Editor: This week a noble and heroic woman who risks her life daily was in Scranton to tell us about the plight of women in her beloved Afghanistan. The honors bestowed upon Suraya Pakzad, the founder of Voice of Women — she was named by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and in September received the Clinton Foundation Global Initiative Citizen Award — do not protect her from the negative reaction of the Taliban to her efforts to improve the lives of Afghani women, providing them with shelter, education and training.

As Suraya reported on the grim realities of the lives of so many, and on the number of suicides committed in ultimate despair — as taking their problems to court would be of too great embarrassment to the families of abusive husbands — the 150 or so in the audience were aghast.

We need to know these stories as we develop our opinions about politics and public policy. How can we have informed opinions about foreign affairs if we do not have a clue as to what the impact of our policies is on those in oppressive societies?

Of all the horrors of daily life she described, the fact that hit home the hardest is that her life is so much worse — with regard to civil and human rights — than her mother’s. Her mother’s generation of women drove their own cars, and head scarves were not an issue.

We Americans who take progress for granted need to understand what is at stake. Some of us have opposed our presence in Afghanistan, seeing it as a pointless and costly endeavor. But Suraya told us that her only protection from the Taliban is the presence of international troops — particularly American. We need to know.

Times-Tribune, November 20, 2010


Afghan woman offers perspective