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Afghanistan according to Yvonne Ridley

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Yvonne Ridley

(Yvonne Ridley. Photograph: Free Gaza Movement in 2005)

On Monday, the last British soldiers were airlifted out of Camp Bastion,  a day after the end of Britain’s war in Afghanistan.

This prompted many debates and discussions around the tumultuous thirteen years that have claimed the lives of many soldiers and civilians, British and Afghans alike.

But according to Muslim convert and Respect party activist Yvonne Ridley, the war in Afghanistan was a total failure. On Twitter, she said: “So Taliban undefeated, no career women emerging from rubble & only success story is the rapid growth of opium in Afghanistan.”

While the situation in Afghanistan is far from ideal, there are some good things to have emerged since the western intervention, one of them being the the education of women, which I pointed out to her (see below).

Ridley denied this, saying that there were girls in school when she was in Afghanistan. She said: “I was there with the BBC in February 2002 recording a [BBC] R4 show”. There may well have been girls in schools in 2002, but Ridley failed to acknowledge that her visit was several months after NATO’s intervention in Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban. Not once during our exchange did she refute the statistics pointed out to her as published in Monday’s edition of The Times.

Afghanistan Fact box in The Times on Monday October 27

Afghanistan Fact box in The Times on Monday October 27

Ridley then boldly claimed: “Girls were educated under the Taliban and I know people who ran girls schools during that period.” Either Ridley is naive or blatantly spreading untruths. It is a well known fact that the Taliban banned women’s education. Women seeking an education were forced to attend underground schools, where they and their teachers risked execution if caught. If you continue to read the Twitter exchange, Ridley posted this link to prove her point, but the article states, “under the Taliban regime, girls were not allowed to have education at all levels” which contradicts what she said earlier!

Ridley was correct when she pointed out that women were attending universities in 2002 – but that was after western troops went in to Afghanistan. Yet the Taliban and their supporters were determined to sabotage education for women. So if there is a reason why things are not perfect in Afghanistan, at least in regards to women’s education, is is certainly not the fault of the west. It is the  fault of the insurgents who are determined to keep females in what they deem is their rightful place – illiterate and under the subordination of men.

Why would Ridley try to downplay the barbarity of the Taliban? Perhaps she feels a sense of gratitude towards them for freeing her, after they captured her in September 2001.

I can’t say her views surprise me. The company that she keeps is highly dubious. She is a patron of former Guantano Bay detainee Muazzam Begg’s CAGE, an organisation that has shared a platform with well known Islamist speakers such as Adnan Rashid from the Islamic Education and Research Academy (a charity being investigated by the official watchdog), Anas al Tikriti, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain, and Female Genital Mutilation advocate and anti Semite Haitham al Haddad. Great company.

I am not suggesting that life for women (and even men) is ideal in Afghanistan, far from it. According to Government figures from 2013, only 26 per cent of Afghanistan’s population is literate, and among women the rate is only 12 per cent – a dismal figure. But it is a damn sight better than it was under Taliban rule, where girls were officially banned from having an education. Perhaps Ridley needs to remember that, unless she seriously believes the Taliban weren’t so bad after all?

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Written by Iram Ramzan

October 27, 2014 at 9:08 pm

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