Senate Passes Nuke Deal Over Escalation Fears
    10/3/2008

  • Brief Talks With Syria Spur Speculation
    10/1/2008

  • Iran Resolution Shelved in Rare Defeat for AIPAC
    9/27/2008

  • Bipartisan Group Urges Deeper Diplomacy with Muslim World
    9/25/2008

  • White House Still Cautious on Georgia
    9/6/2008

  • US' Somalia Policy Likely to Bring Blowback
    9/4/2008

  • Iran Could Reap Benefits of U.S.-Russian Tensions
    8/28/2008

  • A Really Bad Couple of Weeks for Pax Americana
    8/24/2008

  • Success of Attack on Iran's Nuclear Program Doubtful
    8/9/2008

  • US Gets No Traction in the Middle East
    8/5/2008

  • Gates Strategy Stresses Unconventional Warfare
    8/1/2008

  • Air Force Think Tank Advises Against Iran Attack
    7/31/2008

  • Pakistani PM May Be Pincushion for U.S. Frustration
    7/26/2008

  • Realists Urge Bush to Drop Iran Precondition
    7/23/2008

  • McCain Knee-Capped by Maliki
    7/22/2008

  • Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2003 Antiwar.com