Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Women in an Islamic Workforce

Hearing about the suicide bombers in Afghanistan isn’t exactly something that’s new. Tragic, certainly, but not really new. Suicide bombers are a considerable problem that American news sources report all the time. Normally, these sources report on the American soldiers and Afghani civilian bystanders that are injured or killed by the attacks. It’s rare to read about preventive measures besides perhaps Americans becoming more suspicious and increasing security around their bases or something similar. It’s extremely rare to read or see anything about what local Afghani officials are doing to protect their people, who perhaps suffer greater casualties than the American soldiers.

But these efforts exist, Al Jazeera reports, in almost revolutionary ways.

I originally chose Al Jazeera as a news source due to its location in the Middle East as well as in light of Melanie’s blog post. I expected it to possibly be more sympathetic to the plight of the regular citizens compared to Western news outlets. However, the news story was actually sympathetic to both the rather unstable government in addition to the people suffering the most from these bombings.

What especially caught my interest was the fact that the government, largely Islamic both culturally and lawfully, is now seeking to (or being forced to, at least) break out of this tradition by Islamic extremists. This brings to mind the phrase, “Desperate times call for desperate measures”. As clichéd as it is, the phrase perhaps sums up the situation best. When men aren’t enough to do the job, both sides, the government and the Taliban, bring in women, whose traditional roles normally keep them in the home.

There was another thing that caught my attention, and that was the anecdote of the policewoman, Sabera’s, daughter getting beaten by other young boys because of her mother’s job. I found it surprising that the story didn’t go into more detail about why Sabera was willing to risk both her and her family’s life by working undercover in the police force. This was especially surprising since the news story gave positive incentives that men received that encouraged them to join, but none were mentioned for the women. There was no mention of pay or benefits for the women but only the risks they were forced to put up with.

I thought that there was another interesting and stark contrast between the women and men in the police force. The clips of the women were set in a very domestic setting, i.e. in a den-like room with a kettle and some filled cups on a table. The men, on the other hand, were shown “in action” carrying guns and standing behind barbed wire or frisking men who were passing through the checkpoints. Is this meant to be a sign that, even with the necessary change and need for female police officers, women, in the end, just aren’t meant to be active law enforcers? And, if they do, their loved ones will only be scorned and beaten because their mothers are attempting to create a safe community? Could the armed men also be a comparison to American soldiers, who are frequently seen in full battle gear when patrolling their areas? Compared to the American soldiers, these police men are almost woefully under equipped with guns that look like props in a historic war film.

The news story provided some insight to a side—what the Afghanistan government is doing—that Americans rarely hear about. However, although the government is taking a step towards expanding the diversity of their work force, it is also evident that there is still quite a considerable amount of work that needs to be done to create equality in the workplace. Especially for these high-risk jobs in frisking potential suicide bombers.

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