Young Afghans Like Western Clothes, Not Western Ideas

Women's rights not catching on

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 1, 2013 10:19 AM CDT

(Newser) – Young people in Afghanistan are sporting more Western clothes and haircuts these days, reports the New York Times, but one trapping they haven't picked up in a decade of Coalition troops on their streets: Western ideas. In particular, women's rights, which many young Afghan men—and women—continue to rail against. "These young men grew up in a war environment," says the director of a women's rights group. "They don’t know about their own rights; how can we expect them to know about their sisters’ rights, their mothers’ rights, or their wives’ rights? If they wear jeans and have Western haircuts, that doesn’t mean they are progressive."

A proposed law that would protect the rights of Afghan women (rights that already exist by presidential decree, such as protections against violence and child marriage, no less) is proving particularly controversial. "This law is not only against Islamic values; it is also against all other ethical values," says one of about about 200 young women at a protest. "If we remain silent today, soon our society will be morally corrupted like that of the West." In actuality, some rights don't necessarily clash with Sharia law, says the Times, but many confuse tribal traditions—such as selling young girls to pay off debts—as Islamic traditions. "After 30 years of war, what do you expect?” says a young women's rights activist. “A mindset built over 100 years takes longer than 10 years to change."

Afghan youths attend Afghanistan and Central Asia's only Arts Festival in Kabul.
Afghan youths attend Afghanistan and Central Asia's only Arts Festival in Kabul.   (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid)
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