The All Faiths Insurgency/Counterinsurgency Church/Mosque Online

From a Texan soldier’s blog:

The chaplain comes by from time to time. He gives services inside the leader’s tent.  I don’t attend, but since I live there sometimes i overhear what is said. On one occasion the chaplain told some soldiers that God will help them find IEDs before they step on them, but if they do step on them it will be OK because God is with them. I read something very similar to this in reverse. In a speech given at a nearby village by a pro-Taliban mullah, he said that God will help you to plant IEDs, and if the Americans shoot you, then well, don’t worry because you got shot for God. Most impressive, really. Both the chaplain and the mullah must be pulling material from the All Faiths Insurgency/Counterinsurgency Church/Mosque Online (AFICCMO) because it sucks.

Boys in tight jeans = More dangerous than suicide bombers

So, so much more dangerous.

That’s what a couple of Afghan senators think. From a paywalled gem of a story by Pajhwok:

[Lawmaker Maulvi Munib] said a number of foreign countries had succeeded in luring young Afghan girls and boys into adopting their culture.

He did not name any country, but asked the government to fulfill its responsibility toward that end. “It is more dangerous than atom bomb when your youth is inspired by a foreign culture,” the Maulvi said.

He said some people wore such clothes that one could not differentiate whether they are made for men or women.

Maulvi Abdul Wahab Irafan from Takhar province said Afghanistan suffered less during three decades of war compared to past few years due to the invasion of foreign culture.

“The invasion of foreign culture is more dangerous than suicide attacks, bombs blasts and other terrorist activities,” he remarked.

Y’hear that, shiny suited, pink t-shirt wearing, emo kid jeans loving Kabul youths? Well, you better. Because your country is suffering because of your foppish fashions.

Taliban inevitably join the Twitterverse

Today in WTF war news: Afghanistan’s ironically social media-savvy insurgents have jumped on the Twitterz with the account @alemarahweb.

How long before the account manager, Taliban communication upstart Mostafa Ahmedi, gets into a tweet brawl with Pamir 303 commander @Daud1970?

Please, someone, make this happen.

“Virginity is a natural stamp,” says Afghan Supreme Court member

IRIN recently published an Afghanistan article that has it all: women being treated as pieces of property (in this case, defective pieces of property), rampant ignorance of medical science, misogynist government officials and cultural practices that turn life into a miserable horror for people unlucky enough to run afoul of them.

It includes one of the worst stories I’ve heard in the past month –and that’s saying something.

Raela* was forcefully taken to a medical examiner on her wedding night after her husband accused her of losing her virginity and beat her. The examination showed she had lost her virginity long before the marriage and the 22-year-old was handed over to the judiciary for prosecution on charges of adultery.

Raela’s incarceration has devastated her family. They have to pay back almost US$10,000 to their former son-in-law, which was allegedly spent on the wedding ceremony.

“They have put their house up for sale and decided to leave this neighbourhood because they cannot live with the dishonour,” said one relative, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A weak, unprofessional justice sector and deeply ingrained prejudices against women are responsible for the nightmare Raela and other women face.

While virginity is not mentioned in the country’s penal system and other laws, say activists and lawyers, hundreds of women like Raela unfairly face serious formal and informal penalties for the alleged illicit loss of this cultural requirement.

Sexual intercourse outside marriage is a sin under Islamic jurisprudence and the Afghan laws largely derived from it.

“Virginity is a natural stamp,” said Mawlawi Mohammad Qasim, a member of the Supreme Court’s penal bureau. “When it is lost and the reason is proved to be illegitimate sexual relations it implies adultery, which should be punished,” he said adding that an unmarried person caught having sex outside marriage, male or female, could be sentenced to three to five years in prison while married adulterers received heavier penalties.

And Mawlawi Qasim’s beliefs aren’t out of sync with those of the society at large, nor, sadly, with the Afghan medical community.

Medical workers are often called in to prove a woman’s virginity – a requirement for women preparing for marriage.

“Virginity and adultery tests are part of our normal work,” said Del Aqa Mahboobi, a medical expert in Kabul. But there are few facilities and a shortage of female experts to undertake very intimate tests.

The tests involve an examination of the vagina to see whether a girl’s or woman’s hymen is intact, but experts say it can be torn by factors other than intercourse. When forced or coerced, according to Amnesty International, virginity tests degrade women and are a form of torture.

In what seems to be the lone ray of light in an otherwise very, very grim situation, a handful of activists are speaking out against these practices and the attitudes that perpetuate them.

Demanding that men too face the law, Sheela Samimi, an advocacy officer with the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), said: “Can a girl ask [medical experts] to test whether her would-be husband had sex before marriage and when proved wrong would officials prosecute the man as they do a woman?”

With every female victim of adultery, she added, there was a man or men who rarely faced justice.

Afghanistan headlines for the Onion

I asked and you delivered, mostly on facebook. Thanks, guys! Let’s keep this going.

Taliban Propaganda Chief Found with Unlicensed Photoshop Suite

Unable to Check Facebook in Daikundi, Taliban Recruits Refuse to Deploy

Distracted by Afghan Idol Finale, Taliban Suicide Bomber Forgets to Detonate

‎Taliban Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Disputes NATO Metrics

Taliban Who Wintered in Pakistan Taunted as ‘Warbirds’ at Home

Morale Plummets Among Taliban Recruits Amid Rumors of Virgin Shortage in Heaven

Quetta Shura calls rumors unsubstantiated, scrambles to develop alternative incentives

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar runs the worst high school in the world

Newsweek just published an incredible story about teenage Afghan refugees in Pakistan being recruited to join seemingly immortal terrorist leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s fighters across the border. According to the article, goading poor adolescents to run off to Afghanistan for weapons training is just another part of the curriculum at the almost comically over-the-top boy’s high school/militant recruiting center in the Shamshatoo refugee camp.

Asking to be called Wahid Khan, the boy fondly recalls the early-morning assemblies where teachers praised the glories of jihad and recounted Afghanistan’s long history of resistance to foreign occupiers. And he remembers the messages scrawled on the blackboards of the upper-grade classrooms: “To Join the Jihad, the Order of Almighty Allah, Call This Number” and “Those Who Want to Repay Their Debt to God, Take This Number.”

Wahid, who ran away to an insurgent training camp “deep in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan” the summer after he completed 10th grade, is pissed that his dad withdrew him from the Shamshatoo school and placed him in a school where his classmates don’t daydream about bombings.

The young Afghan hates his new school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. “My classmates only talk about girls and movies,” he complains.

Unfortunately, it’s probably safe to say Shamshatoo made a lasting impression on Wahid.

As soon as this school year ends, he’s planning to head back to Afghanistan to complete his training for the war against the Americans. “My parents only live to survive,” the boy says. “My aim is to live honorably in the eyes of God—and that means jihad.”

The notorious refugee camp itself is a kind of Hezb-i-Islami ministate, complete with anti-everything-fun laws and its own secret police.

Over the past three decades the camp has become a small city of more than 64,000 inhabitants, with mosques, madrassas, high schools, a university, a hospital, and even two local newspapers—both trumpeting Hekmatyar’s Islamist line. Unlike many of his Taliban partners in jihad, he supports education for girls. But he nevertheless requires women in the camp to wear burqas, and they’re forbidden to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. Playing music in public—even the ringtone on a mobile phone—is banned, as are satellite dishes. And no one is safe from the camp’s informers and enforcers. “You can’t say anything against Hekmatyar or this destructive game in Afghanistan,” says one former resident. “His men are everywhere.” The man moved his family to Peshawar two years ago, fearing that if they stayed in Shamshatoo his two sons would be recruited. “I was worried they’d be brainwashed and disappear,” he says.

When Shamshatoo boys do disappear, they come back spoiling for a fight, preferably with foreigners, but they’ll settle for relatives and household appliances if that doesn’t work out.

An Afghan engineer with a USAID project in Kabul recently had to save his 15-year-old nephew from Shamshatoo. The boy had enrolled at a madrassa in the camp, and his behavior had changed radically. He ranted to his parents about Afghan women being molested by infidels. He trashed the family’s television set, saying it was haram—forbidden—and castigated his mother and sisters for having the nerve to laugh while people in Afghanistan were suffering. “He was completely brainwashed,” the engineer says. “The mullahs were looking for the opportunity to take him to Afghanistan to fight.”

In desperation the family finally sent him to live with his uncle in Kabul. The boy still refuses to talk about his time in the madrassa, the engineer says, but lately he has become a new kid, learning quickly, watching Afghan television (mainly soap operas), and even laughing aloud at times. “He’s very young, so it’s easier for him to change,” the engineer says. “I think he’s happier here than in Shamshatoo.”

Over at Registan, Josh Foust writes:

No, what bugs the hell out of me here is that training camp, which is either really near the busiest border crossing in the region or close enough to where a Peshawari can go, train for a month, and come back in a reasonably short period of time. That really narrows down where it could be (seriously), and I’m a bit confused as to why it’s allowed to either continue operating, or, if so, why there seems to be so little movement against it.

Any of you have other thoughts?

One of the most disturbing aspects of this story is contrast between the extremism of the teenage boys and the relative moderation of their parents and extended families. Much is made of how controlling Afghan families can be, but the Shamshatoo crisis (and yeah, I’d call hundreds of minors running off to war a crisis) underscores how far the conflict has eroded traditional social norms in all the wrong ways.