by Rick Moran
It should come as no surprise that women in Afghanistan who are financially able to leave are beginning to depart for friendlier climes before the Taliban takes over again.
A brain drain of bright young women is already taking place in Afghanistan before the 2014 handover that many fear will mean a reversal of advances in women's rights.
The lack of commitment by the Afghan government to equality and to tackling the high rates of ill-treatment of women in the home and in the workplace is raising real fears they will be at the bottom of the political agenda in the push for power after Nato forces leave the country.
Worsening security for civilians - casualties among ordinary Afghans have risen year on year for the last five years with 3,021 killed in 2011, and women are thought to be suffering disproportionately - has led to rising numbers of women and girls leaving education and the workforce and staying indoors, according to Guhramaana Kakar, a gender adviser to President Hamid Karzai.
Speaking to the Observer, Kakar said negotiations between the government and the Taliban and other insurgent groups were ignoring women's rights. A recent survey by charity ActionAid suggested 86% of Afghan women were fearful of a return to Taliban-style rule. One in five worried about the education of their daughters but 72% said their lives were better now than a decade ago.
Selay Ghaffar, chief executive of the Kabul-based NGO Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, says many young women are leaving. "They see no future for themselves in Afghanistan so the bright ones are seeking scholarships or work abroad. We have had two schools for girls burned down near the capital in recent days, acid attacks on girls going to school, increasing stories of rape and of kidnap.
"Many NGOs who try to help women have been killed. Billions of dollars from international organisations have been poured into Afghanistan and ended up in the pockets of male politicians, while women are left to feel insecure in their own land. For those who cannot leave, it is sending them back into the home; many women are deciding to stop work.
No one believes the Karzai government will be able to hang on without massive American military support. With that gone, Karzai will seek the best deal he can get with the Taliban. The only question left regarding any future "power sharing" arrangement with the Taliban will be how long they allow Karzai to stick around. Since they have little care for international opinion, it probably won't be very long.
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