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Posts tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Women Come Marching Home

Service_DVDinhouse_V2.inddService: When Women Come Marching Home
A film by Marcia Rock and Patricia Lee Stotter
US, 2012, 55 minutes, Color, DVD, English
From Women Make Movies

Women make up 15 percent of today’s military. That number is expected to double in 10 years. SERVICE highlights the resourcefulness of seven amazing women who represent the first wave of mothers, daughters and sisters returning home from the frontless wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Portraying the courage of women veterans as they transition from active duty to their civilian lives, this powerful film describes the horrific traumas they have faced, the inadequate care they often receive on return, and the large and small accomplishments they work mightily to achieve.

These are the stories we hear about from men returning from war, but rarely from women veterans. Through compelling portraits, we watch these women wrestle with prostheses, homelessness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma. The documentary takes the audience on a journey from the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq to rural Tennessee and urban New York City, from coping with amputations, to flashbacks, triggers and depression to ways to support other vets. An eye-opening look at the specific challenges facing women veterans with a special focus on the disabled, SERVICE can be used for courses in military studies, women’s studies, peace and conflict courses and veteran support groups.

See more about women making movies at: Women Make Movies

Tailoring Tradition In Afghanistan

Tailoring Tradition to Create Opportunities
From FINCA

afg.-nafisaCultivating a sense of community isn’t always easy, especially when you can’t freely move around your neighborhood without a man accompanying you, or when you’re faced with the possibility that explosions can happen anywhere, any time. But that doesn’t keep FINCA Afghanistan client Nafisa from sharing her tailoring expertise with 20 students, eager to learn her secrets for success, and building a thriving business, both at home and abroad, that’s opening new doors for her daughter.

Nafisa is 50 years old and has decades of experience designing and sewing traditional Afghani dresses. Her expertise and attention to detail are well known in Mandavi, where she lives with her husband, daughter and two sons. But her tailoring skills are known beyond the confines of her community, as she sells her creations to five shops in Kabul, as well as filling orders that come in from Canada and the US.

Today, Nafisa’s 20 students not only learn from her, they help her produce the orders that continue to increase her business. And while she takes great pride in their accomplishments, her greatest sense of pride comes from the fact that her 22-year-old daughter is in college, studying to be a nurse, opening up a whole new career path that wouldn’t be possible without the support she’s received through FINCA loans.

“Without FINCA’s loans,” Nafisa says, “my family, and especially my daughter, would not have the kind of life we have today. I am so grateful that we’re looking at a brighter future.”

Read more stories of FINCA clients >>

Health Care for Raped Soldiers

Dear Gabriel,

This is shocking, even for our U.S. Congress.

If a female employee of the U.S. State Department is raped while serving abroad in Afghanistan, her federal health plan will pay for an abortion should she become pregnant. However if a woman serving abroad as a member of the U.S. military is raped, her military health plan will NOT provide for an abortion if she becomes pregnant as a result of that violent and reprehensible act.

According to a report earlier this year from Mother Jones, the Pentagon has an even more drastic policy on access to abortion than the Hyde Amendment which bans the use of federal funds for abortion care unless a woman has been the victim of rape, incest or she could literally die unless she her pregnancy is terminated.

This disparity is so unsettling that the Senate passed out of committee the “Shaheen Amendment” to give women in the military the same rights to affordable reproductive health services as the civilians they protect. But if passed by the full Senate, the extremists in Congress will try to block this proposal from the National Defense Authorization Act when it comes up for a vote in the House. The only way we can hope to stop it is with massive public pushback.

Click here to sign this petition automatically.

According to Kate Sheppard’s report in Mother Jones,2 there are 200,000 women serving on active duty in our military and in 2011 alone there were 471 reported instances of rape. But with the Pentagon itself estimating that only 13.5% of rapes are officially reported, that means around 3,500 service members are raped per year.

Women who are serving on military bases abroad can’t simply go to their local Planned Parenthood should they seek an abortion after finding themselves pregnant as a result of rape. And if there hasn’t been a formal finding of rape, a rape survivor in the military can’t even pay to have the procedure done in the medical facility on base. Many women serving in our armed forces are stationed in foreign countries where safe abortion care is not easily obtained outside our military bases. And it may not be possible or affordable for a raped woman soldier to travel to the United States in order to receive the care she needs. Our policies need to be reformed to ensure that women in the military who have been raped have access to the medical care they need.

As Senator Jean Shaheen who introduced the change to this heinous policy explained to Mother Jones, “Most of the women affected here are enlisted women who are making about $18,000 a year. They’re young, they don’t have access to a lot of resources. Many of them are overseas.”

A handful of Republicans in the Senate realized that protecting rape survivors is not a partisan issue and joined Democrats to pass this bill out of committee and work to provide relief to women in our armed services. But their colleagues in the House will not join them in helping to pass this much needed bill unless we force them to take action. We need to tell Republicans as well as anti-choice Democrats in the House (including the so-called Stupak Democrats who voted against women’s reproductive health in the Affordable Care Act)3 that we cannot let this policy stand.

CREDO is a staunch supporter of a woman’s right to choose and we will continue to work for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. But until then, even in our polarized Congress which is packed with anti-choice zealots, there are some lines that Republicans and anti-choice Democrats should be very afraid to cross. This is one of them. We cannot stand by and let women serving in the U.S. military be subjected to a stricter standard for abortion access than the already horribly restrictive Hyde Amendment.

Click below to automatically sign the petition:
http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=6900213&p=military_choice&id=51136-266627-EiedzDx&t=10

This is one we can win if enough of us speak out. Thank you for taking action.

Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Kites for Afghan Women

Dear Gabriel,

Last month, you and 18,000 other activists took action in support of Afghan women in advance of our “Shadow Summit” for Afghan Women’s Rights. You submitted messages of solidarity and support, and your words of encouragement soared far into the sky on the first day of the NATO summit in Chicago to let the world’s leaders know that we care about women’s rights.

They listened.

The Shadow Summit for Afghan Women’s Rights was a true testament to what AIUSA is capable of achieving when we all work together. At the very last minute, the government of Afghanistan invited three women to join the Afghan delegation at the NATO summit.

Amnesty International’s Shadow Summit speakers included prominent Afghan women’s rights leaders Afifa Azim, Manizha Naderi, Hasina Safi and Mahbouba Seraj, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, author of the best-seller “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana”, and Jerome McDonnell, host of Chicago Public Radio’s program “Worldview”, moderated the panel discussions. You can listen online to the first panel.

After the program, Shadow Summit participants headed out to Chicago’s Navy Pier with your messages and flew the kites in solidarity with Afghan women. To see pictures from the event, check out our album.

After the kite action, Mahbouba, Afifa and Hasina expressed their gratitude for Amnesty’s support in creating such a crucial opportunity to have their voices heard, and their hopes that we will all continue to work together to demand Afghan women’s political participation and representation as the transition unfolds – and beyond.

Afifa Azim, director and co-founder, Afghan Women’s Network, said:

“We want the world to know that the women of Afghanistan are not victims. They are active members of society and agents of change who worked very hard, even when it was underground, to make sure children were being educated and progress was being made. We cannot go back to the darkness and we expect to be heard as the new policies are being made. We are asking the U.S. and the international community to support us.”

We won’t give up on the fight for women’s human rights around the world. With your continued support, we know it is possible to achieve.

Thank you for taking action. Together we’re making a difference and we look forward to the next steps.

Cristina M. Finch
Policy and Advocacy Director, Women’s Human Rights
Amnesty International USA

Honor Veterans by Ending War

From Nation of Change
by Amy Goodman
24 May 2012

Memorial Day: Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Stop the Wars

Gen. John Allen, commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, spoke Wednesday at the Pentagon, four stars on each shoulder, his chest bedecked with medals. Allen said the NATO summit in Chicago, which left him feeling “heartened,” “was a powerful signal of international support for the Afghan-led process of reconciliation.” Unlike Allen, many decorated U.S. military veterans left the streets of Chicago after the NATO summit without their medals. They marched on the paramilitarized convention center where the generals and heads of state had gathered and threw their medals at the high fence surrounding the summit. They were joined by women from Afghans for Peace, and an American mother whose son killed himself after his second deployment to Iraq.

Leading thousands of protesters in a peaceful march against NATO’s wars, each veteran climbed to the makeshift stage outside the fenced summit, made a brief statement and threw his or her medals at the gate.

As taps was played, veterans folded an American flag that had flown over NATO military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan and Libya and handed it to Mary Kirkland. Her son, Derrick, joined the Army in January 2007, since he was not earning enough to support his wife and child as a cook at an IHOP restaurant. During his second deployment, Mary told me, “he ended up putting a shotgun in his mouth over there in Iraq, and one of his buddies stopped him.” He was transferred to Germany then back to his home base of Fort Lewis, Wash.

“He came back on a Monday after two failed suicide attempts in a three-week period. They kept him overnight at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis. He met with a psychiatrist the next day who deemed him to be low to moderate risk for suicide.” Five days later, on Friday, March 19, 2010, he hanged himself. Said his mother, “Derrick was not killed in action; he was killed because of failed mental health care at Fort Lewis.”

On stage, Lance Cpl. Scott Olsen declared: “Today I have with me my Global War on Terror Medal, Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal, National Defense Medal and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. These medals, once upon a time, made me feel good about what I was doing. … I came back to reality, and I don’t want these anymore.” Like the riot police flanking the stage, many on horseback, Olsen also wore a helmet. He is recovering from a fractured skull after being shot in the head at close range by a beanbag projectile. He wasn’t shot in Iraq, but by Oakland, Calif., police at Occupy Oakland last fall, where he was protesting. On stage with the veterans were three Afghan women, holding the flag of Afghanistan. Just before they marched, I asked one of them, Suraia Sahar, why she was there: “I’m representing Afghans for Peace. And we’re here to protest NATO and call on all NATO representatives to end this inhumane, illegal, barbaric war against our home country and our people. … It’s the first time an Afghan-led peace movement is now working side by side with a veteran-led peace movement. And so, this is the beginning of something new, something better: reconciliation and peace.”

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Fly Kites for Afghan Women

Dear Gabriel,

Want to do something symbolic and meaningful for women’s rights on Mother’s Day?

Help us fly kites for women’s rights.

This Mother’s Day, Amnesty is inviting you to write a message of solidarity for Afghan women. We’ll put it on a kite — kite flying is a popular pastime in Afghanistan — and fly it during the NATO Summit in Chicago, May 20-21, where President Obama and Afghan President Karzai will be discussing Afghanistan’s transition.

Send your message of solidarity sky high. Write a note supporting Afghan women’s rights by Mother’s Day, May 13.

Why kites? Because while women and girls in Afghanistan make kites, they are not free to fly them because it’s considered socially unacceptable. Kites can therefore be a powerful symbol of discrimination against women and their exclusion from politics in Afghanistan.

Although the NATO Summit will discuss Afghanistan’s future, Afghan women won’t even be at the table! Unacceptable! That’s why Amnesty is holding a NATO Shadow Summit to bring this critical subject in front of NATO. After our event, we’ll fly your kites in front of the NATO Summit to make sure that these world leaders see our message: Don’t abandon Afghan women!

Despite modest gains over recent years, women and girls still face widespread human rights abuses including exclusion from political life, gender-based violence and discrimination. For example, President Karzai has publically endorsed a “code of conduct” allowing husbands to beat their wives.

Is this progress? We think not. There is real danger that women’s rights will get thrown under the bus as the U.S. searches for a quick exit from Afghanistan.

Women and girls in Afghanistan cannot afford to wait. Masiha Faiz, a defense attorney for Medica Mondiale, a women’s rights NGO, said that she’s been attacked for defending women accused of “moral crimes,” like fleeing abuse. The government does little to support human rights defenders like Masiha.

In 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton told women Afghan officials, “We will not abandon you, we will stand with you always.”

Yes, we will stand with Afghan women, always. This is a defining moment for the U.S. government to show that it will not abandon women. There is no peace without women’s and girls’ human rights.

Write your message of solidarity supporting Afghan women’s rights today — for Mother’s Day, for all days.

In solidarity,

Cristina M. Finch
Policy and Advocacy Director, Women’s Human Rights
Amnesty International USA

Up In Smoke – Paying for Afghanistan

From The Globalist
Global Security
2 May 2012

The Cost of Being in Afghanistan

A year ago today, U.S. forces located and killed the most prominent target of its decade-old war in Afghanistan. The death of Osama bin Laden, however, did not mark the end of the conflict, which continues to add billions of dollars a year to the U.S. budget. We wonder: On average, how much does it cost to support one U.S. servicemember deployed to Afghanistan?

Answers:

A. $67,000 per year
B. $132,000 per year
C. $685,000 per year
D. $1.2 million per year

A. $67,000 per year is not correct.

$67,000 per year was the cost per troop at the peak of World War II (adjusting for inflation to today’s dollars). World War II involved a full-scale mobilization of the U.S. armed forces, with troop ranks rising to over 12 million in 1945. In that year, the war consumed 36% of U.S. GDP, or $810 billion in today’s dollars.

B. $132,000 per year is not correct.

$132,000 per year was the cost per troop (also in today’s dollars) at the peak of the Vietnam War in 1968. The United States deployed nearly 790,000 troops to Southeast Asia — at a total cost of $104 billion in today’s dollars, or just 2.3% of GDP at the time. As was the case in World War II, a draft was in effect during most of the conflict in Vietnam.

C. $685,000 per year is not correct.

The average cost in Iraq over the past five years was $685,000 per year per U.S. troop — over ten times the cost of a soldier deployed in World War II, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The cost per troop was much higher than in World War II or Vietnam because we live in a very different era militarily. Since the United States no longer has a draft, it has to rely on an all-volunteer force, which is more expensive to recruit and retain. And the way the country fights wars has become much more technologically intensive, which means weapons are more costly. As a result, the United States has to invest considerably more in training its troops to use those weapons.
D. $1.2 million per year is correct.

The average cost per troop in Afghanistan over the past five years is $1.2 million per year. While Iraq features difficult terrain and challenging conditions, the sheer lack of infrastructure in Afghanistan — and its geographical position as a landlocked nation — makes operating in the country extraordinarily expensive for the U.S. military.

In addition, the high-tech weapons systems that are being used involve an enormous logistics trail for everything from fuel to spare parts. Fuel costs alone are estimated to account for between $200,000-350,000 of the cost per troop deployed.

Read this and other articles at The Globalist.

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