THE LEDE of Joan Vennochi’s Sept. 11 op-ed “Women of D.C. and the women of Afghanistan’’ is not only misleading; it perpetuates a popular lie that is too frequently used to justify this war.
In the decade since the fall of the Taliban, the number of Afghan girls enrolled in school indeed rose, from 5,000 to 2.4 million. But the schools are frequently attacked, a fifth of the girls who are enrolled never attend classes, and most of the rest drop out after fourth grade. Some women took public office. But eight out of 10 women live in the conservative hinterland, where they remain confined to their mud-brick compounds, and exist at the mercy of men. And yes, most Afghan women still are forced to wear burkas. Venturing outside without a burka in most of Afghanistan means risking having acid thrown in your face, or worse.
The myth that the US-led invasion has benefited Afghan women is a dangerous one. It tugs on our humanistic ideals, and manipulates our opinion in favor of war. In reality, 10 years after the invasion Afghan women’s mortality at childbirth and child mortality remain among the highest in the world; life expectancy remains among the lowest. As long as these basic rights - to life, and to health - are not observed, touting women’s rights as an achievement is distasteful.
The writer is a journalist and the author of two books, “Waiting for the Taliban’’ and “Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories.’’ She has been covering the war in Afghanistan since 2001.